You’d expect Sly Cooper to be taking it easy after hanging up his cane at the end of the third game. However, when pages start to disappear from the Thievus Raccoonus, Sly teams up with his old friends, Bentley and Murray, and is thrust into an adventure spanning time itself. Can Sanzaru Games give Sly Cooper fans the game they have been pining for with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time?
It all starts rather positively with some fantastic looking cutscenes, setting the mood for what lies ahead. Instead of cities, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is split into periods in time. Each era acts as a hub that can be freely explored, with a map marker pointing out the next story-progressing location.
Knowing that having a fairly large open space with nothing in it is a bad idea, Sanzaru Games has packed each area with tokens, bottles and treasures that can all be put towards upgrading Sly, Bentley, and Murray’s movesets. Completionists will certainly have a lot to do.
The story missions in each area all follow a set pattern. Sly investigates the era’s main villain before finding a Cooper ancestor and orchestrating an Ocean’s Eleven style heist, kicking the boss’ ass and disappearing off to the next time period.
As is usual with Sly Cooper games, you’re not restricted to just playing as the sneaky racoon, with Bentley and Murray often called into play. Bentley isn’t particularly fast, but can deploy several types of bombs from his wheelchair, as well as glide a short distance.
Bentley is also relied upon a number of times to hack into a security system, which takes the form of one of several mini-games. Some, such as the side scrolling shoot’em up, are great, whereas others, such as the motion controlled ball levels, miss the mark completely.
As he’s the big guy, Murray is normally called into play when people need beating up. However, there are some genuinely amusing times where he has to take part in some unusual activities!
The playable cast has been expanded this time around, with the addition of Sly’s aforementioned ancestors. You’ll take control of them at certain points, and they introduce a host of new skills such as climbing and dash jumping over long distances.
You’ll spend the majority of the time as Sly, though, and I’m pleased to report the controls are pretty tight, although I’m still not a massive fan of how floaty the jumping feels. Sly can also find, and equip, one costume per era that will help solve puzzles. Whilst this sounds like a good idea, it’s quite an underused mechanic.
Those looking for a dash of longevity will be pleased to hear that Sly’s adventure is a lengthy one. You can expect at least ten hours of gameplay – more if you go back to collect all the various items scattered throughout each era. Not bad at all for a budget priced title. There’s also a decent amount of variety on offer initially in terms of level design, although later on things do get quite samey.
Graphically, the game looks tidy and although there are a few rough edges and some pop-in here and there it’s nothing particularly game breaking. The sound is exactly what you’d expect from a Sly game with some decent, catchy tunes and a healthy dose of voice work that ranges from amusing to annoying (although in the case of Murray I’m guessing that’s intentional).
So far so good, but the game does have a number of issues. A major gripe, and one that almost caused me to smash my Vita, is the slowdown during boss fights. I died nine times in a row during the first boss fight, entirely due to the game’s frame rate dropping dramatically.
The boss would unleash a special attack, which would slow the game to a crawl meaning Sly would take a fair amount of damage because I barely had any control over him. By the time the frame rate returned to normal the boss would have unleashed another attack. Repeat until death.
The other boss fights were nowhere near as bad, but it’s certainly an issue to be aware of. The load times are also on the long side, so much so that you can check Twitter, your emails and your phone while you wait.
The enemy AI also feels extremely basic. Maybe this is something people want from a Sly game – enemies that have clearly defined, non-changing routes through a level, but it just ends up feeling exactly like a PS2 game.
Thieves in Time also has a bad habit of not knowing when to quit. There are so many missions that feel stretched out and boss fights that go on for several sequences too long. There was a point, a training montage in fact, that was stretched out so ridiculously that I would have walked away from the game entirely had I not been reviewing it.
- Looks very nice in places.
- Solid platforming through varied locales.
- A lot to do.
- Good value.
- Some terrible frame rate issues.
- Basic AI.
- Long loading times.
- Can feel very padded out at times.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a solid title that sticks rigidly to the Sly Cooper formula. Whether this is a bad thing or not is purely down to personal preference. In my opinion now was the perfect time to add a twist to the proceedings. Those looking for an enjoyable platform romp will no doubt have a blast with the game, but those looking for something new may come away disappointed.
Review based on PS Vita version. Sly Cooper is also available on PS3, which comes with a free version of the Vita game and features cross-saves.