*Authors Note* Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a direct sequel to the three preceding that were released on PS2 but then collected in the ‘Sly Trilogy’ that was released on PS3 in 2010. Thieves in Time is available for PS3 and PS Vita, utilising Sony’s Cross-Buy initiative, both versions were played for the purposes of the review, although the PS3 version was the lead SKU played.
Honestly, never thought I would ever see another Sly Cooper game, and when original developers of the series ‘SuckerPunch’ announced inFAMOUS, and eventually inFAMOUS 2, the writing seemed on the wall. A small relatively unknown development team however called Sanzaru Games, without permission nor funding took it upon themselves to create a PS3 prototype for what a new Sly game could be, they took this to Sony and lo and behold got the blessing they desired to make a fully fleshed game.
Thieves in time picks up following the events of Sly 3, with Murray racing with the teams van, Bentely and Penelope were constructing a time machine, and Sly was faking amnesia in order to cover up thieving past and maintain his relationship with Inspector Carmelita Fox. All this changes though when Bentley discovers that the Thievius Raccoonus is losing its content before his very eyes, realising that this all must be as a result of some tampering of past events, Bentley informs Sly, the gang reforms, jumps in the car and flies back through time to correct history. Through their adventure Sly meets a number of his ancestors, from Rioichi in Feudal Japan, through to Salim al Kupar in Ancient Arabia, and each of these ancestors have run into some sort of strife, wrought by the evil doers of the present day that is altering history and causing the content of the Thievius Raccoonus to disappear. Obviously there is a bad guy pulling all the strings and the gang are forced to bring down Le Paradox in order to save Sly’s ancestors and the Cooper clan as a whole. The story is nonsensical but it is the goofy humour of the characters that pulls you in, Sly is suave and cunning as ever, while the banter that goes on between the group never ceases to put a smile on the face.
What Sanzaru has done excellently in Thieves in Time is retaining the fundamental gameplay elements of the franchise. Yes, having to press the circle button mid-flight to connect to a single grabable surface is a bit dated, but it is a troupe of the franchise, and it is clear that the history of the franchise is not something they wanted to tamper with, so expect your gameplay experience to vary very little from what you’ve already come to know, even in broad daylight enemies will be carrying lanterns and you can only be pursued if you walk into that light, if not, you can stand centimeters away and go completely unnoticed. Enemies can be pickpocketed and cash collected, there are multitudes of different collectables present from hidden bottles to safes, other treasures and masks. Compulsory story driven mini-games are present which utilise features such as the six-axis to steer, as well as other crazy mini-games that for example sees Murray dressed as a Geisha dancing for goons, and you must press buttons in rhythm in order to succeed, not every mini-game will appeal, but none of them overstay their welcome any more than they should, and ultimately serve as a great opportunity to diversify the experience.
You will also get to play as Sly’s ancestors as you find them in each time period, they each possess unique abilities such as Tennessee “Kid” Cooper’s Crackshot technique, which is a slow motion technique used to fire quick shots at targets. The game is what you want to make of it though, you can choose to search every nook and cranny trying to uncover every collectable and reap the rewards of that, or you can push through the characters individual jobs and then work together to defeat the time periods final boss. The boss battles, like in previous games come down to discovering the boss battle pattern, managing those and then laying the beat-down upon them, it may take a couple of attempts to discover this pattern but once you do the encounters become relatively simple.
Visually the game retains its old cartoon inspired art-design with exaggerated outlines but has received the HD sheen, and looks quite impressive, it is by no means a stunner on the Vita (it holds up okay), and if you had one to play – make it the PS3 version from a visual standpoint. The soundtrack and sound effects use feel just the same as they did back in the early 2000’s with most sound effect used coming directly from previous games, but as previously mentioned it is the dialogue that engages the most, the stupid jokes, Murray constantly referring to himself in the third person that will keep you laughing throughout the 12-15hour trek (plus time if you’re a collector).
The gameplay is a bit dated, the six-axis/gyroscopic movement a bit gimmicky and the load times are borderline ridiculous but Thieves in Time represents a very welcome comeback for Sly and the gang and if a teaser at the games conclusion doesn’t indicate an upcoming successor then I don’t know what does. Thieves in Time has the same sort of charm that an old Disney film does, you have grown older and (hopefully) more mature, but it constantly puts a smile on your face, and despite some glaring issues this entry is very much welcomed and represents possibly the finest entry in the franchise to date.