Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time isn’t only a spiritual successor of the PlayStation 2-era series; it’s a faithful continuation of it. Sly’s signature 3D platforming with a hint of exploration and a spice of stealth is here in full effect. The game looks pretty, runs well (minus the heinous load times) and contains a fully fleshed-out story mode that, if explored in its entirety, could easily take 20 hours or more to complete. Plus, it’s on both PS3 and Vita, and you get both for the price of one as part of Sony’s commendable Cross-Buy initiative, complete with cross-saving perks.
Like many of the 3D platformers that populated the shelves of your local game store during the previous two console generations, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time revolves around
exploring wide open, cartoony locations. Set missions funnel you through the game, but like any good title in the genre, there’s plenty to do beyond merely advancing the story. Much of Sly 4’s draw is provided not only by its great cast of characters and compelling worlds to scour, but by the fact that you can put as much or as little into it as you want. You can just take in the story, or you can explore each and every nook and cranny of a map to find little rewards. The latter play style will obviously draw in those looking for some bang for their buck, but it’s safe to say that even the main story taken on its own is worth the price of admission. The game isn’t difficult and rarely provides a true challenge, but it’s still great for both kids and adults.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time’s story is silly – nonsensical, even – but the characters surrounding the plot will quickly draw you in to the experience. Sly is as dashing and cunning as ever. His best friends, Bentley the tech-savvy turtle and Murray the oversized pink hippo, round out the core squad, and the constant exchanges between these three are laugh-out-loud funny. Their dialogue is expertly written and the voice acting is superbly done. Expect to chuckle often, whether Bentley is making fun of Sly’s strange sense of humor, Murray is talking about himself endlessly in the third person, and more. It’s not every day a game comes along that can make you laugh; Thieves in Time does so with regularity, and it’s what I love most about the game. Its commendable quirks – from a humorous one-liner to a goofy enemy design – are around every corner.
Sly’s ancestors – ranging between a bumbling cave man and a skilled ninja to a sharp-shooting old westerner and a smooth-talking knight – constitute all-new playable characters for you to experiment with. Furthermore (and perhaps more importantly), traveling to these ancestors’ native times and meeting them will give Sly access to new outfits that will grant him special skills on the fly. Sly’s Renaissance-based ancestor will give him archery skills, allowing Sly to use arrows to hit far away switches and connect distant areas with ropes, while traveling to ancient Arabia will allow Sly to slow down time, giving him an edge both in battle and while platforming. Platforming can be frustrating from time to time, especially due to occasionally wonky camera angles and Sly’s emphasis on old-school mechanics: you still have to jump towards a rope, pillar or spire and then press circle to land on it. But Sly’s hodgepodge of new costumes – and hence moves – keeps things fresh and fun, even if it’s built over a style of game that’s admittedly archaic.
As each of the game’s five core territories are uncovered, it will quickly become clear that there are certain things that can’t be done and certain areas that can’t be accessed. With moves learned in the future (sometimes literally), Sly and his friends can travel back to a previous location to see and do everything. Even though Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has a robust story delivered linearly, with a bunch of missions in each area, territories can be explored non-linearly. There are a bunch of collectibles to find – bottles, masks, treasures and the like – and finding everything will keep you very busy apart from the narrative itself. The more time you sink into the game, the more you can extract out of it. In this sense, the game provides a great balance, as well as a fantastic stick-drawn carrot that keeps you plunging further and further into the digital ether, but only if you really want to (and I suspect you will).
Sure, Sly 4 has ridiculous load times, occasionally frustrating gameplay and some bizarre, archaic motion controls, but don’t let that deter you: Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a worthy game to add to your library on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. It does so many things right and harkens back to a different time in gaming while modernizing the experience for a new generation. It may not wow you like some of the best PlayStation exclusives have in the past, but needless to say, the wait for a continuation of the Sly saga was officially worth it.
- +Sly and his friends are as charming and awesome as ever
- +Cheaper than your normal retail game, and you get the PS3 and Vita version for the price of one
- +Lots to do, find and explore
- –Ridiculous load times
- –Occasionally wonky gameplay and archaic, frustrating and unnecessary motion controls