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January 18, 2011
The Sly Collection - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
2/12/2010SonySonySucker Punch (Original)
Sanzaru Games (PS3)
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Sly Collection is out now on PS3, in 720p.
The PS2 was the birthplace of many fantastic franchises, for example; God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, and Sly Raccoon. If you did a double take at the last one on the list, you're not alone. While all of these franchises comprise of great games, the Sly series was one that received critical acclaim but didn't elicit the same response from consumers making it probably the least recognised series of the four listed. Luckily for us the people at Sanzaru were able to convince the original developer, Sucker Punch, that the world needed a HD remake of the Sly trilogy. If you missed Sly's adventures on the PS2 here is a gilt-edged chance to pick them up, but the question is, has the series aged well enough for you to want to pick it up? Read on to find out…

Ordinarily we spell out the story next, but with this disk being a trilogy there would be too many spoilers if we went beyond the first game, so we'll just summarise the plot of Sly Raccoon (which was originally titled ‘Sly Raccoon and the Thievius Raccoonus') here. In Sly Raccoon you are introduced to Sly Cooper, a thief, just like all of his ancestors. Despite being a thief, Sly isn't all bad because he only steals from the rich or evil. Sly's life has been hard because his parents were killed by a group of bad-guys known as the ‘Fiendish Five' while he was just a boy. He was sent to an orphanage and it is there that he met his two bff's (‘best friends forever' for those who aren't hip with modern lingo – and yes, I am super hip thank you very much) Bentley (the brains of the operation) and Murray (the muscle). The Fiendish Five attacked Sly's parents so that they could obtain the Thievius Raccoonus, a document put together by Sly's ancestors that details how to become a master thief. Now all grown up Sly has decided he's going to reclaim the Thievius Racconus from the Fiendish Five with the help of Bentley and Murray.

Sly Raccoon is a third-person platformer and you'll spend most of your time jumping from point to point while collecting various items of interest. There is no health bar – if you take one hit you're dead, that is unless you have a magic horseshoe which is obtained by picking up one-hundred coins, or by finding one during the level. You start out with five lives; losing one will take you back to the last checkpoint you reached, while losing all of your lives will restart the level. You have an unlimited number of continues, so death is not a major concern in the game.

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Sly Raccoon on PS3 includes HD visuals.
Each chapter begins with a short comic-book style intro that sets the scene for you. Most of the time you'll be given the back-story of whichever of the Fiendish Five you're trying to find, and it turns out they weren't always bad, but something happened to make them that way. With the story done Sly, Bentley and Murray set up a hideout from which to launch their operation. The hideout serves as your base of operation and from there you have to navigate to glowing areas that indicate a mission you have to complete. Your task in each mission is to find a key; finding the key in each mission unlocks the pathway to the boss. Most missions in Sly Raccoon have two other objectives; find all of the clues hidden around the level to unlock a hidden vault (which gifts Sly a new move or ability) and to complete the ‘master thief sprint'. The master thief sprint cannot be done on your first playthrough of a mission, but by coming back to an already completed mission and smashing an hourglass placed at the beginning of the area, Sly will get a shot at it. Once you crack the hourglass you are given a set amount of time to complete the level - the time limits can be extremely tough, so these challenges are not for the faint-hearted (or easily frustrated).

Sly 2: Band of Thieves, and Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves aren't quite as platform-oriented, and add many stealth elements to the mix, though much of the other gameplay remains the same. In these two games you now have a health bar, as do your enemies, so you'll want to employ your stealth moves to get the upper hand on them. Sly can now hide under tables, pickpocket enemies (to find coins and other goodies), as well as unleash sneak attacks. Coins found in these two games do not earn you free lives, but are instead used to purchase new moves and abilities from the hideout. In Sly 2 and 3 you the opportunity to play as Bentley and Murray (among others), who each have their own skill-sets. Bentley likes to put enemies to sleep with sleep darts, and to use bombs to take them out while Murray is all about power – there are few enemies who can survive standing toe-to-toe with this hippo behemoth.

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As a thief, Sly spends a lot of time on rooftops.
Chapters are set up differently in Sly 2, with the game making more of an effort to highlight Sly's stealthy nature. Chapters still begin with a comic-style intro that sets up the story, but from there he usually needs to take photos of key areas, objects and people in order to properly scout the area. With these photos taken, Bentley can plan the operation, and he'll spell it out for you in another cut-scene. Instead of having to search for glowing areas that indicate a mission for Sly or his gang to complete as you did in Sly Raccoon, you can now push L3 to bring up an on-screen pointer for all available missions. This comes in handy and is a quality addition to the game, cutting down on wasted time between missions.

Sly 3 is very similar to Sly 2 in terms of how both chapters and their missions are set up. After completing a chapter you can go back and attempt a series of challenges which are taken directly from the missions you've already played. For example you may repeat a boss battle, or particularly tricky platforming section, but this time you'll be on a time-limit. Successfully completing challenges doesn't give you anything beyond than a sense of satisfaction, though they do get you that step closer to a 100% complete game, and it's fun to go back and re-try some of the standout missions.

New to the PS3 version of The Sly Collection are some mini-games that can be played with the PlayStation Move controller. There are four mini-games; two that involve shooting moving targets, one that has you nabbing treasure as it falls from the sky and another where you fly a remote-control helicopter through a course by pointing on-screen where you want it to go. Up to four people can compete in the mini-games, but while it's nice to see some new content added to the disc, these mini-games are incredibly simple and likely won't provide more than a few minutes of fun, even if you have a few friends willing to play.

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Sly Cooper is climing up a pole!
In The Sly Collection all of the gameplay remains the same as it did when the games were first released. For the most part this is a good thing, but there are a few issues. Firstly, like many games, the camera can be a bit of an issue. There are times when it is impossible to get a view of your objective because the camera won't pan far enough and other times when objects from behind you somehow obstruct your view when you place the camera behind your character. Camera problems are in no way new, so most people will get over them quickly, but they will cause some frustration along the way. In Sly Raccoon it's frustrating that there is no easy way to spot incomplete missions, which results in a bit of needless wandering as you go to all of the glowing areas to check if you've completed the mission there. Happily this is remedied in the second and third games, so it's not a major issue. One thing that may not annoy anyone else, but did annoy me; in none of the games can you skip cut-scenes or any of the text. I'm an impatient person, and it annoys me when games don't allow me to skip things – especially if I have seen them before. It's made a little worse because the game caters for audiences of all ages so the characters take their time delivering their lines. For me, this was painful.

I had a problem with some of the missions too. In Sly Raccoon most of the levels are straight platformers, but you'll occasionally get a kind of mini-game to break things up. The problem is that many of the mini-games aren't fun, and will soon test your patience. Sly 2 is no doubt a more polished game, but the level design can become repetitive after a while. The reason for this is that you'll often have to do any given task five or six times before being allowed to move onto the next mission. For example, in one level Sly needs a tuxedo, but instead of just looking for a full tuxedo Sly has to find six different tuxedo pieces. It's almost like Sucker Punch only had a few ideas, but wanted to pad the game length so they made you do them over and over. Sly 3 gets out of this rut, and the missions are far more varied and fun. However I found that boss fights were more of a chore in this game, because boss's lingered far longer than they should have. The reality is that all three games are fun most of the time, but all three can be a tad repetitive too.

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Visually the Sly Cooper games impress on PS3.
As mentioned in the introduction, The Sly Collection comes to the PS3 with a high-definition visual makeover. All three games make use of cel-shaded visuals which give the game a very distinct comic-book feel. It's interesting to have all three games together because they can easily be compared, and there's no doubt that the visuals improve in each of the three games. All of the characters are colourful and distinctive, and the locations look excellent for the most part. In Sly 3 Aussie gamers will get a kick out of the chapter set in the outback, and many of the other locations throughout the games are comical takes on real life locations. There is no sign of blood or gore here, and when your characters attack an enemy you're likely to see a Batman-style ‘Pow!' or ‘Thwack!' appear over the enemy's head. The screenshots on this page should give you a good idea of what to expect in the game, and it's safe to say that it looks very good and moves smoothly throughout. (Note: Sly 3 includes support for 3D visuals too, although without a 3DTV we have been unable to test this - Dave)

The audio takes its cue from the visuals, going for a comic-style feel. Whenever Sly is sneaking up on an enemy from behind you hear music each time his foot lands as he tiptoes. The music is easy to forget, but it's cheerful throughout, and suits the style of the game well. There is a lot of voice-acting across all three games, and while some of the characters and script are a bit childish, the voice-acting stays in character and is decent enough.

The Sly Collection brings together three of the best PS2 games you probably never played. All three games provide plenty of fun, and though there are a few issues with each of the games, these are minor for the most part. The comic-book style visuals, upbeat music and vibrant characters deliver a game that everyone in the family can enjoy. If you like platformers, or family-friendly open world games then the Sly trilogy represents a great value pickup, and one well worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe updated HD visuals really work; the games don’t look old at all, and each of the three games move smoothly. The only minor issue here is the camera, which isn’t as perfect as you might like.
SOUNDThe music is cheerful but largely forgettable. The sound effects and voice-acting fit the look and feel of the game.
GAMEPLAYAll three games play well, and there are obvious additions and improvements as the series progresses. There are some minor frustrating or repetitive missions, and the new mini-games offer next to nothing, but otherwise it’s very polished.
VALUE: Three quality, fifteen (or so) hour games for around $60? That’s great value.
OVERALLThe Sly Collection brings together three fun games that many people will never have played before. If you fall into that category and enjoy platform games, then this is a must-have. For everyone else it’s still well worth checking out.

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