Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time PS3 Review

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The Sly Cooper series made its début for us UK gamers back on the PlayStation 2 in early 2003. On release, it was met with enough positive feedback about its easy and responsive controls, gameplay variety and lovely looking graphics, thanks to the cel-shaded style, to spawn two sequels on the same platform. After the arrival of the PlayStation 3, it seemed creators Sucker Punch had left poor Sly behind to create a new IP with the Infamous series. As you can see from the release of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, all is not lost for fans of Sly and his merry gang.

Thieves in Time continues after the events of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, where Sly is pretending to suffer from amnesia so that he can be with his loved one, the Interpol agent Carmelita Fox. It’s not long until Sly is back to his thieving ways, as his family’s history is on the line after pages begin to vanish from the Thievius Raccoonus, an ancient book that has recorded every Cooper Clan’s heists and escapades over the centuries. Sly regroups with his buddies, Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippo, and jumps through history with the use of a time travelling van to find out who is responsible for stealing significant treasures that were once stolen by the infamous Cooper family line.

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It’s an amusing time, and while the story is shallow and simple – we’re talking early morning cartoon plots here – it manages to entertain to the point where the writing is witty enough to bring laughter, with the trio of heroes being a lovely bunch of characters that you can’t help but adore. Fans need not worry about any changes to the gameplay, as the formula remains the same as previous titles, but now the small, open-world environments are based off five significant time periods such as the Wild West, Feudal Japan, Medieval England and even the Ice Age. Every era brings you in contact with a member of the Cooper family tree, and it’s down to Sly and the gang to help each one overcome the evil that is plaguing them, which normally involves stealth, thievery and other gameplay mechanics.

Variety is something that Thieves in Time does not lack, as this colourful platformer is jammed with missions and various characters to ensure you’re never doing the same thing for too long. Each time period will normally have you playing as Sly, Bentley and Murray, along with the era’s Cooper, as well as the occasional appearance of Carmelita. Each of the characters play somewhat differently, with Sly being the character that sneaks around and can climb places, Bentley being the high-tech turtle with his mechanical wheelchair and grenades, and Murray, who uses his strength to avoid sneaking and just pummels people to the ground. You are forced to use these characters at certain points of the story, but are free to use any when exploring the environment for all the collectables, which there is a tonne off, and again, covered in a variety of ways to find and collect them all. For example, some of these collectables are time attacks, where the character has to return the treasure to the hideout from the treasure’s location before the timer runs out, while others are in hard to reach places to pick up. It must be noted that some treasures are only reachable with a specific character. Finding collectables, pickpocketing enemies or smashing creates will often reward with coins, which can be spent at the hideout on upgrades for each of the main three characters.

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For the most part the game is a platformer, but thrown in are many mini-games that break up those sections. These range from hacking computer systems with Bentley, which can be either one of three games, a side-scrolling shooter, a maze which you must navigate a ball with the six-axis control and a top-down, twin-stick shooter section in which you can control a small vehicle to blast your way to the finish area, to playing a mediocre, basic rhythm game with Murray. You will probably be surprised at how often the game changes gameplay, but with so much variety packed in, it comes at price, not all the mini-games are great. That’s not to say that some are damn right awful. They aren’t, but they range from  great to boring, and no doubt you will end up wishing there was more of one thing and less of the other.

Even if you just play Thieves in Time for the story content, it’s a pretty lengthy game, coming in around 14 hours, but if you want to do all the extras then I can see this easily lasting an additional 10 hours on top. It’s great timing for Thieves in Time to arrive, because it seems 3D platformers have gone AWOL recently, with even Sony’s own Ratchet & Clank series dabbling in other genres, so it comes at a time where there isn’t anything similar to Thieves in Time for the PlayStation 3. It also helps that Thieves in Time is a mechanically solid game with lots of variety. The problem is that this game is unquestionably very easy. There is hardly any challenge, which makes it suitable for anyone to play, and the checkpoint system is super generous that you will never lose much progress from a death, but I wish there were some form of increasing the challenge. Also, the last boss is ridiculously easy, because it boils down to platforming and a boring implementation of quick time events, ending a pleasant game on a bit of a sour note.

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Sony are once again showing their kindness with the PlayStation 3 version of Thieves in Time, since it comes with cross-play, giving you a free copy of the game to download onto the Vita. It also includes cross-save, so you can move your save to and from the console and handheld versions. The game plays the same on the handheld, but takes a hit in the graphics department along with halving the frame-rate from 60 to 30. The PlayStation 3 is the one to play, but if you don’t mind the drop in quality,  then playing on the Vita is fine. One thing to note is that the PlayStation 3 version does sometimes drop frame-rate when scaling tall buildings, it also has long loading times, not Lego City Undercover length, but are noticeable longer than normal, as I found myself sitting and twiddling my thumbs waiting for the game to load.

There is no doubt that Sanzaru Games played it safe with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Fans will feel right at home with the game’s structure and gameplay layout, almost like this was made exclusively for the fans, since they haven’t had a new entry in the series for quite some time. I personally don’t have a problem with that, mainly because this is the first time Sly has truly entered this generation. Hopefully, next time Sony won’t wait as long to bring the raccoon back, and maybe he will get an inventive and more challenging sequel. While we wait for that, anyone who is looking for a good and enjoyable platformer should give Thieves in Time a chance, because for £19.99 on the PSN store, I cannot deny that this game is a steal at that price.

7/10

by

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Version tested: PS3, Vita

Developer: Sanzaru Games

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Genre: Platform, Stealth