After an extended leave of absence since 2005 with Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves back on the PlayStation 2, Sly Cooper is back in action thanks to the amazing people over at Sanzaru Games. Fans of the Sly series -and newcomers alike- have been waiting for quite a while for Sly’s inevitable return exclusively to the PlayStation 3. In Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time, we find our hero –err, anti-hero, and his gang of friendly thieves travelling through -you guessed it- time. Their mission? To save Sly’s ancestors and correcting history that has been mysteriously disappearing from the Thievius Raccoonus, a sort of encyclopedic diary passed from generation to generation of the Cooper family. Prepare to rewrite Sly’s past in order to save his future in this epic quest across time.
Sanzarus passion for the Sly series really does show with the love and care they put into this fantastic game. The control mechanics are completely solid and haven’t changed very much from previous entries. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? The magic of the ‘circle button’ is back to help you navigate the different worlds -and time periods- by climbing, running, swinging, and pick pocketing all the shiny blue sparkling objects you can find. You will primarily control Sly Cooper, who must sneak around and navigate various obstacles to help restore the history of the Thievius Raccoonus along with his long time pals Bentley and Murray. Along the way, you will time travel to different periods in history and come across the quirky ancestors of Sly and also play as them. Each ancestor also has their own special powers that only they can perform. The special moves they can perform have been hinted at before in previous Sly games that were written in the history of the Thievius Raccoonus known only as a legends of the past.
You’ll travel from feudal Japan, the medieval times, modern day Paris, and a time where creatures long forgotten once roamed the earth. Combat in Thieves in Time still retains the simplistic use of the square and triangle buttons for light and heavy attacks respectively, as well as a combination of the two for silent takedowns. Sneaking in the game does feel a bit more refined this time around and seems more manageable to get behind enemies, pick pocket them, then get out without any guards noticing you were even there. Elaborate level & puzzle designs keep things fresh from world to world so things don’t get stale or repetitive. Another new feature that is a welcomed addition to the game is the use of costumes through out the game. Costumes will allow you to reach new places, solve new puzzles, unlock hidden treasures, and help you during boss battles. I won’t go too into details about the costumes and their uses so I don’t spoil it for you all with what they do.
Boss battles are really a treat and as I mentioned a second ago and costumes will be essential against some of the bigger boss battles later in the game, even using multiple costumes at a time! The formula for boss battle seem to retain the same three part consistency as the last three Sly games. Figure out the bosses attack pattern, find an opening, attack! Rinse and repeat until your foe is dealt with for the victory. Now, this isn’t to say that this is a bad thing, but it gives the player a sense of accomplishment when you can figure out what a boss’s weakness is and pummel them into submission. I can’t tell you how gratifying it feels when you’re fighting a boss and you have that “ah-ha!” moment and you know exactly how to beat them. Feels good right?
As good as Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is, it’s hard to over look the solid fact that its plagued by overly long load times. During these long load times, I often found myself doing one of the following three things while I waited. A quick restroom break, grabbing myself a snack, or looking for a drink to quench my thirst from all this waiting around. Although there are many games out there that have their fair share of load times, it felt like (many times in fact) I was watching the load screen more than the game itself. Having these long load times isn’t a very fun thing and it sucks you right out of the experience, especially when things are getting really good. I pulled out my stop watch and clocked in a whopping load time of about 56 seconds before the game fully loaded the next area. These long load times are not only on the PS3 version, but on the Vita version as well. Kind of a bummer that things like this still happen, but at least the game isn’t broken. Be sure you’ve got yourself something to drink or something to chow down while you wait between load times, it’s a bit of a doozy. These long load times are not something that are far and few between, rather they are too close and seemingly consistent through out the game.
Ok, ok, enough with the negativity on the load times. Let’s talk about Cross-Buy and Cross-Save functionality shall we? With Sony pushing their new Cross-Buy campaign on their select first party titles, I have to say that out of the three games to utilize this feature so far, Thieves in Time does it the best and it works perfect! For the Cross-Buy feature, you buy the PS3 version and get a digital version for your Vita totally free of charge with an activation from your Blu-Ray disc. Cross-Save functionality far exceeded my expectations with the way it would work. While you are playing the game, at any time just hit ‘Start’, ‘Cross-Save’, ‘Upload to Cloud’, then poof! In a matter of about 1 – 3 seconds, your file has been uploaded at lightning quick speeds. On the other side of the spectrum, to download a file simply follow the same prompts, only this time hit ‘Download’ instead of ‘Upload’ -and again in less than 3 seconds- you have your file on either platform. This is perfect implementation in my opinion and should be Sony’s new standard in the industry. Sort of a, “make it as good as Sanzaru did” mentality so that they can always get it right from here on out. Just imagine the possibilities that Cross-Save will be capable of in the future and how seamless it will be implemented.
From open deserts, icy cold mountains, or lush green forest like environments, Thieves in Time looks absolutely gorgeous with the animated and cartoon like style. Important cutscenes are full on animated shorts that you wish were made into a full fledged 90 minute movie. I would absolutely love a fully animated Sly movie, wouldn’t you? Colors are vibrant and are eye poppingly stunning to look at. The color palette through out the game is pleasing to look at and environments don’t seem to get old as you explore. Now, I know the PS3 version looks amazing, but wait till you see the Vita version. The Vita version is just as good on the eyes as the PS3 version is. Of course you can obviously tell that the games resolution has been scaled down a bit and draw distance isn’t as far as it’s PS3 counterpart, but the simple fact that the same entire game has the exact same content as the PS3 version is an incredible feat in its own. I really must tip my hat off to Sanzaru for pulling off not only one, but two fantastic games.
Sneaking behind enemies, or walking along a ledge still brings that neat little “bump bump bump bump” tiptoe sound effect that has been a staple in every Sly game. I gotta say, hearing that sound every single time puts a smile on my face and takes me back to when I played the first Sly Cooper game back in 2002. It was a neat addition back then, and it’s still just as sweet 11 years later. The music in the game is just stellar! From the simple over world music as you explore, to the intense orchestral boss battles, the audio content is superb. Another excellent move on Sanzarus part was bringing back Kevin Miller, Matt Olsen, and Chris Murphy back on as the original voice cast for Sly, Bentley, & Murray respectively. One thing that annoys many people is when an established franchise has characters you like or care about gets a different voice actor, the internet nearly implodes on itself. I can put all your concerns to rest knowing full well that the voice cast is by far one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. With massive big shots providing voice work such as Yuri Lowenthal (can I have your babies Yuri?), Steve Blum, and the-man-who’s-in-every-game-ever the amazing Nolan North. You’ll be quite pleased to hear the pros do what they do best with their voices and it works like the shiniest, most intricate machine you’ve ever seen.
Multiplayer: Sorry kiddies, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is single player only, just like the previous three entries in the series.
Solid gameplay, luscious environments, excellent implementation of Cross-Buy & Cross-Save features, and top notch audio to top it all off. These are things that make Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time succeed in many ways and Sony should really start to push for the Cross-Buy & Cross Save features being integrated seamlessly as this game has demonstrated that it can be done the right way. I want to see more games adopt this feature in the future so I can play on my TV, then easily jump over to my Vita when I’m out and about. It’s also worth noting that Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time on the Vita has a storage size of 3,346 MB (3.3 GB) so those of you with 4GB Memory cards, be sure to make some space for it since it’s a hefty download.
In the words of Sly Cooper himself, “It sure feels good to be back in business”.
Score: A fantastic 9/10
Publisher: Sanzaru Games Inc.
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: February 5, 2013 (NA) March 29, 2013 (EU)
Price: $39.99 (NA) £34.99 (EU)
ESRB: E 10+
Online: Single Player Only
Platforms: PS3, PS Vita
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Vita