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April 11, 2013
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
28/3/2013SonySonySanzaru Games Inc1None
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Sly Cooper returns in an all-new PS3/Vita game, Thieves in Time.
There's no doubt the Sly Raccoon games on PS2 were under-appreciated and didn't garner the kind of attention they deserved at the time. We were lucky then, that Sanzaru Games released the all three Sly games in HD back in late 2010 with The Sly Collection. The hard work and increased Sly brand awareness paid off for Sanzaru, who have been asked to develop a new and original Sly game, and the result is Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Does it live up to the standard of the previous games? Read on...

It's been a while since Sly last had an adventure and to outward appearances he now leads a respectable life. He's even hooked up with Interpol hottie Carmelita Fox by claiming he has amnesia, and acting more the good guy than the thief he used to be. Of course such a lifestyle cannot last (who would want to play “Sly: The Respectable Gentleman”?), and when the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus start disappearing, it's time for Sly to get the old gang back together.

Having teamed up with Bentley and Murray, Sly and the gang determine that it's not just the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus that are disappearing, it's Sly's ancestors themselves! The only solution is to travel back in time to suss out what's going on, and put everything back the way it should be.

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Finding some of the treasures.
If you played The Sly Collection then you'll be immediately comfortable with Thieves in Time. Sanzaru Games have worked hard at re-creating the look and feel of the series, succeeding for the most part. Thieves in Time is an open-world (though on a small scale) game, with plenty of platforming, basic stealth and exploration.

After a brief prologue where you learn the ropes, Sly and friends jump from one time period to another, meeting up with a new Cooper ancestor in each period. While the time periods couldn't be more varied; feudal Japan, the Wild West, medieval England among others, the gameplay remains much the same. The gang set up a hideout that operates as a hub, from which you head out to the open-world area. These open-world areas can and should be explored, preferably by Sly or his ancestors (you play many missions as either Bentley or Murray) as they can jump from one shiny blue platform object to another with great agility.

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Thieves in Time has some fun moments.
Within each of these open-world sections there are thirty clue bottles to find, collecting them all lets you open a safe for bonus goodies, as well as a number of valuable treasures. Once you find a treasure you have to get it back to the hideout in a limited time, without being spotted or taking any damage. If you make it back you're rewarded with coins, and collecting all of the treasure in an area earns you another bonus. You can also steal smaller treasures directly from enemies – if their pocket is glowing simply sneak up to them and hit the circle button. This is a great source of income, income you'll use to buy new moves or skills for each character in between missions.

At any time during your exploration you can head to a mission marker to start a mission. Missions usually take place away from the open-world, in more linear environments. The majority of missions involve platforming, but there is great diversity in the others. There are three different hacking mini-games, two of which are shooting games, one where Bentley turns into a TMNT Michaelangelo lookalike, equipped with a jetpack and gun, and another that makes rare use of the dual-shock's tilt controls. There are a few rhythm games tossed into the mix, and a funny training montage for Sly's Neanderthal ancestor Bob, which has him belting, tossing and balancing penguins and eggs among other things.

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Looking at some guards from up above.
In each time period Sly finds a new costume that grants him a new ability while wearing said costume. The costumes are a pivotal part of each time period, for example the guard costume of the opening level allows Sly to impersonate an officer and infiltrate the enemy stronghold. It's also fire resistant and can deflect fireballs, an extremely useful ability. A costume later in the game lets Sly slow down time, giving him just enough time to slide under gates as they close. And so on.

While Sanzaru do a lot of things well, Thieves in Time also has its issues. Firstly the script and plot are quite mundane, and never manage to make you care over-much about it. The same goes for the characters; Bentley takes an age to make a point, Murray is flat out annoying (I wanted to punch a kitten every time he called himself “The Murray”), and few of Sly's ancestors are anything more than stereotypes. The friendly barbs thrown between characters are always obvious – there's just not much clever about the script. All of which meant I was skipping more cut-scenes than I watched.

Another problem is that, for all their variety, few of the missions are as fun as those played as Sly. Bentley and Murray have different skill-sets to Sly, but even when missions are tailored to them, they're simply not that fun. Combat isn't responsive enough to make Murray's sections fun, and Bentley's lack of mobility stands out after hopping all over the place as Sly. Missions played as Sly's ancestors can be alright, but that's because they have most of the same moves as Sly himself. Those that don't, including the aforementioned Neanderthal Bob, simply aren't as fun.

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Sly Cooper is back in 2013.
Another issue is the lengthy load times, something you don't expect from a game that doesn't push the system in any meaningful way. Long load times are a pain, but they're even worse when you have a long load time, followed by a cut-scene, followed by more loading. Ugh! Boss fights also lack excitement and outstay their welcome, usually asking you to dodge the same set of moves on three separate occasions. This doesn't make them more difficult, just more of a grind.

Visually the game is a slight disappointment, primarily because the characters themselves don't look especially good. I could be mistaken but I got the feeling the visuals are a little dumbed-down so that the game could be directly ported to the PS Vita (*Now is a good time to point out that if you buy the game on PS3 you also receive a copy for the PS Vita. The Vita version is almost identical to the PS3 copy). On the other hand environments are quite varied and do a solid job putting a cartoony spin on things. Levels are well set out, allowing you to run around on all manner of buildings and wires above street level too. Standard enemies walk their rounds in a manner that befits them, for example you'll see owls occasionally flutter to higher platforms, and cats strut with feline grace. Bosses could have used a bit more flair, but they're not too bad.

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Climbing up above the lighting.
The audio is one area where Sanzaru have nailed the feel of the previous games, emulating the comic-style feel of them with ease. There are more brass instruments in here than I remember from the Sly Collection, but it works surprisingly well. Sly still has his own little music when he tiptoes up to an enemy to pickpocket them (or sneak around). As mentioned earlier the voice-acting grated on me, but that has more to do with the script than the actors themselves. Making Bentley less of a bore and Murray less annoying should be at the top of the list if another Sly game is made.

I've been a bit down on Thieves in Time during this review, but that's just because it doesn't live up to the games that came before it. It is not a bad game by any stretch; it's just a largely unremarkable one that doesn't push the series forward in any meaningful way. Young kids will definitely get the most out of this as the bright visuals and child-friendly characters will appeal to them in a way they can't to adults. If you're looking for a game for your kids, or are a young reader then Thieves in Time might be just the ticket.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSPerhaps dumbed-down so it could be ported to the PS Vita, this Sly doesn't look as good as its predecessors.
SOUNDThe music works well, but the voice-acting, thanks largely to a mundane script, is a bit painful.
GAMEPLAYGreat variety, but unfortunately not many of the missions are as fun as controlling Sly himself.
VALUEIt's surprisingly long at around 10-12 hours, with much more if you look for all the collectibles.
OVERALLThieves in Time is not a bad game but it can't match the trilogy that came before it. A top game for a younger audience who will forgive most of its failings, but older gamers are best to steer clear.

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