the definitive racoon thief platformer

This game totally rules.

I picked it up (for rental) at Blockbuster, just because of all the ads I’d seen lately. I didn’t know anything beyond the name and platform, and that it was a 3D platformer. It just seemed like I ought to stay up-to-date.

In brief: you play Sly Cooper, master thief. You must avenge the death of your parents and steal back their Tome of Thieving Arcana. You are not a Serious Ass-Kicker. You are a Sneaky Stuff-Stealer. Your primary goals are to collect keys, collect coins, and break into safes. All of this, though, is in pursuit of parts of the book (the Thievius Racoonus) and the level bosses. This description may lead you to believe that it is has a lot in common with most platformers. That would be correct.

There are a couple things that make this game totally awesome.

Firstly, the game’s look is spectacular. While I don’t know if we’ll see games that just flat-out look like cartoons on this generation of consoles, Sly Cooper comes very close. The problem, if anything, is that there’s so much detail that it’s hard to believe anyone could’ve animated the game. This is a good thing: between looking good and looking totally like a cartoon, Sucker Punch decided to make Sly Cooper look /good/. The models, the environments, and the animations all work together to make the game look fun.

Then the gameplay makes the game actually /be/ fun. The controls are simple and fluid. There are some weird special moves that can require flipping through lists with L2 and R2, but they’re not super-critical. Honestly, I think those moves are just there to let you play with a little more style. Sly is a very stylish game. This is visible in the game’s physics, too. Using your main prop/weapon/tool, a crook (get it?), you can swing on hooks, smash objects, catch ropes for climbing, and do lots of other keen stuff. Sly’s movement while taking these actions is very dynamic, and the player can get an idea for just how much Sly weighs, how much he can maneuver in the air, and other intangibles. While many games require you to learn these from experience (“I can jump about six inches on the screen”), Sly Cooper is slick enough that you can infer it from the physics.

The sound is great, from the score to the sound effects, to the musical patter superimposed onto the score as you sneak around walls. It adds a lot to the cartoonish feel of the game.

The game has framerate problems, but I don’t think they’re a big deal. It would be nice if it ran at a perfect 60fps all the time, but the slowdowns aren’t a big deal. They don’t make me fall down and die, and that’s what matters.

I’m really pleased with the game’s “collection” element, too. It’s not that I like collecting. In fact, I don’t. The last platformer I played was StarFox Adventures, though. It had about fifty-seven things to collect, and they all sucked. In Sly Cooper, there are three or four things to collect, and most of them are optional. I am filled with glee! Strangely, too, I feel driven to collect! There is a measurable reward, each time I complete one level’s collecting, and it’s better than a snippet of music and a happy face.

I’m not sure if there’s anything I /don’t/ like about Sly, so far, but we’ll see, as I play more. I think I’ll get in quite a lot of Sly between now and next Monday, when it must go back.

Written on February 3, 2003
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