Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time PS3 review – Belated sequel proves you can teach an old raccoon new tricks
For a nimble, roof-hopping raccoon thief, Sly Cooper hasn’t half taken his sweet time to appear on PS3. It’s been eight years since we saw the lithe pickpocket on PlayStation (discounting 2010’s HD Trilogy), but aside from dated boss battles and one or two grating design choices, the quick-talking ringtail has adapted beautifully to current-gen life.
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time PS3 review
Mostly that’s down to this new time-travelling lark, essentially an overblown excuse to drop Sly and his witty chums into a series of distinctly flavoured open-world hubs, stuffed with side-attractions, ludicrous characters and glinting chunks of booty ripe for the pilfering. There’s a faint whiff of Assassin’s Creed in the way Thieves In Time thrusts you into each time period, with Sly’s objective to free one of his ancestors and help them overthrow whichever wrongdoer is currently plaguing the land. What’s neat is that – through the Cooper predecessors – each hub feeds you a novel gameplay twist to freshen things up, with the variety brilliantly matched by the game’s innovation.
Take the early Wild West section – as gun-toting Tennessee Kid Cooper you’re given the ability to unleash a Red Dead Redemption-style crackshot at multiple opponents, slowing time to paint up to five targets before snapping back to the now and unleashing a barrage of death. Combined with intricately designed puzzle sections and an exhilarating train heist, the chapter quickly becomes one of the entire series’ most satisfying and memorable set-pieces.
Each hub feeds you a novel gameplay twist to freshen things up,with the variety matched by the game’s innovation
Additionally, each of the five worlds includes an unlockable costume for Sly to slip into, granting him special abilities that can then be used to access secret areas or aid him in boss fights. For instance, the samurai armour found in Feudal Japan makes Sly impervious to flames, whereas a nifty Robin Hood-style outfit obtained in Medieval England grants the ability to create your own tightropes by firing arrows into targets. All this means that very rarely do you find yourself repeating tasks, with each vividly characterised hub offering a diverse selection of objectives that weave together into a coherent, colourful whole.
There’s plenty of fun to be had in scampering about on rooftops and shinning up drainpipes too, and Thieves In Time absolutely nails the one crucial element that can make or break open-world games: the simple joy of traversal. Getting from A to B is often more interesting than all the stuff that happens when you get there, especially with the myriad distractions sprinkled throughout the world. Clue bottles can be collected, opening safes that grant additional powers; treasure can be swiped and displayed in your hub as proof of your thieving prowess; and you can use Sly’s nimble fingers to lift money straight from the pockets of patrolling guards.
The stealth really works, too – enemies often overpower you in straight-up fisticuffs, but there’s always a springboard to leap off, a roof to swing on or a hiding spot to duck into. Sly’s upgradeable move set also gives him access to a handy parachute – ace for quick escapes.
The stealth really works, there’s always a springboard to leap off, a roof to swing on or a hiding spot to duck into
Sadly, the central story missions are where Thieves In Time trips up a little. In its insatiable hunger for variety, the game occasionally deviates from the core stealth and forces you into the shoes of Sly’s irritating mates, Murray and Bentley. Murray is a one-note gameplay bore (punch this, punch that, punch this again), whereas Bentley’s hacking sections are a right pain.
There are also instances where you’re forced into intolerable mini-games (a certain Geisha-themed one is utterly abhorrent) that have to be completed for you to progress. This is not only a bonkers design decision, but also botches the pacing of the story and single-handedly prevents Thieves In Time from notching an even higher score. Well, that and arm-gnawingly frustrating boss battles, where you’re forced to dodge endless attack patterns.
Stomach those faults however, and Sly’s PS3 debut is a platforming triumph, with personality, variety and charm in spades. Impressive, too, is the way in which Thieves In Time makes full use of Vita’s Cross-Save feature (thanks to Cross-Buy, a handheld copy is included alongside the PS3 one), meaning you can continue your game even if your housemate sticks Neighbours on the box. It’s good to have you back, old friend.