Platformers aren’t as popular a genre of videogames like they used to be, but when it comes to games like Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, it’s a little confusing to see why. Featuring a wide variety of gameplay styles, minigames, and collectibles to gather up, Thieves in Time is a fun and relaxing platformer that’s a nice deviation from the more serious and gritty game titles released so far this year. It may start to feel repetitive towards the later parts of the game, but its cartoony humor and accessible controls help make up for it.
Several pages of the “Thievius Raccoonus”, an ancient tome full of master thief Sly Cooper’s family history (and trade secrets) are disappearing, almost as if time itself is being rewritten. Sly, his friends Bentley (a genius turtle with a high tech wheelchair) and Murray (a pink hippo who really, really likes to punch things) figure out they’ll need to do bit of time travelling to sort things out and restore the past. While adventuring through feudal Japan, the medieval era and the Wild West, Sly and company will meet up with his various predecessors and of course see if they can’t nick a few precious treasures along the way.
If Thieves in Time happens to be your first foray into the Sly series, don’t worry too much about having little clue as to who Sly and his friends are and what they’re all about, as the game starts off with a very lengthy animated introduction explaining each character’s backstory and their motivations for pursuing a life of crime and riches. This is actually the biggest drawback to Thieves in Time. You’re going to have to sit through tons of exposition, as the game very much likes to tell you what’s going on in the story rather than show you. Adding to the annoyance, Thieves in Time is also fond of reminding you how to perform certain in-game actions or abilities, even if you’ve done them few times before and already know how they work . But as overdone as those parts can be, there’s still a certain amount of charm to each of Sly’s time-warped adventures, and you’ll get quite a few chuckles out of the Saturday morning cartoon-style hijinks Sly and his friends keep getting into.
Each of the game’s levels are set up in a quasi-open world environment, filled with enemies to steal from and collectibles to hunt down, along with various “Jobs” that fill out the game’s story missions. As Sly or one of his ancestors, you’ll be able to jump, swing, and crawl your way across the game world with ease, as the game will highlight areas you can walk or jump on with blue sparkles and let you lock on to them with a simple button push. You’ll still have to develop a good sense of timing for some of the more complicated bits of platforming, and on rare occasion wrestle with the camera to get it set to a good viewpoint. But thankfully, you’ll hardly have any problems getting to where you need to go in any given mission, or sneaking up behind some unsuspecting guard and stealing all their cash. Thieves in Time feels very much like a simplified version of Assassin’s Creed, only with far less stabbing and more grand larceny. There’ll also be times where you’ll play as other members of Sly’s crew for several story missions or for exploring the game world, and while they quite aren’t as mobile as Sly, have their own unique attacks and abilities, such as Bentley’s love of hacking computers and Murray who, again, really likes to punch things.
Throughout your time travels, Sly will acquire several costumes with special abilities, like a suit of samurai armor that can trick guards and deflect fireballs or an old, black and white stripped prisoner’s outfit with a giant metal ball you can ride around on. Outside of their uses in a particular time period’s story missions, however, you won’t find much use for the costumes unless you’re interested in hunting down some of the hidden pieces of treasures that are only accessible if you have a specific costume available. Some of these treasures aren’t accessible until you’ve picked up a costume from way down the line, so there’s some incentive to travel back to previous levels for those interested in digging up some of the bonus items. In addition, all the various coins and treasures you accumulate through your crime sprees can be used to pick up various abilities and gizmos for your team members to use, like sleep darts for Bentley or granting Sly the ability to run while walking on ropes. But other than a handful of choices that are actually quite vital – like an early game paraglider ability that you really should purchase for Sly as soon as possible – you can make do with the upgrades you feel will best fit your play style instead of grinding for coin to nab every item that’s available.
Sadly, as much fun as Thieves in Time can be, you’ll start to feel déjà vu once you hit the later parts of the game. Even though the location, aesthetics and enemies have been switched up, there’s not a great amount of variation in enemy behavior. You’ll find yourself going through story missions that feel way too similar to something you did just an hour or two ago in a different time zone. Once you have to run around capturing yet another series of recon photos or go through one of Bentley’s hacking mini-games for the fifth or sixth time, you’ll find yourself just powering through the stages to move the story along and skipping most of the side stuff like finding all the collectibles and treasure. Thieves in Time does mix things up and try to break up any tedium by throwing in many random gameplay events , such as having a rhythm/memory mini-game pop up in the middle of a boss fight, or having one humorously short part of a mission literally have you push a button to blow up a castle’s drawbridge, but there’s definitely parts where you can feel like the game’s momentum has slowed down. As clever as the gameplay can be, there’ll be times where you’ll feel like the game is just trying to pad out its length.
One nifty feature of Thieves in Time is its Cross-Save system. If you happen to own a PS Vita, you can actually upload your latest save to your PlayStation Network profile from your PS3, and then download it onto your Vita (or vice versa) and continue where you left off. The game mostly plays the same on the PS Vita – the touch screen gets a lot more use for accessing your inventory and objectives – and there are occasional bouts of frame stuttering, but it’s a nice add on that lets Vita owners get a more use out of their handheld.
Bottom Line: It might have trouble holding a steady pace across the whole game, but Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is an enjoyable platformer with many differing styles of gameplay to keep things interesting. Plus, the sheer amount of collectibles and treasures to hunt down will make it hard for any completionist to put the game down for long.
Recommendation: If you’re looking for a game that’s more relaxed and doesn’t take itself too seriously, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a good choice.[rating=4.0]
This review was based primarily off of the PS3 version of the game.
Game: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform(s): PS3, PS Vita