Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Preview
It might be harsh to call the, “Coming out of retirement, for one last job” gimmick a cliché. But, it is a gimmick nonetheless. In fact, it is exact gimmick that Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time revolves around. Sly has faked amnesia to gain the trust and love of his long time heartthrob and law enforcing rival, Carmalita Fox, then uncontrollable forces get the gang back together for one last job.
Through a exceptionally long cutscene, we learn that Cooper’s family heirloom, a book called Thieveus Racoonnus, is starting to lose its writing. Foul play is afoot and Cooper reassembles his gang to find out why his ancestor’s writing is disappearing from the book. To do this, they will have to travel back in time to find Cooper’s predecessors.
The Sly Cooper series has always excelled at building far away, romantic environments that soaked the series with a James Bond-meets-Heat-meets-Disney feel. Creating these flavorful atmospheres, especially in a historical context, should be a well-met challenge for Sucker Punch. The pity is that the demo does not provide any of the time-travel levels, only a modern day Paris setting. Thus, the demo does not show off Sanzaru’s larger vision for the game, only reassures us that this will be more of the same Sly Cooper.
Granted, an upgrade in graphics suits the series well. The PS2 classics, recently re-released on the Playstation Network, are incredibly well designed but were also a sharp reminder of the PS2’s limitations. Seeing the sharp animations of the cutscenes and the exceptional tricks Sanzaru were able to employ with more lighting technology, gives Sly Cooper a chance to embrace the shadows where he so desperately belongs.
But, once you are over the graphical upgrade and the intriguing concept, the game feels like more Sly Cooper. The nice part of that is Sucker Punch’s original design was incredibly well crafted and hard to outdo. Sly pounces on needle points surfaces with the greatest of ease, he leaps through his surroundings, using the environments in crafty ways. It is an old trick that the developers pulled out of their bag, but a good one.
While the original Sly Cooper focused almost entirely on the racoon protagonist, with little side missions diverted to his cohorts, Bently and Murray, the latter games increased the supporting character’s screen time significantly. This game follows that formula, though better than I remember it. Bently and Murray don’t feel like downgrades to Sly’s creative stealth levels as they were before. In fact, some of the best moments of the demo were the small changes of pace that these games provided.
The demo was a solid experience that felt like Sanzaru had reached into the Sucker Punch archives, pulled out the Sly Cooper formula, and dressed it up for 2013. There’s nothing wrong with that, as the narrative and gameplay both have stood the test of time exceedingly well. But we already knew these were the strong points of the game. Sly fans are still waiting to find out how well the time travel narrative works in the game and if the Cooper franchise has any more tricks up its sleeve. For that, we will have to wait until the game’s release on February 5th.