Note: Originally posted on Manic Expression on January 24, 2013.
The Sly Cooper trilogy is a series of platformer/stealth games from the PlayStation 2 days. The title character was considered to be one of the Sony mascots along with Ratchet & Clank, and Jak & Daxter. The series was known for its Saturday morning cartoon style and aesthetic as well as for being on many lists of most underrated series of games during the sixth generation of consoles and has maintained a very loyal fan base to this day. The trilogy was then ported to the PlayStation 3 under the name of the â€œThe Sly Collectionâ€. This move was no doubt made to help gain hype and momentum for the now upcoming Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. How does this series of games hold up?
The world of the Sly series is a version of the real world with anthropomorphic animals instead of human beings. The setting has elements of film noir and comic books. The focus of the series is Sly Cooper, a raccoon who is the latest descendent in a family of master thieves who pass down thievery techniques using the Thievius Raccoonus, a book containing the Cooper family secrets and tricks. Sly his helped by his friends and partners, Bentley and Murray, a turtle and hippo, respectively.
The series is known for its likable and memorable characters. The aforementioned main character and his two partners as well as Inspector Carmelita Fox, who repeatedly fails to capture Sly during his heists. There are also the various villains that the Cooper gang takes on such the Clockwerk and the Fiendish Five. The memorability of the characters can be thanked by the clever writing and well written dialogue.
The one of the main gameplay elements of the Sly series is stealth as you have to sneak up on enemies to avoid a direct confrontation. While Sly can use his cane to fight enemies directly, it is much easier and preferable to defeat enemies using stealth. Using the cane on enemies will alert other enemies and for alarms to ring. This forces players to be careful when near enemies and helps add some challenge to the gameplay. It is also surprisingly accessible, even to though who are not got at other stealth games like the Metal Gear Solid series or the Splinter Cell series.
The other main gameplay element of the Sly series is the platforming. Sly Cooper has many unique abilities that you earn through earning buying upgrades with currency or as you progress the game. Sly is agile and can use his abilities by places where there is a blue glow which is explained in-game as a visible manifestation of Slyâ€™s thief senses. He can perch on top of sharp points, sneak along a narrow ledge, use his can to swing from hooks, walk across a tight rope, and climbing up pipes. There are various obstacle you must avoid in order to prevent death in-game.
While the basic gameplay elements between the three games are the same, there are many difference between them. One is that in Sly 1, Sly has no health bar. Instead, he can be defeated in a single hit which makes it all the more imperative to use stealth. Sly 2 and 3 both use the traditional health bar which decreases the frustration and in-game deaths even though it is still recommended that you use stealth in those games as well. You also get a new special gauge which is depleted by using gadgets. If the guage hits zero, than manual gadgets canâ€™t be used.
Another difference between the games is that while Sly 1 uses a small hub world with various sub-mission in each heist, Sly 2 and 3 uses huge, non-linear levels that separate into sub-missions that can be done in a variable order.
In Sly 1, Bentley and Murray are not playable and are only used for various minigames. In Sly 2 and 3, Bentley and Murray are playable with their own sub-mission and unique set of abilities. Bentley is used to hack into computers where you play hacking minigames while Murray uses brute force to pummel enemies. In Sly 3, you also get additional playable characters such as Penelope , Dmitri and a few others.
Sly also has the ability to pickpocket enemies in Sly 2 and 3. This is done by sneaking up behind them and using the cane and taking the coins out of the money pouch. Enemies can also carry expensive items like rubies, diamonds, gold watches and other things that you can sell for more currency to by gadgets. You can also steal other valuable items that are found throughout the open world level to sell for cash.
In the various heists, you may also collect clue bottles. Collecting these clue bottles can help you gain even more moves to help you on sub-missions. While this is optional, it does help add more optional challenge to those who want it.
The games many be really fun but they are not perfect. In Sly 1, the fact that Sly can be killed in one hit can be frustrating especially when multiple enemies are attacking you when the alarm is ringing. In Sly 3, there are enough playable characters that it risks being more of an ensemble piece than a character based game. These flaws are minor and donâ€™t prevent enjoy ability.
Graphics-wise, the Sly series has aged surprising well thanks to the use of cel-shading. While the textures and modeling are clearly from a PlayStation 2 game, the look helps the games look good even over a console generation later. ItÂ doesn’tÂ hurt that the HD conversion was really well done and makes the games all the more easy on the eyes.
The soundtrack isnâ€™t anything special. While it suits the style of the series, it doesnâ€™t really leave much of an impact on the player and is very unobtrusive. The sound effects are well done and fit the Saturday morning cartoon tone of the setting and gameplay. The voice acting is consistently solid even if Carmelita sounds completely different in each game where she is clearly voiced by a different voice actress in each game.
Overall, the Sly trilogy is an incredibly solid series of platformers that excel thanks to the fun gameplay, memorable characters, clever writing, and whimsical tone. If you have not played through these games, then this HD collection comes highly recommended as it is a good way to catch up with the series in preparation for the upcoming Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.