Originally published on my IGN blog on February 18, 2013. The IGN blogs are no longer active, so I have republished the review here for myself. If you would like to see the original post, check out the Web Archive.
Let me start with, to me, this is somewhat of a huge honor. I have been a faithful, die hard Sly fan from his very first caper. For my first review to be on Sly’s fourth adventure I just feel privileged. While this review is all self motivated and, in essence, practice for me in my pursuit of video game journalism I still feel honored to write about Sly and the Gang and to share my thoughts with YOU. So I’d like to say thank you for reading this review, and thank you Sanzaru games for picking up the cane to carry on the Cooper legacy.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in time is the gang’s fourth outing with quite a bit of new territory for the group. This is Sly’s first time going portable, first (new) game in HD, and of course behind it all is a new developer. The question is had Sanzaru kept true to the Cooper legacy, while adding their own flare? Or should Sly have stayed back in the PS2 era? In short the answer is yes Sly is back, some could say better than ever, and this game is a must for all PS3 and Vita owners. With awesome graphics, polished gameplay, characters you really care about, and for a steal of deal at $40 (for BOTH PS3 and Vita editions) Sly’s latest heist is one players will keep coming back to.
We’ve all seen Sly in HD before with the Sly Collection, Sanzaru’s proving grounds to Sony to continue the franchise and they did a great job. It looked sharp, felt good, and the addition of Trophies, with three easily obtainable Platinums, made it a great reason to dive back into the series for veterans or an excellent starting place for newcomers. But that was just updating some textures and adding trophies, Thieves in Time is exactly what Sly should look and feel like in HD. While the game is no Uncharted 3 or Journey in jaw-dropping graphics, this game is just soaked in detail. Absolutely dripping with it. Each HUB is vibrant and lush with all the tiniest, richest details. You’ll notice coy fish splashing and feeding near waterfalls in Feudal Japan, tumbleweeds roll by in the Old West, and varieties of small animals (not guards) such as pigs or penguins or baby T-rexes mulling about. Every world feels special and full of its own little quirks and secrets. While playing through, sometimes I’d just get lost exploring and just enjoy the world Sanzaru had crafted for me.
The character models are top-notch as well. With a total of nine fully playable characters, each with their own special move set and actions, it’s hard not to appreciate the detail each has. The way Sly and his ancestors tails twitch and move is different, even the way they tip toe behind unsuspecting enemies is different from the last. All of Sly’s costumes cause him to move and react in a different way as well. It feels like a new character every time Sly puts one on. Bentley and his movements are sharp and crisp as he rolls through stages. The wheelchair IS Bentley and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Murray feels true to himself, the way he blunders about and takes out huge groups of foes. It is honestly a true delight to watch and play as these characters.
For the Sly games, the core of gameplay is to stay hidden. To do that the player must pick pockets, hone disguises, and most important of all, jump and hit the circle button. Sanzaru did not change any of that, but managed to give the mechanics more depth. In combat situations there are combos and attacks players can use to get out of tight spots. Through the use of Sly’s new costumes there are all new ways to navigate throughout each HUB. Once you earn a costume, you may also take it to previous areas and use its abilities to access new hidden areas that were blocked off to you before, which you’ll have to do to get the game’s challenging Platinum.To help players navigate through the huge worlds (3x the size of the worlds in Sly 3) Sanzaru created a map and compass that can appear at the click of a button. One key concern most players had going into Thieve in Time was that the Cooper ancestors would be simple clones of Sly. That, thankfully, is not the case. Each ancestor is unique with their own move set, abilities, and thieving style. While actions like pick pocketing are identical, the way each ancestor moves and interacts with environments is different from the next, making the game have truly nine playable characters. A downside to all the detail and large HUBs is the game’s loading times. They are almost unbearable. I would scroll through my Twitter feed or respond to messages, even get snacks while each outing got loaded up. Every time you leave the gang’s hideout or time travel to a new period the game would have thirty second or more loading times. I feel like just a simple install data could have shortened these ridiculous load time tremendously. The game is roughly 14 gigabytes on PS3 and 3.2 on the Vita, an install data could have helped speed up this game greatly. Along with these load times there was also some lag, especially when a lot of action was going on. It mainly happen in the third and fifth worlds and frustrated me when it did happen. I hope this isn’t the case for future Sly games.
I have always loved the Sly Cooper game’s stories, with the second being my personal favorite. Thieves in Time is no different with a solid story that sticks true to the series. What really made this game though was the dialog between characters. Top-notch writing and fantastic performances really sucks the player into the world and the character’s lives. Banter back and fourth between Sly and Bentley or Murray and everyone else is great, most moments making me laugh out loud and smile ear to ear. Also one of the series long running (unintentional) jokes is that Carmelita’s voice actor changes for each entry. Before and even during the beginning of Thieves in Time, Alesia Glidewell from Sly 2: Band of Thieves was my personal favorite. But as the fourth game went on and Carmelita took on a bigger role the newest voice, Grey DeLisle, stole my heart and is my new favorite. Now let’s hope she stays Carmelita’s voice actor for future installments.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is, like I said before, the natural progression of this beloved series into the HD era. Sanzaru has proven themselves against the test of time as true fans of the Cooper saga and worthy to keep making the Sly games. With a lovable cast, solid gameplay, and detail rich graphics, Thieves in Time is a great game and with that $40 price tag with both editions, it’s hard to ignore the steal you’d be getting.