I love Sly Cooper. I don’t mean the games (although it turns out they’re pretty awesome too), I mean the man/racoon himself. Within the first few moments of Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus he’s snuck into police headquarters, stolen from an officer and then slipped through their fingers. Did I mention he has time to sweet-talk a foxy lady in between?
That said, Sly’s sort of the unsung hero of PlayStation; his spotlight was (ironically) stolen from him by Ratchet and Jak last generation, but now he’s got his time to shine with The Sly Collection (or Sly Trilogy in Europe). This collection of PS2 platformers from Infamous developer Sucker Punch has been given a sharp coat of HD paint and a budget price, making it a great purchase for both new players and fans of the franchise.
If you hadn’t already guessed it, you play as Sly, a racoon master thief. Along with help from your friends Bently the brainy turtle and Murray the cowardly hippopotamus you’ll sneak around levels, avoiding detection and taking out threats to grab the necessary item to progress. Story and context may change from game to game but the stealth platforming is always present, give or take a few additional moves and mini games.
It’s a good thing then that the core platforming is consistently strong, varied, and fun throughout all three games. The tweaks made in Sly 2: Band of Thieves over the original Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus make it the best in the series, but there isn’t a bad game in the set.
Each level will have you jumping around the scenery, staying out of sight. This is mostly done by pressing yourself up against walls to get over tight areas, swinging on grappling hooks and climbing up and down settings. Along the way you can upgrade Sly’s abilities by collecting blueprints to open vaults. In the first game alone you can build up an impressive array of slow-motion moves, tricks to confuse the enemy and advanced attacks to help in fights.
If it ever does come to combat you’ll usually have to hammer on the square button to swing your cane around. It’s not the game’s focus and comes off a little weak because of it, but the main experience is the unique stealth, which is incredibly strong throughout.
It’s challenging, too. For the most part, the first time you’re discovered the alarms will only then turn harmful, meaning touching laser grids etc a second time in a section will mean your doom. It’s not an especially forgiving game though, as one hit from enemies and bosses and you’re out, with some occasionally infrequent checkpoints making the game a little more frustrating than it should be. Lucky charms act as health that will let you get hit a few times, but they rarely show up in the levels and you’ll only be given them on your last life or when you collect 100 coins otherwise.
Camera controls are a problem in the first game but they, like so many other features, get fixed for the sequels. You’ll find a bunch of mini games in each title too, ranging from top down shooters to weird chicken-whacking parties that mix things up when you need a break from all the jumping and collecting. Later games let you play as the rest of the cast too (in fact this is actually a focus for Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves), although this is never quite as fun as playing as the original.
The trilogy itself comes with a bunch of Move-compatible mini-games on the disc. These can be played with a bunch of players, but they’re a sorry excuse for bonus features. Each one is under developed and uninspired, making them good for nothing other than some very easy trophy hunting.
The HD update makes it all silky smooth too. The God of War Collection looked great when it released, but the art style here compliments and HD upgrade better; you could actually mistake it for a true PS3 game at times.
The Sly Collection ends up being a great deal for gamers and the best addition to the Classics HD line yet. It’s a great way to catch up on some of the best games on PS2 and essentially playing for any Infamous fan that wants to see where Sucker Punch got started. If you missed out on its launch because of a busy Christmas, don’t hesitate to pick this one up now.
Oh and that Sly 4 hint is very real; perhaps our hero’s planning a NGP appearance?
+ Great value for money
+ Tight gameplay makes for some of the best platforming on the system
+ HD visuals really compliment the art style
– Problems of the original games remain
– Move mini-games are not really worth mentioning
– Sometimes feels cheap in terms of difficulty