Sly Cooper is a raccoon who’s also thief. But he’s not a bad guy — er — animal. He steals only from other thieves. In Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, which is the fourth chapter in the Sly saga, the wily mammal travels through time with a few smart pals to unravel a great mystery.
|SLY COOPER: THIEVES IN TIME
(Sony for PS3, Vita)
Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
Replay Value: 9.0
Overall Score: 7.9
Pros: Cool, beautiful graphics; lots of things to find; buy the PS3, get the Vita version free.
Cons: Long load times; writing should be funnier; design can feel uneven.
Back to help are Bentley, a bespectacled box turtle in a wheelchair, and Murray, a brawny pink hippo. Bentley’s chair moves as fast as a racecar and has rocket power. Murray is just a strong guy who can pick up barrels and throw them across the room.
If you’ve never played a Sly Cooper game before, you’ll want to do the tutorial level, which gives a lot of background on Sly and his family of thieving mammals — maybe too much background. There should be less of it, and it should be funnier.
You’re told that the rare Thievius Raccoonus book is disappearing page by page. It’s up to you and the gang to travel through the centuries to find out why and stop it.
FUN THINGS TO DO
When you get to the gaming, it can be a lot of fun. Sly uses his hook to grab onto, say, poles and climb high above the area he’s in to check out things from a bird’s-eye view. He can use a paraglider to move from area to area, too. The spying Sly has binoculars to help find highlighted areas you need to explore during missions.
Once you move closer via telephone wires or ropes, jump down to the ground and sneak up on enemies. Usually in their back pocket you’ll steal, say, pieces of armor you need to complete missions. And Sly can pickpocket pretty much every enemy to get coins and valuable items that buy upgrades stored in his hideout.
Tip: Pickpocket enemies a lot so you can get money to build up your arsenal of extras.
FUN PLACES TO GO
The first place you travel is to feudal Japan in the 1600s to free one of Sly’s long-lost ancestors. There’s a real beauty to the town you’re in: babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, flower petals, scurrying rats, blue-gray mountains, bright lanterns and red banners. All of these set the mood well.
Along the way, you get a samurai suit, which allows you to pass enemies — giant piglike guards — unnoticed. It also prevents you from being burned by giant fire-spewing dragon heads. But you can’t jump in this heavy armor, so you’ll have to change back to Sly to leap across crevasses.
You collect many disguises in the various time periods you visit. It’s a treat to go to the Ice Age and ancient Arabia as you solve the mystery. Plus, the costumes you find help you far beyond the current level. You’ll be able to go back to areas you’ve played and get into places you couldn’t reach before to collect treasures, trophies and clue bottles. If you collect all the trophies, you’ll open a secret ending that shows Sly has traveled to — well, I won’t spoil it for you.
SOME NOT-SO-FUN DRAWBACKS
The way your abilities are first presented could be clearer. The tutorial level has you stealing a Japanese rarity from a Paris museum. But there’s a problem with figuring out the controls if you haven’t played before.
Part of this confusion has to do with Bentley telling you what to do through a scratchy sounding communication device. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. Of course, you can look into the Menu to find out what button does what. But that task requires you to pause and takes you away from the game.
Sadly, there’s no manual to help you. I’m really sorry to see manuals go the way of the dinosaur because I’ve often kept them open while playing a game.
BACK TO THE FUN
Then there’s cross-play. Buying the PS3 version of the game lets you play a version on the PS Vita as well. (You have to have a PlayStation Network account to download it, though.) There’s nothing like playing on the go, but because there are a lot of little things to find, Thieves in Time plays better on a big-screen TV.
Sly is based on James Bond, and like the Bond films, there are some cool pop-culture references in the game. You’ll find various Star Wars references and one to Raiders of the Lost Ark. You’ll also find homages to other Sony games, like Ratchet & Clank. In fact, if you unlock 50 masks, you’ll get a special Ratchet item to use. And there’s even a nod to John Steinbeck’s classic book “Of Mice and Men.”
This is a good and often (but not always) worthy addition to the Sly canon, especially because of the cross-play bonus. If you like Sly, you can get all three previous games on one disk. I checked and found The Sly Collection (remastered in HD) for as little as $16 online.