Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the long-awaited fourth installment in the popular Sly Cooper franchise, coming this February to the PlayStation 3 and Vita. Built upon stealth parkour gameplay, mini-games, and the tropes of heist and caper movies, the Sly Cooper games found success and critical acclaim on the PlayStation 2; enough even to get Sly into Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. This game is the first in the series not created by Sucker Punch, who developed the Infamous series and the first three Sly Cooper games. Worried long-time fans should take heed because new developer Sanzaru Games has experience with the franchise, having handled the port of the Sly Cooper HD Collection, the success of which may have finally spurred producers into renewed interest in the series.
A sci-fi time travel plot may at first seem an odd twist for the franchise, but the series has always disregarded realism in favor of creating a fun and original caper story. In fact, since the original Sly Cooper’s story focused on the codex of techniques Sly’s ancestors had passed down, a story about Sly meeting them feels like a natural development. The Cooper ancestors seen in the original game’s flashbacks even inform the designs of the ancestors met in this game. This respect for continuity should hopefully help the game feel like a worthy successor to the original trilogy. Going along with the sci-fi plot, the Cooper Clan’s arch-enemy happens to be a hawk that has turned himself into an immortal cyborg.
Gameplay experienced in the demo also holds true to the original series. While the demo only lets players experience a Medieval circus, leaving players wanting more as far as gameplay, it does clearly promises fans of the series that this Sly Cooper game is true to the original. The intuitive controls of the series clearly remain as they were, so new and veteran players should feel comfortable. Sly and company’s banter maintains the usual light-hearted humor.
Although the old tried-and-true tightrope running, spire perching and sidling mechanics of the other games is prevalent in the demo, it is much more. Sly has access to a Robin Hood-style archer’s costume that allows him to fire arrows with attached ropes, allowing him to create his own tightropes. In order for Sly to accurately create a tightrope, he must hit specific archery targets with arrows that can be controlled mid-flight. The first few such targets in the demo are just straight shots but they quickly become increasingly difficult, requiring careful timing and a steady hand to maneuver the arrows to their targets.
At the end of the demo, Sly reaches what seems to be one of his ancestors–a disgraced knight stuck at the circus–and motivates the knight to leave with him in order to fix his circumstances. None of the gameplay showcased in the demo is particularly difficult for someone that has played all the other games, but that was likely intentional in order to make the demo easy enough for curious new players.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time also promises the large, free-roaming areas players loved in the first three games, this time said to be three times larger. Fans that liked all of all the playable characters in Sly 3: Honor Amongst Thieves will be happy to know that Thieves in Time promises plenty of playable characters in the form of Sly’s ancestors, each of which with their own unique abilities. The game will also allow saves to be shared between the Vita and PS3 versions and for local multiplayer, though online multiplayer is unfortunately not included.
Despite the minor controversy over the series switching developers, Sly Cooper appears to be coming back strong with a title that has respect for the series’ continuity, characters and gameplay. Based on the playable portion of the demo, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time may, in fact, be so focused on staying true to its roots that it plays it a little too safe. Hopefully, the developers just wanted to keep the gameplay simple in the demo for new players. That said, even if they game does not include any major advancements, fans of the original series will likely just be happy to see the Cooper Gang in action again.