- Format: PS3 (version reviewed), Vita
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
- Developer: Sanzaru Games Inc
- Players: 1
- Site: http://slycooper.playstation.com/en-gb/
Thieves in Time is the fourth entry in the Sly Cooper franchise, and the first on the PlayStation 3, after the original trilogy was conceived on the PS2 by original developer Sucker Punch. They aren’t on developing duty this time though, as the game was instead handled by Sanzaru Games (who ported the original Sly trilogy as an HD remaster). Lighthearted and colourful platformers are thin on the ground these days, and only Ratchet and Clank have appeared in new games in this current generation of consoles, with other PlayStation mascots like Jak and Daxter sadly only getting their past games upgraded to HD. So the return of the Sly series after a ten year hiatus is most welcome. The series’ distinctive blend of comic book stealth in large open worlds along with several minigames to mix things up are all present in this new entry, and Sanzaru have managed to capture the feel of the original trilogy in this new entry. But is it wise to wallow too much in the past, rather than look to the future?
The plot of Thieves in Time sees Sly, a thieving raccoon from a long line of master thieves, and his gang travelling back in time to repair the Thievus Raccoonus, a book chronicling the Cooper family history which has been altered by a time travelling villain. Players control Sly, and occasionally each member of his gang. They are Bentley (the brains behind the operation), Murray (the brawn), and Carmelita Fox, who supplies the love interest for Sly; along with several of Sly’s ancestors, who have different skills to help the gang pull off daring heists, and to find out who has been tinkering with the Cooper family history and put an end to their meddling.
The game travels between different time zones and places. It kicks off in the modern day before traveling to feudal Japan, but also takes in the Wild West, the Ice Age, Medieval England, Ancient Arabia and present day Paris. These settings introduce various costumes which give Sly new abilities, like the suit of armour which lets you deflect objects with your shield, or the archery outfit which gives you access to a bow and arrows which can be used to create rope lines. The bow seems to be the ‘in thing’ in gaming these days, as it has been used in games from Far Cry 3, Crysis 3 and Tomb Raider. It’s put to good use here too, as the level set in a circus tent is one of the standout moments in this game, and sees Sly traversing trapezes using the bow to create rope lines, while avoiding cannon balls to rescue his ancestor Sir Galleth. Another memorable moment is when you need to train up Sly’s very first ancestor Bob, to enable him to get back into shape, and help the gang retrieve parts of the time machine. This is played out via a series of minigames, which is a humorous homage to the Rocky training montages. The platforming is decent, although the game does hold your hand perhaps a bit too much, as you press circle to correct a jump that went slightly wrong. The stealth also feels a bit too simplistic, as you can run around big burly bad guys, and unless you step into the circle of light that lies in front of their feet, you will be invisible to them. Even if you do step into the light, you can quite easily run off and, within a matter of seconds, the guards will have forgotten that you were even there – which removes any feeling of tension.
Sanzaru certainly throw everything at you, but at times it feels like they are trying too hard, and some of the minigames seem unnecessary; like Bentley’s side scrolling shooter hacking games, which are quite repetitive and certainly no R-Type or memorable ‘bullet hell’ shooter. Then there is the minigame which forces you to use the motion controls of the Sixaxis to traverse a maze. There’s also a rhythm game which feels tacked on, and a desperate attempt to add variety to the gameplay. The game also suffers from long load times, and we found the PS3 fan was really noisy while playing, which we found quite irritating.
As an added bonus, when you buy the PS3 version of Thieves in Time, you also get the Vita version to download free of charge. It also features cross saves, where you can pick up where you left off on the PS3 version of the game on the Vita. This is a nice feature to have, and the Vita version is a decent approximation of the PS3 game, with the same gorgeous cel shaded graphics; but perhaps slightly less graphical effects, and a slower frame rate which is to be expected.
Thieves in Time is a decent platformer with a couple of inspired levels, although Sanzaru have slightly over-egged the pudding with some needless minigames, which feel like extra padding which isn’t needed. The developers are perhaps playing things too safe, and have stuck too closely to the Sly template, when they should have tried to innovate a bit more. As it stands fans will lap up this latest entry in the Sly series, but it falls short of greatness. Hopefully the next game in the series will be a bit more ambitious and Sly will make his own bit of history in the Thievus Raccoonus.