The Sly Cooper game series from Sony Computer Entertainment is set in a fun, cartoony world of anthropomorphic animals. It centers on Sly, a raccoon and a thief. Thieves in Time is the fourth installment and the first new Sly Cooper game since 2005. It's a fun addition and lives up to earlier games in the series.
The game opens when Sly is forced out of retirement: His former heist partner, Bentley, a wheelchair-bound turtle, discovers that pages are disappearing from the "Thievius Raccoonus," a book that details the Cooper clan's heritage and teaches Sly secrets and abilities. The two deduce that someone has gone back in time to take out Sly's ancestors.
Sly, Bentley, and a third partner, Murray (a large pink hippo) travel back in time in Murray's van to set things right. Yes, it's as silly as it sounds, but the story is humorous and fun.
This was my first time playing a Sly Cooper game, so thankfully, it does a great job of catching you up with the plot line. Animated cut scenes showed me the important events I had missed up to this point and introduced me to key characters.
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Gameplay. Each character has unique abilities. Sly's skills aid him in stealth; he can sneak around ledges, and climb ropes and swing over obstacles. He can also change his costume, which allows to him to access areas he couldn't before. Bentley is the brains of the operation and relies on tech to assist him. His wheelchair can hover over long gaps, and he can throw bombs to take out enemies and clear obstacles. And Murray is the muscle: He is the slowest and least agile, but he has powerful striking moves for taking out enemies.
As you free Sly's ancestors, those characters become playable, but only in their own era and after you free them from captivity. Missions are assigned to progress the story, but you can find plenty to do beyond following the main plot, such as collecting coins and hidden masks to purchase upgrades and unlock secrets.
The stealth elements provide a nice change of pace from the typical video game formula of just smashing every bad guy you see. You can swap your character as you play by returning to headquarters; this keeps things interesting, because you can take on a level using each teammate's unique talents.
This game is one of Sony's cross-buy offerings, which means that if you buy the game for your PlayStation 3, you can download it for free on your PlayStation Vita. You can also save your game on one system and pick up and play on the other. The game plays the same on both systems.
Visuals. The game has a "cel-shaded" look, which makes the game art look like a comic book. I'm a fan of this style: While it is cartoony, the characters look great and have a lot of detail. Kids will love it, and grownups can appreciate it. The colors are vibrant and attractive, and each time period that you play in—including feudal Japan and the old American West—has a distinctive look that sets it apart from the others.
The game can be played in 3D provided that your television has the capability. I tried it, but I didn't notice any significant advantage to using the feature.
Replay. There isn't much reason to come back to this game once it's completed, though you may want to sneak back through the open-world environments to track down collectibles and purchase some of the upgrades you missed the first time. The game has a secret ending that can be viewed only if you earn 100 percent completion.
Who's it for? Kids of all ages should find this game compelling. I didn't see much that would be inappropriate for kids, but those who are sensitive to mild violence may not want their younger children to play this game. There is some use of guns, especially in the Old West time period, and some cartoonish violence, but it's not excessive, and enemies simply go up in a puff smoke when they're beaten. Just don't expect kids to learn anything factual about the different time periods in the game.
Bottom line. Sly Cooper is a fun game that lives up to the standards set by the earlier entries in the series. Sly and the gang are great characters, and the cartoony visuals are vibrant and draw the player into the game's universe. Kids along with anyone who enjoys stealth action games will have a lot of fun with Sly Cooper.
I recommend buying the PlayStation 3 version of the game: $40 is a great value, especially since you get a free download of the PlayStation Vita version too.
For PlayStation 3 ($39.99), PlayStation Vita ($29.99)
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3