Review: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time will steal your heart (PlayStation 3)
It's been ages since we've had a new Sly Cooper adventure in the fray, and with Sucker Punch toiling away on what will eventually be the next Infamous, we were wondering for quite some time whether the master thief would be making a return. But Sony eased our tension a while back by announcing Thieves In Time, a new chapter in the series that would be developed by Sanzaru Games – the same team behind the previously released Sly Collection. So, do these newbies have what it takes to fill Sucker Punch's shoes? Yep…and then some.
The story revolves around Sly and his team developing the ability to travel through time – a nice change of pace from globetrotting and dealing with master criminals. Along the way, they find a number of Cooper's ancestors in trouble, helping them out while also battling a mysterious master criminal who's trying to alter historic events in their favor. It's up to Sly to help his family, along with Bentley (the brains) and Murray (the brawn) to stop the mastermind before history is, well, history.
One thing that remains the same with Sly Cooper, we're happy to say, is its charm. True, the levels have opened up quite a bit, so they're more along the lines of an open world dynamic. But this is a wonderful move, where you can get around and collect coins by bashing objects and beating up enemies. Granted, you probably shouldn't be crazy enough to go after the bigger ones (unless you like being pummeled), but the smaller ones are fair game, susceptible to your slam moves.
And it's nice to see each component of Sly's team actually play a balanced part throughout Thieves In Time. Sly himself is as debonair as ever, able to climb up pipes, sneak along ledges, and use his hook for assaulting moves and pickpocketing alike. It's also nice to see him get in the costume act, such as donning a clumsy samurai costume that fools dimwitted guards with ease.
Bentley and Murray have their moments as well. The sharp-minded turtle is an idle threat in his automated wheelchair, can lob bombs like a pro, and even has hack mini-games that make resourceful use of the DualShock pad, whether you're rotating an object through electrical circuits or shooting enemies with twin stick controls. Murray, believing himself to be an unstoppable wrestler, has his moments as well, whether it's throwing objects around or dressing up as a geisha and fooling a group of love-hungry guards through an entertaining music mini-game.
The controls work wonderfully throughout Thieves In Time, just as well as they did in prior games, and though there are a few head-scratching moments that require some figuring out (like how the samurai suit can withstand flames that could otherwise fry Sly to a crisp), they're hardly the infuriating type. It's also nice to see Sly's ancestors take part in their own little ways, with special moves that add flair to the overall adventure.
Thieves In Time's graphics are charming, but not perfect. There are times the animation appears a bit dark and sketchy, especially in some opening parts of the first stage. However, Sanzaru has done a slam-bang job making each world feel entirely different from one another, whether you're romping through feudal Japan or running along a high-wire while cannonballs come flying at you. It's ingenious design overall, and 3D is also supported, if you really feel like adding some depth to your game experience. The cinemas are a lot of fun as well, and leave you wondering if Sanzaru should ever do an animated series. Hey, we'd watch it.
The audio is outstanding, too. All the original voice actors make their return for Thieves In Time, and Murray's a stand-out, especially when he talks all cocky, only to put himself in peril shortly thereafter. The music isn't a serious change of pace from previous games, but it sets the tone for each world in its own fun fashion. The sound effects are good too, and the classy bass riff pops up anytime you need to be sneaky – a Sly staple we're happy to hear back in action.
Though Thieves In Time doesn't have any deep online features, it does have a solid price tag -- $40 – and comes with the PS Vita version for free via Cross-Buy (which we'll review later this week). The Cross-Save option is awesome as well, since you don't need to play through completed levels again to catch up. And there's replayability galore, between hidden clue bottles, safes and other Sly-related goodies. You're gonna be a while.
The only genuine negative about Thieves In Time is that Sony hasn't really promoted it at all – which boggles me. We have one of the company's best sequels in quite some time with this package, and it's not only fairly priced, but practically two games in one. Here's hoping they give it more of a push now that it's on shelves. Because, otherwise, it'd be a crime.
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time sits right alongside the other Sucker Punch-produced games in the series, and shows that Sanzaru has a strong future making character-oriented platform games. If Naughty Dog is too busy, it'd be interesting to see what these guys can do with Jak and Daxter. But maybe we're thinking too far ahead. For now, enjoy this romp-filled caper.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]