Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus HD
System: Playstation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Release Date: November 9, 2010 (original PS2 release: September 23, 2002)
Despite owning a Playstation 2 for most of the system’s lifespan, I missed out on a lot of its more popular titles. For one, I pretty much neglected the entire 3D platforming genre. Thankfully, Sony has been especially helpful in my quest to go back in time by releasing HD collections of all sorts of modern favorites. The first one to revisit: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus.
I was initially ambivalent to check out the Sly Cooper series simply because of its cartoonish nature — I had written it off as a kid’s game, more or less. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While the Thievius Raccoonus can be enjoyed by all ages, there is a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay that will keep everyone coming back for more.
In his quest to uncover his family’s “Thievius Raccoonus” book about stealing, the eponymous raccoon travels through five different areas, ranging from mountains in China to Haitian swamplands. He is aided by two trustworthy companions, the intelligent Bentley the Turtle (voiced with a poor man’s Harry Caray impression) and the dim-witted Murray the Hippo. There is also a love interest of sorts in the form of Carmelita Fox, a government agent who is actually trying to capture Sly.
Gameplay consists of a hybrid of platforming and stealth elements. Sly can be wiped out with just one hit from an enemy, so sneaking around can be crucial to level progression. Getting caught by a security camera will set off an alarm, causing any enemies nearby to swarm the area. There are ways around most security systems (helpfully shown by a dotted blue line), but it can be tricky to get by in some instances. For the most part, Sly Cooper is fairly easy, but there are occasionally frustrating moments that require expert jumping and dodging of obstacles to get anywhere. For me, there was just the right amount of challenge, but platforming pros may breeze through the campaign with minimal difficulty.
Each locale is comprised of several levels, all of which have several clue bottles and coins scattered throughout. The coins act just as they do in Mario games — collect 100 for an extra life — but getting all of the bottles will provide Sly with bonus power-ups and features. These become especially handy in later levels, as some aid in jumping and combat. Each game world also has a handful of mini-games to spice things up, including go-kart racing and third-person shooting.
On the whole, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus offers a well-balanced campaign with fluid gameplay. I never ran into any trouble with the in-game camera — a problem I often have with the genre — and the mix of stealth/platforming is perfect. If anything, the game’s only real problem is that it is relatively short. The single player campaign can be finished in less than eight hours, though getting 100% can extend its shelf life a bit.
What makes Sly Cooper stand out from other like-minded platformers are its gorgeous cel-shaded graphics. The PS3’s upscaled HD rendition makes the colors even more vibrant, and the animations wouldn’t be out of place in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Adding to the attractive aesthetics are brilliant film noir-esque interludes that are perfectly in line with the game’s criminal roots.
As the first title in this highly-regarded series, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus has laid down some impressive groundwork. This bit of platforming fun was exactly what I needed to play recently, and for those looking for a diversion from today’s popular shoot ’em ups, you can’t go wrong with this. I can’t wait to play through the rest of the Sly Collection.