It has been a long eight years since the last Sly Cooper. It is weird to think that a lot of younger gamers only know Sucker Punch as the guys who created inFamous. In fact, they have another fan-favorite under their belts. Sly is now back, and under the direction of a new development team who we can thank, because without them, this game would never have existed. Sanzaru Games, who also handled the HD Sly Collection, created the title and showed it to Sony, who then decided it was time for everyone’s favorite raccoon burglar and his team to return.
Even without direction from the series’ progenitors, Thieves in Time thrusts players right back into the world of Sly and his cohorts. The game picks up after the events of the third game, with Sly still living the honest life. The itch to steal quickly returns, and Sly finds himself once again calling on his partners in crime. Bentley, the tech-savvy turtle will handle the technical portions, while Murray, the muscle will take care of opposition.
The story revolves around a new character named Le Paradox, a thieving skunk that has targeted very specific items throughout history, most notably ones owned by Sly’s ancestors. This presents obvious issues with Sly, and the team decides to travel back through time to stop Le Paradox. Of course, this opens up the theme for the game, as well as a host of new characters and locales. The story isn’t going to change the dynamics of the genre, but it is genuinely well told and humorous. Characters are superbly voice acted, and the writing is legitimately funny. I loved the characters, even if the story fell flat at times.
As in previous entries, Thieves in Time gives you various, large locales to explore, collect objects and execute missions. Instead of globetrotting though, we are whisked away through different time periods. Sly traverses five unique areas, with each serving up one of his ancestors for even more gameplay experiences. Each has a theme, and the time travel mechanic, while clichéd, does a great job of keeping things fresh. Most of the gameplay focuses on Sly and his band of thieves, but you will also get to take on the role of his ancestors for certain jobs. Gameplay differences between characters are miniscule at best, but they differ enough that I constantly frowned when a Murray mission came up, and smiled when it was Sly time.
Missions include standard platforming, broken up by a variety of mini-games. Sly can acquire costumes in each time period that have varying effects. For example, the first is a suit of ancient armor that allows you to slip past guards and, for some reason, become fire-resistant. Bentley has a host of hacking mini-games that play like twin stick shooters, and there are plenty of poorly designed motion-control segments that are more frustrating than innovative.
In addition, there is a plethora of collectibles to keep you busy. Bottles litter each regoin, and collecting all of them in a chapter unlocks a safe with a special prize. Treasures are now timed mini-games that have you racing with the item back to your hideout. The game does a nice job of opening up and letting you explore past areas to collect all the items. All told, you could easily spend 20+ hours seeing and doing everything that Thieves in Time has to offer.
One of the biggest selling points for Thieves in Time is the much touted Cross-Play feature. Sony has been good at giving gamers that own a Vita and PS3 reason to pick up the PS3 version, but none have really utilized the cross-save function that well. Thieves in Time nails it. I spent equal time playing the game on my Vita and PS3 thanks to being able to sync all of my progress across platforms. The versions are identical in every aspect from collectibles to trophies. The only downside is that the cross-save is handled manually. You have to upload/download from the menu to share data, but outside of that, it works flawlessly.
The Vita version also uses some of the system’s distinct features, such as the touch screen buttons to replace the extra triggers and gyroscopic control for the Sixaxis mini-games. This feels like the cross-platform experience Sony promised so long ago. This is finally the culmination of taking your console games on the go and picking up right where you left off. Combine that a retail price of $40 for both versions, and you have a package that is a fantastic value.
One of the most attractive things about Sly games is the aesthetic style. Thieves in Time continues this tradition with eye-popping visuals on both PS3 and Vita. The console version runs at a smooth 60 frames per second with very little slowdown, while the Vita version remains locked at 30 FPS constantly. The design is reminiscent of the original games with a touch of HD paint. The diversity of environments keeps things interesting, and the settings Sanzaru has chosen really pop off the screen. I love a good palette of colors, with so many other games dominated by grays and browns.
Not everything here is glamorous, though. For starters, the loading times are atrocious. This is one game that could have seriously benefitted from a mandatory install. It almost feels like Sanzaru did not have time to optimize the loading. It is also worth mentioning that the game lacks any real challenge. Unlike the early Sly games, death is rarely a penalty, and the puzzles are far from head-scratching. I also found some of the platforming and stealth a bit repetitive at times. Outside of those things though, this is one impressive package.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a love-letter to fans of the series. For those of us clamoring for Sly’s return for the past eight years, we finally have something to fill the void. Fans of action platformers that have never checked out the series owe it to themselves to see what Sanzaru has accomplished. There are not enough of these types of games on the market anymore, and frankly that is a shame. This is yet another exclusive that Sony should be touting front and center. If you love the genre, Thieves in Time is definitely a must play.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Play time was split evenly between PS Vita and PS3.