It’s been eight years since a Sly Cooper game graced store shelves. Since then, original developer Sucker Punch has handed over development to Sanzaru Games, the guys behind The Sly Collection. Now, Sanzaru has released Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the fourth chapter in the Sly saga. So how does it fare? Should Sly and the gang have stayed in retirement? Well, we could tell you right now, but then we couldn’t write all these lovely words.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time opens with Sly and the gang coming out of retirement. Pages are disappearing from the Thievius Raccoonus, a Cooper family heirloom that chronicles the entire Cooper family history. With pages vanishing, the gang must travel to the time periods from which the pages are disappearing. With the team completely out of their comfort zone, they must figure out what’s going on in the past, and what’s causing the disturbance in the present.
For those uninitiated into Sly Cooper lore, here’s a rundown. Sly is the agile thief, Bentley is the brains of the group, and Murray is the typical “strong but stupid” teammate. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time follows the trend of previous games, sending the team out to complete missions as they recon a world, infiltrate the enemy’s operation, and put a stop to the villainy at hand. This is accomplished through unique platforming and frequent minigames. Platforming is biggest mechanic here, but it has occasional “sticking” problems: you’ll latch onto a distant object or ledge rather than the closer one you were aiming for. This always seems to happen at the worst times.
The missions in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time are the meat of the game, though. You’ll enjoy sneaking through saloons and scaling castle walls. Every stage has at least one moment of pure gaming fun – a moment that completely captures the essence of Sly Cooper. Unfortunately, there are pacing issues within some missions. One mission, involving a training montage of sorts, is one of the best moments in the game…until it drags on just a bit too long. While there are tons of good ideas packed into the missions, some are given a bit too much of the spotlight.
Of course, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time also improves upon mission structure. Multiphase missions take turns you wouldn’t expect, leaving you excited to see where you’ll end up when the dust settles. Bentley’s hacking has also been improved. The twin-stick shooting minigame returns, but it’s been upgraded: new ship types spice up the path you’ll take through the firewalls. Sanzaru has also added two new types of hacking: a tilt-based version, and a side-scrolling shooter. Both are fun, and all hacking games are spread out enough that you can get excited each time you must complete another one.
Overall, the stages in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time are satisfying. The expansive worlds echo those of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. While the games are quickly running out of places to set these stages, Sanzaru did a good job making each feel fresh; Sir Galleth’s medieval world is a particular standout. Each represents a time period very well, and they embody the Cooper ancestors nicely. They’re the biggest addition to Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, really – the ancestors. Each sports a unique ability that makes his missions fun to play: the aforementioned Sir Galleth can launch himself from hooks to reach new heights, and Riochi Cooper’s Dragon Leap lets him leap large distances others cannot clear. Each ancestor is confined to their time period, avoiding Sly 3‘s issue of too many playable characters.
Along with the time periods and ancestors in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time come costumes. These give Sly a unique ability when worn: the jailbird costume from the old west stage allows him to swing a ball and chain, while the samurai costume from Rioichi’s stage fools guards and deflects fireballs. These add a Metroid-vania feel to the game: you’ll revisit stages with costumes in hand and use them to reach new areas. Often, these areas hold treasures, a returning feature. Whether pick-pocketed from guards or found and brought back to the hideout, treasures add funds to the gang’s wallet, allowing for upgrade purchased from Thiefnet (which is also back!). Finally, Clue Bottles make a triumphant return: find all 30 in a level, and you’ll be able to unlock a safe and gain a new ability.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the fourth game in the series, and it knows it. It brings to the table exactly what series fans want: more Sly Cooper action. Series-styled missions and dialogue – plus stellar voice work and great fan service – place the game firmly into Sly canon. Yes, there are some pacing issues here and there, but after eight Sly-less years, we’re flexible on that. What matters is that we’ve got beloved characters in new worlds having new experiences, and that’s exactly what you want in a sequel. To that end, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the best addition to the Sly series it could possibly be. Our only worry is where Sanzaru will go next.