If you liked the old Sly Cooper games from PS2, you should have this game firmly locked in your sights. This is a game made by a studio filled with fans and it looks like they’re crafting an excellent sequel. What else do I need to say?
Well, I guess I could could give you a brief rundown of the plot. It follows straight on from the end of Sly 3 where, and I hope I’m not spoiling this for you, Sly is feigning amnesia to be with Carmelita. The rest of his gang are also off on their own projects but when pages from the Thevius Raccoonus start to disappear, Bentley is forced to finish off his time machine to take the gang back in time and sort things out.
This plot opens up whole new worlds of possibilities for Sanzaru to play about with, as you get to play as many of Sly’s ancestors from across time. Sir Galleth of the Knights of the Cooper Order, a medieval English knight; Rioichi Cooper, a Feudal Japanese ninja; and Salim al Kupar, an Arabic Cooper who was the character I saw in action in his Arabian-styled level.
In addition to his own personality and attitude, Salim also has a unique set of moves. There’s a special whirlwind attack to unleash on enemies in combat, and a “cobra climb” to get to the top of ropes exceedingly quickly. A nice little aside from the development is that during play testing there was a flying carpet circling near a ceiling somewhere. Testers would spend ages just trying to have a ride on the carpet, so it’s quite lovely to see that Sanzaru took note and gave Salim his own magic carpet.
The whole level is designed around Salim and his specific powers. There are lots of ropes to climb, little sections to glide over on your carpet and so on. As you progress the difficulty gently ramps up, with disintegrating chains replacing the ropes, timed platforms to get across, and any failures becoming much less forgiving as you ascend a giant tower. Be warned, if you’re playing in 3D and suffer from vertigo, you should try not to look down![drop]The script is nicely humorous, with the cutscene at the top of the tower showing Salim staring into the hypnotised eyes of the thief he was trying to rescue and gradually going a bit googly-eyed himself! There are also a good few incidental film references and little jokes, my favourite being a call back to Indiana Jones’ “Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?” line.
After reaching this hypnotised victim, Bentley has to hack into the system which is keeping him in this state. So it’s time for another Sly Cooper tradition to be brought out: the mini games. This time it’s “Spark Runner”, using the SixAxis to roll a spark around on circuit boards in a race against the clock to get to the end. It actually looked really quite tricky to do, with a fairly intricate multi-layered design and a pretty punishing time to beat. There are bound to be plenty of other mini-games to look forward to, too.
It’s strange to be talking about it these days, but the PS3’s power means that each level and the game as a whole is going to be absolutely huge. More power to push the draw distance a long way beyond what the PS2 was able to do, alongside a hub-and-spoke world layout that is vast in comparison to previous entries. It’s so big that apparently one of the fastest run-throughs by a play tester was in the region of 12 hours, so there is a lot of content in this package.
Sanzaru have seemingly done an excellent job following up on the much loved series but they haven’t stopped with just doing a faithful sequel. Thieves in Time is making full use of the PS Vita too, working its way in to the Cross Buy initiative, that means you get a free copy of the game for the handheld with every PS3 purchase.
That’s great for when you want to play on the go, and thanks to Cross Saves you’ll be able to pick up where you left off, but Sanzaru are also taking advantage of this second screen to offer some new gameplay opportunities. First up, in a kind of two player co-op set up, you can have the Vita acting as an X-ray viewer into the world, pinging objects of interest for the PS3 player to pick up on. Playing off the ability to have a second screen, this will definitely come in very handy to find all the collectables that this game is filled to the brim with. The Platinum trophy for this game might not be so easy to get, I’m afraid.
Another neat little trick is to be able to use the PS Vita’s camera to take actual photos of tapestries and rare items from the TV screen of the host PS3, in a bit of an augmented reality mini-game. This one’s a slightly more curious proposition and sadly, technical issues meant I couldn’t see either of these cross-platform game elements in action but they’re certainly very intriguing ideas.
There’s really not much more that could be added to the package to make it any more appealing and the game is practically finished. Unfortunately, a week ago it was announced that Thieves in Time had been pushed back to an early 2013 release date. This is apparently nothing to do with the development of the title which is, to all intents and purposes, finished but rather a strategic move on Sony’s part.
Obviously an interminable extra wait for Sly fans but on the plus side, Sanzaru now has even more time to polish the title and the Vita will have a fairly big game launching for it early in the year.