Nostalgia. That feeling to go back to the way things were, because everything now just doesn’t seem as good. When Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was announced, that same sense of longing for the good ole days came rushing over me. Sneaking up on guards and stealing every last penny from their suspiciously open pockets. Walking across tightropes, spire-jumping to the nearest pole, and infiltrating the ‘bigger-on-the-inside’ building. Fall descended upon the gaming community with the grim news of Sly’s postponement. The months dragged on with only dreams of exploring new worlds with Sly and the Gang. Finally though, the time… has come; Sly and the gang have returned! So break out the inner child because this one’s taking us way back to better days.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time’s story picks up precisely where the previous title left off. The Gang has split up and each is embarking on their own adventures. Bentley is living happily with his nerdy girlfriend, Penelope, and together they’re working on constructing a time machine. Murray has taken the van and become a professional demolition-derby driver. Finally, Sly is still feigning amnesia so that he and Carmelita can have their chance at love, but the urge to thieve is consuming him once more and he swiftly begins to plan a heist. Predictably though, things take a turn for the worst and the Gang is forced to get back together; beginning their biggest adventure yet.
Mechanically, not much has changed over Sly’s eight year hiatus. The game is a third-person platformer in which the player explores an assortment of sandbox style areas. Each area has a Hideout. Inside the Hideout, the player has a range of options to choose from like playing ping pong, checking out their treasures, choosing a different stage, buying upgrades from Thief-Net, and heading out into the actual area. While in these areas, the player must perform specific jobs that progress the story. These jobs range greatly depending on the character that the player currently has control of. Sly’s jobs are mostly based around stealth; infiltrating buildings, stealing keys, etc. Sly’s jobs are easily the most fun in the game; it never really gets old sneaking around and pickpocketing fools blind. Not only that, but this time around Sly also has access to disguises. While wearing a disguise, Sly is granted the special abilities of that disguise. These disguises range from a Samurai Guard to a Medieval Archer. Bentley’s jobs usually involve hacking into computer systems(with the use of mini-games) and using his tech to get him into places. While Bentley’s mini-games are usually fun, the ones that require motion control are just flat out boring and should have regular stick and button controls. Finally, Murray’s jobs almost always call for his pure strength, requiring him to simply beat up bad guys or destroy equipment. Playing as Murray has never been as fun as either Sly or Bentley. The same is true this time around, but luckily, it seems that the developer has caught on to that fact because Murray seems to have the least amount of missions between them all.
Like Sly 3, the player has yet more options of play. Carmelita is a full blown character to choose in the game, as well as Sly’s ancestors, whose jobs vary greatly. Pretty much every ancestor is a blast to play as, save for one a little later in the game, and each has their own skill sets that set them apart from each other and Sly. Now, considering that the only missions in any Sly Cooper are story missions, the story can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. This longevity issue is made up though with a ton of collectibles. Within each area are thirty clue bottles, and when all of them are collected a safe in the level can be opened, providing Sly’s Gang with a prize. Making a valiant return alongside the clue bottles are hidden treasures. Once found, the player has a set amount of time to return the treasure to the Hideout to collect a cash reward. Some brand new collectibles are the Sly Masks. These masks are hidden throughout the levels and collecting them unlocks quirky bonuses in the extras menu. All of these collectibles greatly add to this games shelf life. The fact that this games platforming elements are definitely its’ strong suit, finding them is a blast as well.
Sly Cooper’s art style has always been a stand out feature of the game and seeing it in fully realized HD is a treat. Gameplay scenes are transitioned with comic book-like panels, with Sly usually narrating. There’s no mistake that this game looks and feels like a Sly title. Sly and the Gang have been touched up, but are still very much sticking to their roots. The levels that they visit looks just as good as the character design and the location variation keeps the player interested. There was some slight technical issues with the framerate on one of the later levels, but the biggest problem by far is entering and exiting areas. Entering areas is easier said than done with considerably long loading times separating the Hideouts and Hub worlds. Not only that, but these long loading times are littered throughout Sly’s latest adventure which is very disappointing and frustrating.
There’s nothing quite like a memorable cast of voice actors, and in a game with tons of dialogue, continuity is important. Luckily, the developer was able to find and cast all of the voices we’ve come to know and love. Every line of dialogue is expertly performed and the writing itself is comical and light. The jazzy music changes depending on the location and always keeps with the tone. The sound effects are no slouch either; comic style whoosh’s and bangs are heard while in combat, and clink-clank’s are accompanied by every coin drop.
The wait for Sly’s return was well worth it. It’s gameplay hasn’t changed since the second entry in the series, but that’s okay. Old, in this case, is good. Playing as the Gang is just as fun as it was eight years ago, and playing as new characters adds some variety to the mix. While the story might not be very long, collecting everything that this game has to offer could take quite a chunk of time. It’s nice to finally see a true Sly Cooper game in HD and despite some framerate issues on a later level and overall long loading times, everything looks great and runs smoothly. Getting the old gang back together brings back memories, and hearing their voices makes those memories that much more vivid. Sly’s comeback is a triumphant one. I could say that it’s been too long since we’ve last seen him, but honestly, it seems that his timing couldn’t have been more perfect.