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Sony had a slew of cool exclusive titles on its PlayStation 2, and a couple of them made the transition to the PlayStation 3 either seamlessly (Ratchet & Clank) or spectacularly (God of War). However, a couple of familiar faces stayed behind in this golden age of gaming, like Jak and Sly Cooper. Luckily, with the PlayStation 4 now already looming over the horizon, the latter finally makes his grand appearance in a new action/platform game, on both PlayStation 3 and Vita.
Sly Cooper Thieves in Time stars our devious-as-he-is-charming raccoon Sly, living the good life in Paris. He’s actually romantically involved with a former adversary, the foxy cop Carmalita, feigning a loss of memory to keep their relationship healthy. This truce doesn’t last long, however, as Sly’s hunger for loot and plunder steadily grows within his peaceful façade.
Incidentally, the crippled turtle Bentley, whom befriended Sly during his thieving days gone by, is in need of his special skills as well, dragging the craptacular pink hippo Murray (or, THE Murray, as he tiresomely likes to call himself) along with him. Apparently the book containing all of the Cooper family’s special tactics and stories is erasing itself, suggesting someone of something is meddling, and ultimately killing off, Sly’s historic family members. And thus, a romp through time commences, in which the reunited threesome’s got to find our who’s targeting the Cooper lineage.
This takes the crew to a couple of very cool locations, like feudal Japan, the old west and all the way to back to the age of dinosaurs. Each time era is a huge stage on its own, filled to the brim with mission, collectables, enemies and secrets, begging to be explored.
And explore you will. This platform game controls like an absolute charm, and before you know it the minutes become hours while you’re exploring every nook and cranny, taking in the colorful, excellently crafted worlds and completely ignoring mission markers and such.
But when you do finally find the time to do some missions and get the story going, you’re in for a treat. Your assignments usually involve a lot of sneaking and stealing as Sly, but his two friends and all of his relatives you meet along the way are fully playable, present you with new missions and offer different kinds of gameplay.
Especially Bentley’s missions are a joy to play. This wheelchair bound scientist might seem a bit weak against patrolling enemies, but his hacking skills more than make up for his lack of muscle. These hacks are presented as three different mini-games, two of which are highly enjoyable arcade-shooter endeavors and one ho-hummish game where you roll a ball through a maze. It uses the gyroscope on your Vita pretty well, but makes you look like an ass on the train.
Murry is the in-game ass, playable in segments which are the most straight forward and dull. He’s the brawler of the lot and has quite a painful arsenal of punches and kicks, but I’d mostly just belly flop my way through each fight. His retarded personality and somewhat disgusting physique make him the least likeable character in the game.
Luckily, Sly’s newfound relatives are all really well-conceived characters and are actually more fun to play then the raccoon himself. Tennessee Kid Cooper brings some much needed guns to the table and can decimate a small army in mere seconds, Riochi can warp great distances in purple gusts of smoke and caveman Bob can climb and smash – if you can get him to lose some weight in a hilariously constructed training-montage.
So, as you can probably tell by now, this is a pretty diverse game. Every mission requires something else from the player, so Sly’s latest outing never feels stale. It doesn’t stray too far from the series format however, so longtime fans should feel right at home.
Another thing really worth mentioning is that Sony’s pretty darn generous with this latest outing of Sly and friends: for a mere 40,- euros you get both the Playstation 3 and Vita version. The latter is download only and scoops up a whopping 3,3 gigs of precious memory, but supports cross-save. This means that you can play the game on your Playstation 3, save your file to the cloud and can proceed your romp through Sly’s wonderful twisted world on your funky and powerful handheld.
Vita cuts some corners though, but it’s far from a disappointed. Actually, I’d be quite content with this game if I didn’t see its console-brother running next to it. The most obvious concession is the cut frames per seconds, running at 30 fps instead of the 60 fps the Playstation 3 provides. Lightning effects, shader models, shadows and environmental stuff like snow and water also take a pretty big hit, but these quips are being compromised by the Vita’s smaller screen, great pixel density and excellent color reproduction. Truly, both versions are worth playing, although I must admit that the dramatically orchestrated boss fights fare much worse on Vita, it’s hardware visibly struggling to maintain a steady clip.
But, apart from these niggles, it’s clear to see that Sanzaru’s put a whole lot of love and care into this game, polishing both iteration to a bright sheen. Thieves in Time is conservative, doesn’t take any chances or improves on its forebearers, but is a great game in its own right, oozing nostalgic charm from every pore. It’s a great slice of a Playstation 2 era gone by, for both your living room as on the road.
Lasting Appeal 7.5
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