[Throwback Thursday is a series where we look back on games from the past in reviews, retrospectives, and more. We will have something every week for your retro enjoyment. You may even discover something new to love!]
I am getting really close to my 300th review, and I wanted to do something different for it. I didn’t want to do an RPG special again since I want to do one for my 5-year special. I then looked through a list of games I wanted to play, and I came across the Sly Cooper franchise for Sony’s PlayStation 2 and 3 consoles. From what I have heard, this was always a very charming series. I was 12 or 13 when these games were coming out, and I skipped over them because I thought I was above the idea of playing a humanoid raccoon. I sadly missed over this gem of a series that has had a bit of resurgence as of late with cameo appearances in that terrible Playstation Move game and as a fighter in the underwhelming Playstation All-Stars. To lead up to the 300th review, I will be going over the four Sly Cooper games, making the recently released 4th game the 300th review.
Let us get started then with the first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus for the PlayStation 2. It was weird to think Sony had three different mascots during the Playstation 2’s run. It had Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter, Insomniac Game’s Ratchet and Clank, and now Sucker Punch’s new PS2 title, Sly Cooper. Sucker Punch’s only other game from
the past console generation was Rocket: Robot on Wheels for the Nintendo 64, which I am looking for to review also. How well did this PS2 title hold up? Is it still a PS2 classic, or should this thief’s first game have been his last? Well, seeing how he has had three other games, it seems like it did well enough, but that’s beside the point. Let us get started.
The story revolves around Sly Cooper, voiced by Kevin Miller. He is on the search for the stolen pages to his family’s legendary heirloom, the Thievius Raccoonus. It has been stolen by five criminals who want to use it to cause massive crime waves and take over the world. Along with his friends Murray the Hippo, voiced by Chris Murphy, and his turtle friend Bently, voiced by Matt Olsen, Sly Cooper and his gang set off on an adventure around the world to get back pieces of the book and take down all five criminal masterminds while dodging the likes of the foxy female police officer, Carmelita Fox, voiced by Roxanna Ortega. The story is very light-hearted and the characters are memorable. It’s an overall solid story for the first game in the series.
The gameplay in Sly Cooper is of a stealth platformer with some minor action elements. The main focus of the gameplay is to platform your way through the levels to collect keys, bottles with clues in them, coins, and lucky horseshoes so you can take an extra hit. As you progress through the levels, you will need to find said keys in little mini-areas within the levels, where you jump from spot to spot to get the key. After you beat each of the five worlds, you get a special move that will help you get from point A to point B more quickly, like sliding on rails, having an invisible cloak, jumping from one small spot to another like a ninja, and you get the idea. Wait, why did I say earlier that you need to get lucky horseshoes so you can take an extra hit? Oh, I will tell you why, because you die in one hit! Yeah, a game from 2002 has the design choice of your character taking only one hit before he dies.
This game can be pretty difficult in that regard, since one hit will take you back to the beginning of the small area or of the main level unless you hit a checkpoint. Luckily for you, enemies have simple patterns and can also be destroyed with one hit. Bosses, on the other hand, are varied and tricky, since if you don’t have a stockpile of lucky horseshoes, you will have to start the fight over every single time you get hit. The bosses usually take around four or so hits so they can be short if you are as swift and as agile as said thief. The little mini-areas also give you a variety of missions to complete to get said keys to progress through the story. Usually, they have you get from Point A to Point B, but other times they have you racing with Murray, escorting Murray, and flying around on a hovercraft-like vehicle to do some kind of mission. The game is short, and you can actually beat it in a day if you want to push through it, but it will probably take longer since you die in one hit.
Graphically, the game has a fun art style. It’s very colorful, lively, and it sticks out from a lot of the games from the PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox era. The voice acting is also solid all around. The actors they got to do the villains, David Scully, Kevin Blackton, Prescilliana Esparolini, and Ross Douglass all do a great job in bringing the villains to life. I think the villains are just as good as the good guys, and that’s hard to say about most first games in the franchises the PS2 era had. For example, I pretty much liked the bad guy in the first Ratchet and Clank game much more than Ratchet and Clank, and the same can be said about the villain in the first Jak and Daxter game for the PS2. The music is varied, catchy, and changes when you get spotted by an enemy or go into combat with them. It’s just a good presentation package in general.
So, what is wrong with this game? Well, even though I love a lot of things about this game, it does have some flaws that do hold it back a bit nowadays. The platforming, while very cool, is not as fluid as it might have been back in 2002. I found it to be a tad clunky, and due to the camera making it feel more like a cinematic platformer visually, you will easily take a cheap hit, miss a platform or rail, or get hit by an enemy before you can hit them. It’s a shame, since the platforming and level design is really well done for the most part. The controls for the racing mini-games are slightly tedious, and thankfully only appear twice. It is definitely my least favorite mini-game out of the mini-games you play. That also goes for the escort missions where you need to shoot enemies from afar so Murray can get the key. They can get annoying. However, all the tedium this game has to offer can be found within the boss fights.
Again, one hit and you’re dead, and instead of stopping at some checkpoint like other games, you start the entire fight over from the beginning. The whole game is like this, by the way. You die, you get sent back to the beginning of the mini-level or main level (depending where you are) and if you just flat out suck, after you lose a life or all of your lives, you will get either one or two lucky horseshoes to carry with you into the fight. Seems like a cheap way of making the game difficult, unlike in the next game, where they give you three hits and then you’re dead. Even though I called this game lively, sometimes I wish the cut scenes were a little more developed. For the most part, the characters in the cut scenes just stand around.
The Verdict: A bit clunky nowadays, but a worthwhile experience
All in all, this game is still pretty solid, but I would be lying if I said I would come back to this game many times in the future. I would recommend either finding this game for cheap or to get the Sly Collection for PlayStation3. The games in the collection all got HD facelifts and look good, but the disc I rented was faulty and couldn’t start up the other two games, so I would recommend just getting the PS2 version or downloading the HD versions off the PlayStation Network Store. I was pleasantly surprised, though, that even with all the obnoxious parts of the game, I still had a blast, and I can’t wait to try out the second game!
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus Review
Solid story, entertaining characters, colorful graphics, and some creative platforming.
Tedious design choices, repetitive missions, and it can be difficult in some areas.