I have a personal connection with Sly Cooper, and some backstory. You see, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was one of the first games I played entirely by myself from start to finish.
When I started going out with the dashingly handsome young man who would go on to become my permanent Player 2 in life, I thought videogames were a waste of time. I know, I know, we all have crazy ideas when we’re young. I’ll put it down to the foolishness of youth, along with the MC Hammer pants / Doc Martens outfit I pretty much lived in between third and fifth forms.
As you can tell from the number of reviews I have written over the years, my opinion of videogames has done a complete 360. (See what I did there! 360! Comedy gold.)
After watching my beloved playing his way through such titles as Tomb Raider, Zelda, and Mario 64, I started developing an interest in venturing out on some pixelated adventures of my own. So I started playing games by myself.
I worked my way through the Crash Bandicoots, Ratchet and Clanks, and Jak and Daxters, and of course lovable kleptomaniac raccoon, Sly Cooper. I liked the first game immensely; at the time, Sly was ground breaking. The whole look of the characters and the environments were very edgy and cool, with a cartoony, cell shaded aesthetic.
I don’t know if it’s me, or Sly, but something’s definitely changed in the 11 years between when the first game came out, and the launch of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Sly just doesn’t seem to have the same charm that he did back in the day.
I guess the story was always quite simplistic and the characters fairly one dimensional, being pitched at a younger audience, but playing through now, I find myself in a difficult position. I know Bentley is a sickly looking robo nerd in a tricked out wheelchair, but every time he starts talking I just want to punch him. Murray too. I literally don’t want to hear them talk, because I find them so annoying. The cutscenes seem to take forever! Is that bad? They’re supposed to be my posse, surely I should like them a little bit?!
And don’t get me started on Carmelita Fox. In the first game she was a vindictive badass, spitting out heated vows that she wouldn’t rest until Sly was behind bars, while she shot at him with a rocket launcher. But somewhere along the way she lost her venom, street smarts, and her shirt, and now seems to walk around in a bra top all the time, after her boyfriend Sly. Who pretended to have amnesia so that she wouldn’t break up with him, and she fell for it. I thought this fox was supposed to be an ace detective?
The story of Thieves in Time is fairly simple. The Thievius Raccoonus - the book of awesome thieving moves handed down the lines of Coopers throughout the ages and painstakingly re-compiled by Sly in the first game - is mysteriously starting to lose its pages, like they never existed at all. So Sly and the gang pile into the van, and head back in time to get the tricks directly from the Cooper ancestors themselves.
The addition of new characters adds a good dimension, and sticks to the tried and true formula of having separate and distinctly themed areas to work your way through. Here you can experience ancient Japan, the Wild West, etc, which does provide good variety.
You also rotate through the team to complete some missions, including playing as some of the ancestors themselves - such as ninja master Rioichi Cooper, or gunslinger Tennessee "Kid" Cooper - and learn their unique moves. You can also play with some of their unique gear, such as fire resistant Samurai armour. The core gang help out too; Bentley does hacking moves inside computer systems, as well as wheeling his way through some terrain, and Murray smashes things.
The graphics as displayed on the PS Vita are fairly underwhelming. Nothing terrible, but nothing ground breaking either. Sly himself looks boxy and uninteresting, and combined with the lifeless voice characterisation, it makes the character a lot less compelling and likeable. It also appears to be a fairly straightforward port of the PS3 version, and there aren’t many of the PS Vita’s unique features on show - apart from putting some interactive buttons on the touchscreen.
The music is pretty good and atmospherically matched for the different zones, but the voice acting, as mentioned above, is mostly just annoying. In the first boss fight with a Latino-for-no-reason-I-can-come-up-with-Tiger, the Tiger seems to start or end every sentence with Sly’s name. It’s ““Cooperrrrrr!” this, “Coopeeerrrrr!” that. Imagine this is a Tomb Raider title: “You’re dead, Croft. I’m going to kill you, Croft. You hear me, Croft? You’ve met your match, Croft.”
Arrgggh, just die already, you stripey loser!
Overall, I’m a bit disappointed. Admittedly Sly was never one of those video game characters who really captured my affections, like Mario, Lara, or Ezio Auditore, but I still found him fun to hang out with. Sadly that has worn off a little. Part of that could be me though, because I’ve moved on from the early days of needing a really simple game to play.
As a game for those who are just starting out, maybe someone young working their way through their first full game (awww, how cute!), it’s probably still as good a starter as any. It’s very simple - bordering on far too easy in parts - and the boss fights are definitely not going to give you nightmares due to their complexity. You are never wondering about what to do for longer than a few seconds, when you’ll either get a voice or text prompt, telling you exactly what's up..
If this is your second or third game, and you’re ready to start pushing on, you can collect all the trophies, bottles and other items for extra credit.
By design, Thieves in Time is a fairly simple experience, so if you want more of a challenge, maybe it’s time to graduate to something that’s going to stretch you a little more. I personally need more from a game at this stage of my life. Sorry Sly, it’s not you, it’s me.