The fourth main Sly Cooper title and the first developed exclusively for this generation of consoles, Thieves in Time, is exactly what you’d expect. I won’t pretend that I’m an encyclopedia of Cooper knowledge – I’ve only really dabbled with the games in the past – but from visuals to gameplay, this is a Sly sequel through and through.
It all begins with a heist – Sly gets back the game of theft thanks to his respectively brawny and brainy pals, Murray and Bently, who you’ll recognise from the previous games, after the legendary Thievius Raccoonus’ pages oddly begin to disappear. His enemy turned girlfriend, Carmelita, isn’t too happy about his lapse into thievery, however, causing a problem for Sly and the gang from the very beginning of the game.
The opening mission is a perfect welcoming for both veterans of the series and complete newcomers, with a great introduction to each of the characters and gameplay which shows off each of their skills extremely well, along with a good set-up for the narrative.
Sly is as stealthy as ever, sneaking past enemy patrols while picking their pockets and taking them out slyly as he jumps between platforms. Bently is also a great character to play as too, with his tech-filled wheelchair providing a different gameplay approach to that of Sly or Murray, including bombs, hovering and speedy attacks.
Murray, however, is a powerhouse with slams, punches and various other brawling moves that he can make use of to dispatch of enemies easily – he’s very far removed from the more subtle approach that Sly and Bently try to take.
Each of these characters provide a different approach to the gameplay, but it always remains fluid across the board. Combat, stealth and any other forms of play – including a brilliant twin-stick hacking mini-game – all flow very well, without any real hitches.
The section beyond the introduction seemed to focus much more on Sly, rather than the other characters. Don’t worry, they haven’t gone anywhere; Bently’s time machine, powered by Murray’s van forwards the game as the trio travel through time to save the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus.
The time travel mechanic adds another layer to the game, with varying environments across different time periods; the first level after the introduction is set in ancient China, where one of Sly’s relative’s needs rescued. Sly will manage this with a mix of espionage, stealth and speed, with various missions to complete across the open area of the level.
It’s not all just sneaking and hacking, though – along with Sly’s nimble platforming and Murray’s more vigorous approach to the situation, there are action sequences which can be really quite exciting.
Presentation is stellar, setting the tone perfectly with splash screens, freeze frames and various other quirks permeating the gameplay. Cutscenes, presented as cartoons are also brilliantly formed, remaining interesting while managing to put a story across; it certainly had me engrossed.
It looks fantastic too, with a refined cel-shaded art style that manages to look wonderfully crisp in high definition. It’s all very colourful which is a really refreshing sight – the art style really grabs your attention and takes you back to a time where all games seemed this vibrant.
Thieves in Time is a very fun game and everything appears to be in order here. It doesn’t pander to fans of previous instalments, nor does it alienate newcomers with complicated controls or a steep difficulty curve. The game has a few tricks up its sleeve which, when matched with the refined Sly gameplay, should make for a great adventure. Sly’s back and he might just be better than ever.
The game was provided by the publisher. It’s the full game, but an embargo prevents us discussing beyond the first couple of missions. The game is also out on the PS Vita, but this is untested.