Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves
Genre: Action Platformer
Developer: Sucker Punch Studios
A couple of years ago Sony introduced a series of new mascot games in order to make up for the loss of Crash Bandicoot exclusivity. Those games were Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, and finally Sly Cooper. Of the three, it appears my taste in games differs from Sony’s, as both R&C and J&D are each about to get a second sequel, while poor Sly is just now recieving his first. That sequel, Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves, resumes the story of Sly and his faithful friends Bently the Turtle and Murray the Hippo. And unlike the first game, this time Sly’s friends take on a whole added dimension, as they are now more fully integrated into the gameplay.
In the first game Sly had to track down and destroy his family’s ancient nemesis, a metallic bird named Clockwerk who had stolen Sly’s birthright, the Thievius Raccoonus. At the end of that game you eventually battle Clockwerk inside a volcano, and when you defeat him the parts of the bird land in lava, there it is assumed to sink and melt into oblivion. And while this would be the case with most metal, Clockwerk was made of sterner stuff. The police gather up the various pieces of the crime scene only to have them stolen by another gang of thieves called the Claw Gang. You are given a vital clue at the start of the game by an aspiring police constable Neyla and then it’s a race all over the world to recover the missing pieces of Clockwork before somebody can reassemble them. The race will take you to eight world locales, and each level is a mini episode of its own, as they all have a title at the start like “Sly Cooper and the Gang In…” etc.
The cartoony graphics and environments of the first game have returned for this go around, and that includes the cell shading. This time around though it doesn’t really seem all that intrusive. Perhaps that’s just because I got used to it midway through the first game. Either way, the game is colorful, cartoony and if not pretty then damned handsome.
There is little to no slowdown at all, and each of the characters are animated very well, including some very amusing (to this reviewer anyway) idle animations for “The” Murray and Bently. Since you are a thief, some, if not most of the levels will take place in fairly dark conditions, though it’s not DOOM 3 dark. The characters themselves, like Sly and the gang, are all very well modeled, with Sly looking a little older this time around in my view.
Continuing on with the cartoony flavor of the game, the sound effects would work quite well if they were transferred to a Sly Cooper cartoon (Hey that sounds like an idea…). Fighting in particular sounds very much like it did in the Batman tv series from the 60s, and the screen effects are back to go with them as well, so expect to see “WHAM!” “BAM!” but sadly no “THANK YOU MA’AM!”. Voice work is excellent, acted with feeling. Bently and Murray in particular are given some very humorous lines to deliver and they are delivered in spades. All of the boss characters as well, fire off some very funny quotes while interacting with you or while you listen in on them via wire tapping etc. The music starts off really well in the first level with a really catchy tune, but eventually it kind of fades into the background until the end battle. I have to congratulate whoever decided to make sneaking around a sound effect, as your footsteps will make different cartoon sound effects depending on how fast you are moving Sly. This really adds to the enjoyment of the game and the feeling that you are indeed playing a live action cartoon.
Each of the 8 levels in the game look quite good yet still feel like they are a part of the last game. Very impressive when you stop to think that the levels of the game were expanded quite a bit to encourage exploration and treasure hunting. Where before the game was similar to a 3D version of the 2D Mario games, with a beginning to each level and an end; this sequel now feels very much like Mario 64, with missions within a world. There are still rooms you must enter to complete specific tasks, but now you can see where everything is when you are on a tall enough building.
There are many different things to control in this game, from the 3 main characters, to the many mini games, which have returned for this game (new ones, they wouldn’t make you play the same ones over again). Flying RC Helicopters, driving Tanks, operating AA Guns, plus many more. In addition, Sly has a few new moves he can pull off, plus some more that you can buy and equip as you progress through the game.
This is not, sadly, a very challenging game. While the first game had a similar problem, it could be looked over because the gameplay was quite fresh, and if simplified controls made the game easy, well that was ok because the game was fun dammit. And this isn’t to say this game isn’t fun, because it usually is. But they tried to do alot more with this game while at the same time retain it’s ease of use. What they wound up with was a game that most adult gamers could probably complete in a day if they were really good and really determined. The story is interesting if not a little bit predictable, but then again they weren’t going for Shakespeare now were they? I really have to say the camera in this game was a real issue for me at times. In the first Sly I never once had a problem with the camera that standing still wouldn’t fix. In this game when the camera goes squirrelly there is rarely time to stand still, as you are usually chasing somebody across the stage. Other times it will go nuts as you are hiding in a corner and can’t move because a guard is right there waiting to see something move.
There is a small amount of replayability in this one, and it relates to how well you collect the clue bottles scattered around the various stages. Like the previous game, there are a number of clues scattered accross the stage, and somewhere, usually someplace heavily guarded, there is a safe, which can be opened when you have collected all the clues, usually 30 or so. While in the first game it was usually pretty easy to collect the clues due to the nature of the levels, this time the clues are more spread out, again due to the levels being wider open. As well, there are various treasures you will find lying around the map, and being the thief you are, they will soon become your treasures if you decide to make them such. Unfortunately you can’t grab treasures on a mission, so that would mean these are things, which you must go back for later. Lastly, Sly is a master pickpocket with his cane, so you can wander through the levels stealing coins and other valuables from guards all over the levels. There are no alternate endings that I’m aware of at this time, nor can you go back and play as one character a mission that you needed a different one to complete. Due to the desire for simplicity, the mission objectives are designed with one specific character in mind for completion.
Aside from the fact that the game is a 3D platformer in the Mario 64 mold, Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves does manage to possess a streak of originality. For example, each of the characters is a part of a whole unit, so Sly is the stealth, Bently is the brains and Murray is the Brawn, and the player will have to use 2 or more of these characters to complete some missions. As well, I’m not aware of too many games where your character is a likable Raccoon and his band of thieving orphan friends. Many of the mini-games that are included also give the game a more original feel, shaking up the gameplay just enough to make sure you aren’t bored.
There is something to be said for having a character who is cool and edgy but not contrived. Sonic The Hedgehog had it, Crash had it for a short time, and Sly Cooper has it. If you replaced Sly with say, Blinx, or Voodoo Vince or even Crash today, this probably wouldn’t be as appealing to me. The game has a cool main character and fun sidekicks. There is no ruthless bloodletting and when death is incurred it is a cartoony death, whacky sound effects and all. The game has no harsh language, the villains learn their lessons, and the hero gets the girl, but not too much of her. If that doesn’t describe a family game then I have no idea what is. Despite that, it’s a fun game even if it might be a bit easy. This is Sony trying to see if it can maybe muscle in on Nintendo’s core market.
As I mentioned above, if you are determined you can finish this in a day. It’s longer than the first game, but not substantially so. There’s really not enough here to get addicted to.
When I reviewed the first game I demanded a sequel. Well, I got it, eventually. So, I’m gonna make more demands, because clearly Sony listens to me. I want money. Lots of it. I would also like another sequel for Sly. The story ends off on a bit of a downer, and I want to know what happens after that.
Final Score: 7.5/10 (VERY GOOD!)
Short Attention Span Summary
A game that is a little easier than it probably should be, give this one to your kid sister or brother after you’re finished it. Oh and you might want to teach them stealing is really bad first…