Sly 2: Band of Thieves PS2 Review

Picture the scene. Sony Headquarters, platform game section, awards division. Against the backdrop of the moonlight outside, two famous PS2 platform characters argue about who should win the shiny Cup on the table in front of them for: Best PS2 Platformer.

“I was the first, and the best” said Jak
“Bah, I improved on you in every way” replied Ratchet
“But my second game was very GTA in design, that makes me cool”
“I had far more weapons”

The conversation went on and on, and little known to the two protagonists, their every word was being overheard. Outside on the balcony was a Master Thief, a thief with his eye on the very Cup they were arguing over. Through the moonlight, across the rooftops, Sly Cooper had arrived uninvited at the party….

Sly 2 Band of Thieves is the second outing for the cleptomaniac raccoon. The first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus was well received but widely criticised for being too short. Have Sucker Punch learnt from this mistake? Let’s see, shall we.

In the first game, Sly defeated the evil Clockwerk bird, and the mechanical parts of this creature were stored under high security. Sly doesn’t trust the Police’s version of security, though, and decides to steal the parts and keep them safe instead. However, upon arrival, Sly discovers that the parts have already been stolen by the Klaww Gang, whose leaders are all using them to their own despicable ends. What’s a raccoon to do? That’s it, he’s got to travel the world and get them back! The only problem is that he will be pursued relentlessly by Police Officer Carmelita, who despite an obvious affection for Sly, has made it her life’s work to bring him to justice.

Graphics
The graphics in Sly 2 are a real treat for sore eyes. Remember those Saturday morning cartoons? Well, this is like taking an active part in one of those, only that doesn’t do it justice. The graphics are bold and colourful and cel shaded to excellent effect. The animations are wonderful and all of the characters, particularly the main characters in the game, move with a beautiful fluidity. The worlds in the game are huge, with very little fogging or pop-up to worry about.

The presentation of the game continues it’s cartoon theme. Each level is introduced like a new episode of a series, proudly stating ‘Sly Cooper and The Gang in……’

Even the menus are organised in this style. A quick press of the start button brings up the usual options, with a message telling us that ‘We’ll be right back’. The game has a wonderful sense of humour in it’s design and it had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish.

Gameplay
Let’s get one thing straight from the start, Sucker Punch aren’t stupid. They have received the criticism of the first game and built on this, delivering us a much lengthier adventure, more than double the length of it’s predecessor.

The game is a real mix of play styles, but it certainly has platforming at its heart. Each world is huge and has particular jobs to be completed. Some of these need different skills, so you will get the chance to play as Sly and his two companions: Bentley, the intelligent bespectacled turtle, and Murray, the strong but not too bright hippo. These two were present in the first game but were not playable. The opportunity to play as them here brings some real variety to the game. Neither are as agile as Sly, so must find different ways to get to their goal. Each character has a range of power ups that can be purchased with the loot plundered during missions, and these are very imaginative in design.

It’s in playing as Sly, though, that the game really shines. Sly moves with such grace and is so agile, it really is a pleasure to play as him. Using his trusty cane, he can climb and leap as well as anyone I can think of in a game. The controls for the game are very simple, too, and therefore it’s easy for anyone to get Sly from the ground to the highest visible point in a balletic series of moves that string together wonderfully.

The sub games within each level are also a lot of fun, from the space shooter mini-game undertaken whenever you need to hack a computer, to the turret sections where you must defend a point against attack from planes, to sections where you must bomb the enemies from a remote control helicopter. The mixture here prevents the game from any threat of ever becoming dull.

Boss fights are present and correct, and very enjoyable to boot. However, each boss fight is preceded by a ‘heist’ where all 3 characters must complete tasks in turn to get the boss into position to steal his Clockwerk part. I found these even more fun than the boss fights themselves.

Sound
The sound here is of an equally high standard to the rest of the game. The music fits each level very well and I never once felt the need to turn it off. Don’t underestimate this, I usually get so fed up of the music in games that I turn it off after an hour or two.

The voice acting is also top notch, with each character having a distinct and very likeable personality that enriches the game and makes you care about what is going on.

All other sound effects, such as explosions and gun fire, are suitably meaty and there is little to complain about in this department.

Lifespan
The game is split into 8 episodes, each with numerous jobs to complete before the heist can be undertaken to prepare for the boss battle to snatch the Clockwerk part. This results in a game that is much more time consuming than the first one. From start to finish you are looking at around 15 – 20 hours play. There are also 30 bottles to be completed in each stage if you want to complete this game 100%. Given that the game can now be had new for £19.99, this is value for money in anyone’s eyes.

Overall
Sly 2 is a fabulous game, a treat from start to finish. It is simply packed with so much personality that it is an engrossing ride, and one that you’ll be more than happy to take.

So, let’s revisit Sony’s HQ and that argument between Jak and Ratchet.

“I’m getting a racing game so I must be best” shouts Jak
“But my sidekick is waaay better than yours, I mean what’s cooler, a robot or a little ferret type thing?”

Suddenly, they realise that something’s wrong. At the same time, they glance at the table and realise that the Cup has gone. Running to the window, they can’t see who’s taken it, just a glint from the Cup shining in the moonlight in the distance.

What they can’t make out, however, is a grinning raccoon, bounding across the rooftops to a getaway van being readied by a little turtle with glasses and a big pink hippo.

Ladies and gentlemen… we have a winner!

9 out of 10
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