just finished playing Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. Is that one of the worst names ever or what? Sly Cooper is good, the whole name though is quite long and not easy to read. Just my opinion.
I really want to be nice to this game. It is extremely well done and very very polished. In fact I can’t think of any rough edges. It’s got great cartoon intros between levels done in a very cool style that kind of reminds me of Batman the Animated Series with it’s high contrast, sharp edges and extreme lighting. The option screens, fonts etc were clearly made with some thought instead of done at the last second using rushed art or even programmer art like some other titles I know. All the levels seem polished and interesting without large boring or ugly areas you find in many games.
Sly Cooper is a character action platformer. Ie, Mario, Crash, etc.. In this case you play Sly Cooper, a master thief from a long line of thieves who only steal from other thieves. I guess that’s supposed to make it okay to be a thief. The story is your ancestors made a book detailing all of their thieving skills. 5 bad guys stole it from your dad, killed your dad and each took 1/5 of the book so you have to travel around and get the piece of the book back. Each time you find a piece of the book you learn a new move.
One thing that sets this game apart is it’s usually a one hit game. One hit and you die. That sounds frustrating and I guess sometimes it is but clearly the game has been designed knowing you can only take one hit. As a play mechanic it works but as a logical issue it quite often doesn’t. For example there are some enemies that just stand there and take a swing at you every 3 or 4 seconds. As a one hit game, right after they take a swing you run in before their next swing and take them out. The problem is those enemies look pretty stupid just standing there waiting for you to hit them. And, as they do just stand there, you can walk right up to the edge of their attack and just stand there indefinately and they won’t budge. Still, if you ignore that it’s silly it’s not un-fun.
You can actually find extra hits. They are called Lucky Charms and a represented by a horseshoe on your back. You get one for every 100 coins you collect or sometimes you can find them just lying around. If you have one and you take a hit or fall off a platform you’ll be bounced back just before you got into danger. It’s an interest way of using the hit feature because it not only covers enemy hits like most games it covers falling to your death. It works and I supposed if some level was too hard and you had the patience you could go to an easier level, earn a few lucky charms and then come back to your hard level.
The graphics are outstanding. There’s alot of style and alot of creativity. There are little details all over from sparkles, smoke, swamp gas, oozing stuff. The game rarely feels emtpy or lifeless like many games do.
As Sly progresses through the game, after the basic moves, running and jumping, he learns several others. One, he can grab on to hooks and rings with his cane and swing from them. Another is that he can climb various small pipes like you’d expect a ferret to be able to do. Another big move is the ability to slide along thin slippery surfaces. This move feels like something out of the Disney cartoon, Tarzan or from Jet Set Radio. It’s fun. Another is the ability to plant your landings. This is very interesting move. In most games in order to make a hard jump you just have to be super skilled. With Sly, once you have this move you can just press circle while you are over the spot and he’ll land on the spot in question. It works and it feels good although sometimes it frustrating when you thought you pressed the button in time and he doesn’t land on the spot. It suppose if it was more easy it wouldn’t feel like there is any skill involved.
Most of the levels have more than one goal. The main goal of most levels is to collect a key at the end of the level but on the way, somewhere hidden in the level there is a safe. To open the safe you need to collect all the bottles in the level, each containing a *clue*. That’s just wording, you just touch the bottles to collect them. The story is that once you have all the clues your buddy Bentley can figure out the combination to the safe and you can steal what’s inside.
For the most part I pretty much ignored the bottles while playing the game. Collecting every last thing in a level is usually left as one of those things you do after you’ve finished the game the first time. But, the cool thing is that what’s inside each safe is a page to your family’s book detailing a new move. Some of those moves would have made the game alot easier. For example one move is, for lack of a better description the ability to swim. Normally you die in water. Having this ability, while you can’t actually swim, you won’t die. You’ll just be put back where you fell off like when you have a lucky charm.
Another is that you have binoculars which you can use to look around the level and zoom in/out. One of the new abilities is that looking through your binoculars will highlight all the collectables in the area. That makes it alot easier to go find all the other bottles.
Another is that all coins will just magically get collected when you are near them and then there are various attacks, jumps and other movies including one which is exploding hats you can use like remote bombs. I guess that would make some of the enemies pretty easy.
Unfortunately the biggest complaint about the game is it’s too short. Just 6 to 8 hours. I’m not sure why. It’s not a small game by any means. There are something like 30+ levels. I guess it’s just that each level is pretty easy.
My personal problems with the game come in only a few areas. All the bosses are very creative and I was very happy for that. At the same time several of the bosses and several of the bonus games I felt were more a matter of luck or trial and error than skill. It’s possible I’m just old and impatient but the first 3 bosses, the shooting gallery levels and the collecting levels all felt frustrating with too much luck involved or too much just memorization.
For example the shooting gallery levels, some character runs around the level and you use a cannon to take out enemies in his path. It’s a great idea and it’s fun to watch but mostly you just progress one or two enemies per death. Meaning you watch your buddy run, you take out 2 enemies, you don’t know where enemy #3 will appear so your buddy gets killed. You start over, knowing where enemy #3 is now you can take him out but you buddy will get killed by enemy #4. You repeat until you make it to the top.
The first 3 bosses felt similar to me. Maybe the problem is the one hit death meaning that if you had an extra hit you’d have a chance to recover the first time a boss did a new move. As it is you’ll most likely have to die once to find out what his next move is. That didn’t happen for me with the last 2 bosses. Still, you basically have unlimited lives. You get lives. The difference is if you die you start at your last checkpoint, if you run out of lives you start at the beginning of the level. I never really found that to be frustrating. Maybe it’s that the levels are short so it’s only 30 seconds to a minute until you are back where you left off.
My only other complaint relating to gameplay was the very last level, just before you reach the boss there is a level with a bunch of fun tricky jumps. It seems like maybe that was the last level done and there wasn’t time to tune it because the second jump in the level took me about 15 tries to get. Each time I jumped either it wasn’t far enough or it was too far. No other jump in the game gave me that problem so given the difference it was frustrating.
This is probably a non issue but for some reason I was a little upset at the standard stereotypes. There’s the scrawny nerdy brain, the dopey stupid fat guy and the handsome hero. It would be nice to switch that around. I guess I just take that personally since I was labeled the scrawny nerdy brain in school and when I was neither scrawny nor nerdy but the stereotype gets applied regardless so if you are smart you are therefore a nerd and it’s these persistant stereotypes that keep that image going.
I want to emphasize how polished the game feels. The animation is great, the voices are great, the fanfare for completing a level is great, the glue between levels is great, the setup cartoons before each level are great, the art style is great, the music is limited but appropriate unlike many games, the creativity in 3D art, in level setups. It’s all great.
Sadly my impression is it’s not doing that well. I hope I’m wrong. My only thought in that direction is that even though it’s so well done there was a part of me feeling like “it’s just another platform game” as I played. As well done as it is, I wasn’t as excited about it as I was with Mario Sunshine and Mario’s completely new moves. Maybe it’s that feeling, that though well done it’s not really anything that new, that is one thing that is keeping it from being the hit it seems like it deserves to be.
If you like platform games, you must checkout this game.