Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Itís 4:20 AM in the city of Paris. The citizens of the home of the Eiffel Tower are resting peacefully. At night however, not everyone is asleep. In the darkness, thieves and bandits own the streets. The police are helpless. Itís up to you to save the city. Wait a second. Thatís wrong. Itís not up to you to save the city; itís up to you to rob it blind! Of course, at the same time you have to deal with that pesky business of stopping five nefarious guys and gals in the process, but you can still make off with some nice loot!
Sly is the name, and Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is his game. Slyís not your traditional raccoon. While most are content ravaging our picnic areas and garbage cans, Sly has his eye on moreÖvaluableÖitems. One of the most valuable items that Sly wants to get his hands on is the Thievius Raccoonus, a book written by his ancestors which describe moves and abilities that will help Sly become a master thief. Now, most parents wouldnít want their son to grow up to be a master thief, but Slyís parents donít object to it because they are dead; killed by a group known as the Fiendish Five. This motley crew separated after they killed every last Cooper, taking chunks of the Thievius Raccoonus for themselves, and utilizing it to steal all over the world.
Itís up to Sly to reclaim his birthright and also seek revenge on the Fiendish Five, and fortunately, heís not alone. While his family may be gone, he met some good friends by the name of Bentley and Murray. Bentleyís not your average turtle; heís the brains behind all of Slyís operations. Murray, the loveable pink hippopotamus (which, when I spelled it, had 16 letters and looked much more right), is the driver for the group. This ragtag group of ďheroesĒ is set to jettison all over the world (including Paris, Russia, China, and the United States) to accomplish their mission, and avoid being captured by Carmelita Fox; a foxy young cop with little understanding of the word of ďjurisdiction.Ē
Thankfully, Sly has quite a few tricks up his sleeve to assist him in his attempt to reclaim the book. He carries around the Cooper family cane, which allows him to not only whack the crap out of enemies (which, excluding bosses, all go down in one hit, just like our hero), but it also latches onto things so Sly can climb up pipes and also swing from branches. He also has cat-life reflexes (or raccoon-like), and is to jump and land on incredibly small platforms with his Ninja-Spire move. To get to high places, why not do a smooth double-jump? A few times, he might even have to jump inside a barrel and walk around in it to elude enemies.
Of course, if those were all his moves, it would suck. During the game, Sly has the opportunity to recover a piece of the Thievius Raccoonus before the final boss confrontation at the end of the level. This opportunity comes in the form of clue bottles that are scattered randomly about the level. Some of their locations are painfully obvious, but for the most part you have to actually hunt for them. The bottles contain clues that Bentley then turns around and decodes, the end result serving as a vault code. Your next obligation is to find that vault, then punch in the code. Presto, youíve learned a new move, such as a dives and rolls which come in very handy later in the game.
If you arenít into randomly hunting around, you donít need to. You can complete Sly Cooper without ever touching any of the clue bottles. Keep in mind though that even with searching them out, this is a short game, averaging in at about seven hours for this reviewer. With only five main enemies, you only travel to five different areas. They are pretty big areas, and are divided up into seven stages plus a final boss battle, but most stages should only take you about two to ten minutes at the most. Some, like races that Murray drives in, or certain goals to complete, can take less than two minutes. This isnít necessarily a bad point, but itís one of the worst parts of Sly Cooper. I wanted it to be longer. I wanted more to do. Sure, I could do some more of the clue bottle quests and a few sprints across the level, but thatís about it. Once Sly Cooper is done, itís done, but at least itís a lot of fun on the way. Each area of the game is based on the character that youíre fighting. An evil doer named Panda King would obviously be found in China and the Voodoo Queen Mz. Ruby is right at home in the Caribbean. These kinds of fun environments really spice up a game that could easily have been very dull. Each area uses its own uniqueness to make Slyís journey different each time.
Outside of its length, Sly Cooper is also a little lacking on actual thieving. Sure, youíre off to steal the book back, but you never steal anything else. Thereís no pick-pocketing, no stealing paintings or anything like that, just smash away at things with you cane to collect coins. The coins sure are handy; collecting one hundred of them earns you a hose shoe, which allows you to take an extra hit. You can carry two of these, but after youíve collected three hundred coins without being hit, you gain a life. Sly Cooper varies from most other 3D platformers in that you can only be hit once unless youíve earned a second or third hit, which means you will probably die a few times. Sly also canít swim, so fall into water at your own risk. Even sneaking seems to be an after thought; only a few enemies are designed to be avoided, and the rest you have to face in combat. At least they all go down in one hit.
Great games are usually accompanied by great graphics engines, and for the most part Sly Cooper is no exception. Outside of some minor graphical blurring and slowdown, the engine holds up well. The game comes complete with a cel-shaded look, but donít let that frighten you off. Unlike most developers, the people at Sucker Punch were actually capable and seem to know what theyíre doing with the cartoon style look. Sly, Murray, Bentley, Carmelita, and all of the various bosses you face all look great. To tag along with the great look, each character has a fantastic voice over, especially Sly. The dialogue is written very well and really fits the theme, and so do all the actors.
While short, I really loved Sly Cooper. As soon as I finished it, I went out to the store and quickly bought the sequel. If you havenít played Sly Cooper, this is one youíll want to pick up. Iím not even that big fan of platformers in general, and now I own almost all the major ones for the PS2. Itís like a gateway drug into a genre thatís so, so good (on the PS2 that is). Donít hesitate; this is a cheap, great game.
Eight out of ten