Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time Got Right
- + Fan service with characters and humour
- + Keeps the story grounded and the focus on exploration
- + High replayability
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time Got Wrong
- - Camera can be erratic and frustrating
- - Maybe a little too easy overall
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the fourth game in the popular platforming series made famous by Infamous developer Sucker Punch. It has a new creator in Sanzaru Games, and thankfully the reinvigorated series maintains its original charm and accessibility. It’s not a stand-out piece of software by any means, but it’s a funny and enjoyable romp of platforming, stealth mechanics and combat (albeit minimally) that is a must-have for fans of the originals.
What stands out most about Thieves in Time is its presentation and love for the series. Graphically, it’s far from a benchmark, but its cell-shaded aesthetics and lively game worlds set the scene for enjoyable exploration. Sanzaru stays true to the original’s strong characters, with fan favourites Sly Cooper, Bentleigh and Murray all playing prominent roles in the game’s story.
That’s great, because in the transition between developers it was easy to think this new game would focus too much on unfamiliar elements -- like perhaps more combat (the series has always been stealth first, combat second) -- rather than sticking with what it’s done best in the past. I kept coming back to this game because I genuinely enjoy the characters and game world, which is something I think will really please Sly Cooper diehards.
The story goes off the rails early on -- the team trek through time to fix history after things turned pear shaped -- but it’s not like you need any real motive to engage with the game world. Thankfully the experience offers plenty in the way of non-linear exploration and side questions, and the stealth and combat mechanics are deep and engaging enough to dilute any lack of narrative coherence. The characters alone offer enough insightful commentary and humourous banter to keep Thieves in Time grounded enough for younger gamers, but witty enough to keep older ones entertained.
Mission objectives guide you through the game worlds but you’re essentially free to explore at will, and Thieves in Time definitely encourages moving off the beaten path to take in everything the environments have to offer. The story might not be particularly memorable, but remember that Sly Cooper has always relied on its accessible platforming and satisfying gameplay rewards to keep the action fresh and inviting. Sticking to the main missions will satisfy those looking for a quick Sly offering, but Thieves in Time thrives when its worlds are being explored.
Impressively, the game offers customisable Sly outfits gained through meeting his ancestors as you travel through time. These outfits give Sly fresh new skills that mix the gameplay up throughout, providing the added incentive to explore the worlds and progress through the story, making up for the narrative’s own lack of intrigue.
If Thieves in Time is your first foray into the Sly Cooper universe, it’s worth noting that this has never been a series about combat or tough boss battles. Sure, the bosses present interesting challenges -- made tougher by the at-times erratic camera -- but they’re hardly the bread-and-butter of the Sly Cooper experience. Heading into this game you should be craving an experience driven by exploration and stealth-driven interactions, otherwise you might be disappointed in the game’s lacking physical presence. In short, Thieves in Time is not an action platformer: it’s a traditional stealth platformer with a charming aesthetic that fuels its exploratory emphasis.
Replayability is high as the game encourages you to return to areas you’ve completed earlier, and the game’s time travelling aspect means you’ll unlock skills and abilities needed to reach initially-locked pathways in earlier levels. So if you’re after a game with a world high on replayability, Thieves in Time is definitely something you should check out.
Like many a PS3 exclusive these days, Thieves in Time has cross-play that allows the game to be played on the PS Vita. You can easily transfer your saves from one platform to another, which offers superb convinience to play this game on-the-go. While the game is undoubtedly refined for play on the PS3, Thieves in Time is a great game to play portably.
The Final Verdict
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time stays true to its predecessors in offering a charming, lengthy and engaging platforming adventure. It poses a challenge in its scope and exploration rather than its combat and boss battles, so those after something “action packed” probably shouldn’t look to Thieves in Time's stealth-centric gameplay. It never moves into “hardcore” stealth territory -- it’s far too easy -- but there’s enough content here (including nine playable characters) to keep the action fresh and enjoyable.