Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Review

posted 10/23/2002 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Who’d have thought it? Who’d have ever thought that living the life of a thieving raccoon could be so damn fun? Here I was, watching them on Animal Planet, feeling sorry for their seemingly boring existence when all along, they all led secret lives of burglary and intrigue. So all along those bastards were playing opossum, just waiting for us to leave our houses so that they can loot us of our valuables. Hmm... maybe that’s where all my lost socks went… damn them and their black hearts! Thankfully, Sucker Punch’s latest title allows us to delve into the nether regions of these annoyances so that we can learn more about them and their thieving ways. Call it a simulation, call it a trainer, call it a refreshing breath of fresh air, I prefer to call it fun.

In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus you’ll follow the tales of none other than Sly Cooper, a raccoon that comes from a family of thieves. The story is told through a series of sequences with the intro being told in flashback fashion. When he was a young chap, his father was murdered by a horde of goons who, in the process, stole the Thievius Raccoonus, the family heirloom. It turns out that the book contains the family secrets pertaining to thieving and Sly will be damned if he’s going to let someone else take it from him. So he sets out to find the pages of the book and restore his family’s honor.

When I first saw Sly I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get into this game. If the HamBurgler has taught me anything – and boy has he ever – it’s that burglars must always wear black and white. After committing this faux pas, I wasn’t so sure if I could trust the guys at Sucker Punch anymore. After spending a night trying to come to grips with this situation I eventually found it in myself to forgive them, but only if this game absolutely blew me away. Damn they got lucky…

Gameplay revolves around Sly infiltrating the hideouts of the criminals who stole his family’s heirloom. This means utilizing stealth to avoid being detected, hiding behind objects and tiptoeing around corners is the toast of the day here. Sneaking around in the game is easy and thankfully, it’s a whole lot of fun. Of course there are times where you’ll have to combat your foes and thankfully, the action remains up to par. you’ll use your cane to combat against enemies and best of all, smash up the majority of the environment. There’s just something strangely engrossing about smashing up the environment and best of all? It entertains my girlfriend. Forget dinner and a movie, I’ll put on Sly Cooper and save myself 50 bucks! Thanks Sucker Punch!

In addition to letting you stay at home in your underwear, you’ll have the opportunity to travel to many exotic locales. The guys at Sucker Punch obviously have an amazing sense of humor; you’ll start out in France where you’ll eventually end up at a Casino in the middle of… Utah? That’s right, it turns out that a pit bull decided to open up a Casino right in the middle of Mormon Mecca. Each of the areas are split up into various levels where the ultimate goal is for Sly to find the key in each of those areas. After he finds enough keys, he’ll unlock the area leading up to boss, and then it’s time to do battle with the head honcho of the area.


Contrary to what you may have been told, the environments aren’t really that expansive, there is only one path throughout the entire level so don’t expect to do too much exploring. If you need a comparison, the levels are much more Crash Bandicoot than they are Mario Sunshine, but in this case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. This allows the designers to showcase much more variety as opposed to recycling the same old environments over and over. Throughout the course of the game you won’t see the same environment used twice, with the exception of the main level that basically serves as a world map of some sorts. Other than that, everything is entirely unique and distinct from one another.

All of the levels are well designed and are a showcase for imagination and inspiration. Sly Cooper should have its own wing in the annals of video gaming entitled “How to make a fun adventure game.” Every single one of them stand out in their own right and really showcase what the programmers are capable of accomplishing. You’ll do the usual platforming thing, jumping puzzles galore, but most of them usual feature a far greater amount of depth. There are thinking man’s levels where you’ll have to time your actions correctly if you hope to survive, alarms that must be avoided so that Sly isn’t toasted to a crisp, and some of the best stealth action to be found in a 3rd person adventure. Even better, perhaps, are some of the best mini-games to ever appear in a game of this genre. They range from a Smash TV-like shooter where you have to prevent crabs from stealing some loot to a RC-Pro Am-like racing game, complete with accurately modeled physics. I’m completely amazed by the intuitiveness of these inclusions, usually mini-games can spell death for a 3rd person adventure because it breaks up the momentum and flow of the game but this isn’t the case with Sly Cooper. They fit within the context of the game and feel like a natural extension of the goals. Instead of saying, “Dammit, why in the hell am I doing this?” you’re more likely to say, “A shooting game? This is so awesome!” I can’t think of a single level that was below par, each of them were fun and imaginative and I feel that this notion reflects in my final score.

In addition to being well designed, the entire world looks amazing as well. Utilizing what the designers say is a step above the ‘cell-shading’ technique, they have created a world that truly looks like a living cartoon, only you’re in control of it. Forget what you know about ‘cell-shaded’ this is leaps and bounds above anything you have seen before. The world is much more realistic and the animations are much more refined. Even the nighttime just looks amazing, utilizing a specific hue that gives off the feeling of night without obscuring your vision. Every facet of the environments look exceptional as well, the objects look great, the lighting looks great and the characters are just breathtaking.

Sly looks and animates with such fluidity that you’ll no doubt have flashbacks of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Every leap, every swing of his cane and every movement of his has been rendered with amazing clarity. Sly also has a ton of moves at his disposal, he can swing from hoops, climb ropes, perch himself upon ledges, creep around objects, all of which are extremely well represented on-screen. His enemies have also received a fair amount of attention; they all animate and move with the same amount of precision as Sly. Each world also yields new enemies so you’ll have plenty of scenery to check out.

In addition to looking great, the game also sounds great. The music is dynamic, becoming significantly quieter during the more stealthy portions of the game and becoming louder in the action-packed sequences. The voice acting is top-notch and delivers in spades. Each of the voices are just what I would expect from the characters, Bentley the geeky turtle has a nasally voice while Sly’s is cool and collected. All of the lines are delivered quite well and really round out this exceptional package. Sound effects are great as well, ranging from the realistic shattering of objects to the exaggerated cartoony sounds of Sly’s actions. Everything fits in well with the context of the game and really helps take the experience a step further.

Sly Cooper is one of the year’s most refreshing surprises. Just when it seemed like the landscape of the 3D platformer genre was set in stone, leave it to Sony and Sucker Punch to come and rile things up a bit. This is definitely one of the year’s best titles, technically sound and a hell of a blast to play. Pick this one up because really, who can resist stepping into the shoes of a thieving raccoon? Play this game; it’ll open your eyes to a whole new world.




A-
A fun glimpse into the world of a thieving raccoon. Great graphics and well-designed puzzles populate this excellent platformer.