Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: The Sly Collection (Playstation 3)

Long before Suckerpunch became famous for InFamous (no pun intended), their flagship product was a third person action-platforming series by the name of Sly Cooper, their attempt to capitalize on the success of the Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank series and, in my opinion, they succeeded admirably. Funny enough, the Sly Cooper series seems to be the forgotten gem on the Playstation 2, with most gamers I know having only played one of the games or none of them. Many don't even know about this series in detail, something this new HD collection on the Playstation 3 aims to fix.

The Sly Collection encompasses all three games in the series, with hints of a fourth one to come out sometime in the future. The first game in the series, "Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus", follows Sly's efforts to obtain all the pages from his family's book of thieving secrets from the villainous Clockwerk, a semi-mechanical Owl-like creature that has stolen the book and scattered the pages and blueprints across a series of stages in varied locales. Helping Sly along are his sidekicks Murry and Bentley, and Sly Cooper being a criminal would logically have someone on the side of the law chasing him, and this antagonist comes in the form of Carmelita, a foxy (literally) Interpol agent who vows to capture Sly. Part of the fun of the game is the sexual tension between them, which is expressed in their hilarious back and forth banter.

The second game in the series is easily the best. "Sly 2: Band of Thieves" expands on the gameplay mechanics of the first game, with some added tweaks such as getting rid of the "one hit kills" that provided so much frustration in the first game, and allowing you to play as multiple characters. The settings are also more exotic and the stealth element is fleshed out a little more here, with several parts of the game requiring you to run recon missions and do multiple tasks before you can complete an objective. The third game, "Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves" is the weakest in the series but is still very good. It retains most of the elements that made the first two games great, but it introduces too many playable characters and some superfluous tasks, such as safe-cracking, that make the game feel bogged down. It's definitely the most challenging game in the series, but the story is less interesting and the objectives more tedious, so this is definitely the one to play last.

True to platforming tradition, the characters in Sly Cooper are colorful and cartoonish. Sly Cooper, the title character and main protagonist, is a raccoon super-thief who comes from a long line of superthieves. Balancing his criminality is his tendency to do the right thing and defeat villainous bosses, giving him an almost Robin Hood sheen to, presumably, send the right message to the younger audience. You will spend the entire duration of the first game, and the bulk of the sequels, playing as Sly Cooper and the platforming controls are the main strength of the series. Sly is as slick and agile as any platforming hero and using him to traverse the levels is fun if not a little too easy at times. Assisting Sly are his partners in crime; Murray, a dim-witted hippo who acts as the muscle of the gang and Bentley, a turtle who is relatively weak in combat and platforming but is the brains of the operation. Each character is playable at certain times and they each bring unique abilities to the party, but they feel limited when it comes to the platforming. Starting with Sly 2, you are required to play as other characters and this provides some nice variety, but you'll ultimately want to play as Sly through most of the game.

Given that the games are cartoony, the HD transfer doesn't enhance or deplete the quality of the visuals to any degree that you'll notice. The controls are as tight and responsive as ever, but the same frustrations that you remember in the PS2 versions have been carried over. The camera sometimes doesn't show you what you need to see and it can go haywire when you get to close to it, and the one hit kills in the first game will result in plenty of trial and error. What might turn off a lot of gamers is the relative ease of these games, especially the first two which can be beaten in a short period of time, and only those who hunt for all the secrets will get extended playtime. On the plus side, each game offers generous PSN trophies and a platinum prize that is fairly easy to obtain, so those who are looking to beef up their trophy count will get a kick out of this collection.

Overall, the Sly Cooper collection is a quality platforming series that didn't quite attain the success of it's contemporaries, but in my opinion the games have aged better than most. The budget price of this collection makes it an easy purchase decision regardless of whether or not you've played these games in the past.

Rating: 8.5/10

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