â€śThings were better back in my dayâ€ť. Regardless of how accurate that is, itâ€™s an often-used phrase by gamers. But sometimes, just sometimes... itâ€™s true.
There are certain titles or franchises that gamers still hold dear in their hearts. Titles like, Mario Bros., Monkey Island or Crash Bandicoot. These games have managed to sidestep the bargain bin and become embedded in our collective gaming consciousness.
But as well as these, there is also a collection of games that are not as well known, but that are equally as polished, well designed and engrossing - The Sly Trilogy.
To some gamers Sly Cooper and his thieving ways will be familiar territory. Sly, the ingenious invention of raccoon-loving developers Sucker Punch Studios, has been entertaining punters since 2002 when they first let him loose on the PlayStation 2.
But it would be a shame to see Sly (and his hilarious partners in crime Bentley and Murray) fade into obscurity just because the platform they played on was going out of techno-fashion. Itâ€™d be a damn shame and the Californian Sanzaru Games just wasnâ€™t going to let it happen. They grabbed all three of the Sly Cooper titles â€“ Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus, Sly 2: Band of Thieves and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves â€“ and put them through the remastering wringer; updating their audio, graphics, and coding for some good old times on the modern PlayStation 3.
And theyâ€™ve done a brilliant job. The Sly Trilogy is a fantastic title that expands the availability of a much loved and well received collection of games. One that is deserving of the freshly expanded audience it can now reach.
That might sound a little gushy, but the adulation for this title is genuine. Itâ€™s not all down to nostalgia from a simpler time, when games were, well, yâ€™know games, and didnâ€™t need Direct X 11 coding, psychodrama and photorealistic weapon effects. Itâ€™s because all of the Sly titles (admittedly to varying degrees) are excellent games. And with Sanzaruâ€™s spit and polish they are now games that you no longer need to just wistfully remember.
Sly Cooper is a thief, and heâ€™s a pretty good one. Spurning his more feline peers he has decided to follow in the footsteps of his Raccoon heritage and become a master pilferer. Accompanied by his clever pal Bentley the turtle and the slow but strong Murrary (an elephant), Sly embarks on a series of heists involving money, giant metal birds, rival gangs of vagabonds and his family history â€“ enshrined in the Thievious Raccoonus.
It all sounds ridiculous (Thievious Raccoonus... I mean... what the hell?) but it also sounds deliciously silly. And fun. And comical. And brilliant! Itâ€™s hard to pull together all the various elements in a title to make it a fun experience. But, wrapped up in its quirky blanket of comical deviousness, the Sly Trilogy somehow manages it.
It could be due to Sanzaru Gamesâ€™ graphical updates. They should be commended for the improvements they have made to Slyâ€™s look and feel. The pastel-like cartoony imagery of the originals have been improved and updated. Swathes of colour give the title an intense comic book feel and the use of huge, animated onomatopoeia visually reinforces the titles cartoony vibe of hilarious childishness. And by neatly sidestepping the uncanny valley conundrum through placing Slyâ€™s universe firmly in the land of the furry, Sucker Punch is able to create a level of graphical immersion that we wouldnâ€™t normally accept in stealth-orientated platformers. Sanzaru has also propelled Sly into the modern world by kitting him out with PlayStation Move compatibility, which puts a new bent on an old experience.
Or perhaps it is down to Sucker Punchâ€™s excellent original attention to scripting, voice acting and characterisation. Everyone loves a game where the developers have decided not to take themselves too seriously. More developers should try it â€“ it creates a playful affinity between gamers and game-makers. Sucker Punch gets the balance mostly right. The scripted banter and characterisation between both Slyâ€™s friends and his foes is clever without being pretentious and simplistic without being contrived.
And that characterisation is supplemented by voice acting that is gifted. In fact the audio is uniformly well done. Sometimes it even becomes a character in its own right. When encountering the lounge lizard art crook Dmitry in Sly 2: Band of Thieves youâ€™ll see exactly what I mean. I was humming his theme tune for days afterwards.
Or maybe it could just be the core gameplay. Thereâ€™s nothing particularly special about the Sly Trilogyâ€™s mechanic. Itâ€™s in the same vein as its peers, Spyro, Croc, and even (to a lesser degree) Crash Bandicoot. But (aside from a few frustratingly difficult sections) itâ€™s, again, uniformly good. Thereâ€™s something to be said for compartmentalised sections and end level bosses. Sure, itâ€™s old school - but itâ€™s still fun. And those looking for increasing challenges wonâ€™t need to look that far. Sucker Punch didnâ€™t rest on their laurels and each title in the trilogy does add some extra panache to the combat mechanic, updating it as they go. But the changes are not fundamental. And this is a good thing, because at its core, the stealth-action third person platform style gameplay works and it works well.
The Sly Trilogy is a welcome revisit to a much loved, but at times under-appreciated, gaming family. Sure, there are moments throughout the three games where the series does display a little bit of its age. But thatâ€™s to be expected from titles designed for an earlier platform and its technical limitations. On the whole these moments do not detract from the compendium of fun that brings together three excellent titles.
Sucker Punchâ€™s Sly series is witty, irreverent, intelligent and polished. And Sanzaruâ€™s elbow grease has let us roll up our sleeves, grab our controllers, and once again enjoy the thrill and hilarity of gaming done well. If you didnâ€™t catch it the first time, maybe the Sly Trilogy might just be a package that steals your heart.