Let me get this out of the way right now: the title of this editorial is meaningless. These sort of pointed, attention-grabbing, knee-jerk-invoking headlines are vapid and the exact opposite of the sort of provocative questions they are pretending to imitate. I just wanted to say that. But this article is about Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, however.
I am a relatively new fan to the Sly series. In fact, I have been catching up on a lot of PlayStation games that I missed during my formative Nintendo fanboy years and Sly – along with Ratchet – have connected with me the most. I blasted through the Sly HD Collection when it was – almost secretly – released a few years ago and proceeded to get a platinum trophy on all three titles. And not all of those platinums were cakewalks. The point is that although most Sly fans had to wait over seven years for Sly 4, it was a far more palatable wait for me. I am now nearing the 40% mark of the title and am now trying to gather my thoughts for all you LusiCoons.
While I felt the games got better with each iteration, I was also frustrated at the increased focus on playable characters apart from Sly. And while so far it is possible to play as Bentley (picture Professor Frink as a wheelchair-bound turtle) and Murray (a clunky pink mass of bulk), new developer at the helm, Sanzaru Games, discovered a way to add more characters without taking away the joy of playing as Sly himself.
Because the hook of this title is the ever-popular time travel, Sly’s mission is to save a number of his ancestors from distinct periods in time. This means that one of these old-school members of the Cooper clan is a unique playable character for his particular era. It allows maps to be designed with its era’s Cooper’s special powers in mind, and it stops the character roster from feeling too cluttered.
And despite the new developer, the gameplay is as tight and addictive as ever. In fact, I have already come across gameplay elements that pay homage to former developer Sucker Punch’s future work, so Sanzaru’s respect for the legacy is obvious. It is all old hat for an apparent veteran of the series for me, but some choices do appear strange for a game in a series that has seen such a gap.
For example, the run button has yet to be explained in the game. I knew about it through habit, but it seems like a strange oversight for such a necessary mechanic. Indeed, there have been sections in which I do not believe could be completed without running, and I can only imagine the frustration of a newer player who might not have mashed every button in order to find out what some of them may or may not do.
But that is extremely minor and it is even possible that the game did mention it and I just happened to blast through the tutorial.
The only other concern I have had so far is with the story. Sucker Punch was able to find the delicate balance between an exaggerated premise and genuine motivation and emotion. So far, Sanzaru is impressing with the same old-school spy-style cutscenes and voiceover and they appear to be nailing the tongue-in-cheek dialogue between the characters, but I have yet to sense the sort of weight that took place in the actions of Sly in the previous games.
Of course, I am only on Chapter 2, and the plot has yet to truly unfold. The pieces are still falling into place, but am I preparing myself for a less satisfying story, despite all the awesome ancestors that Sly has already met.
As for the platinum, it appears to be on par with the later entries in the original trilogy. I expect to get the story and collection trophies with relative ease only to be screaming in frustration as I attempt to get the challenge trophies. Fewer things have almost made me give in to the cliché of throwing my controller as trying to beat the final boss of Sly 3 within a time limit. Never again.
I am curious where this series stands with other gamers. The HD trilogy was released so quietly and the cheaper price and lack of marketing for Sly 4 makes me feel like this is a series that Sony has faith in to make the money back, but not enough to throw its weight behind it. This is surprising for such a fun, entertaining, challenging, and occasionally even moving series. What games do you like that you feel are often overlooked, LusiMasks?