Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Review
As someone who didn't really get into every major Sony-run franchise during the PlayStation 2 era, I never actually played a Sly Cooper game when this series was at its height. It seemed silly for me to even try to get into a new entry after so long. But it occurred to me that at least on the PS Vita, we don't really have much in the way of stealth/action platformers, especially not ones that pull from the sensibilities of the PS2 era. So even though Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time wasn't made by the original studio Sucker Punch Productions - presumably, they're working on some kind of game for Sony's next-gen PlayStation - developer Sanzaru Games have put together some polished, smooth action that has plenty of character and even a bit of depth that you might not expect.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time brings the gang back together for an entirely new adventure, which admittedly exactly what people probably expected. Sly Cooper the raccoon returns as the main character along with Bentley, Murray, and Carmelita Fox, all of whom are playable. You'll get access to large hub levels where you take jobs as specific characters, and each of the gang plays differently. They can all run, jump, and attack, but you'll get plenty of fun, new abilities as well. As you can probably guess from the title, Thieves in Time has you traveling through time and space to eras like feudal Japan, the Wild West, medieval England, and beyond. These settings each give characters new abilities that stick with the theme of the levels and add surprisingly entertaining ways to play.
As you can probably expect from a stealth platformer, there's a lot of sneaking around and a metric ton of jumping puzzles and challenges. Still, there's plenty of room for creativity, too, as Sanzaru Games put together large, open levels where multiple missions take place, each with interesting challenges that highlight features of a level you might not have seen before, even if you ran right past those features several times already.
None of this information will be incredibly exciting news to fans of Sly or for veterans of the golden era of 3D platforming, as most of this is probably pretty much expected, but at this point I'm just happy to see a game in this style still receive the treatment it deserves - after all, sometimes I wonder if all of our time spent in gritty shooters could be punctuated with more amusing romps like this. The contrast might do some of us a bit of good. So while some might accuse Sanzaru of playing it a little safe in making this game so similar to its predecessors, I think that might be just what we needed. Either way, the game is polished, colorful, inventive, and most of all fun to play, and when it comes to a cartoony platformer, that's exactly what I want. It helps that the visuals and texture quality are great, too, especially on Vita where the high-resolution, small screen does as much to eliminate jagged edges as any in-game antialiasing can do.
And then there is Sony's continued commitment to give gamers more value for their money than many big game companies. In this case, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time includes Cross Buy and Cross Play features where a bought copy on PS3 gets you a copy for PS Vita and vice versa, with cloud saving so that you can play through the game on either system. The price is reasonable, too; some will use the word "budget" to describe the $40 price tag, but I hesitate to use that word because I don't feel like that price is really quite that low, nor do I like the connotation that this game is somehow cut-down or made cheaply. Simply put, forty bucks is a great price for a game that's not exactly on the cutting edge of action-adventure design, and being able to play it either on your PS3 or Vita is just icing on the cake.
I was skeptical about why I'd really want to play anything like a PS2-era action platformer here in 2013, but spending even just half an hour in this game made me a believer, and there's much, much more fun to be had beyond that. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time may not innovate in bringing the genre forward, but there's still a ton of merit in bringing to market a polished, charming game with colorful graphics and inventive characters and levels. If you've got an itch for some solid 3D platforming with tons of variety, then it's hard to go wrong with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time - and if you've got both a PS3 and a Vita, I think you'll love being able to take it with you when you leave the house.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.