Review: The Sly Collection Is A Bundle Of Fun And Then Some
Sly Cooper is back... actually he was back in 2010 already and then there was that one time last year. Okay, Sly Cooper's been back for awhile and the world has moved on since his time. Whatever. Can a thieving raccoon from 2003 still cut it in a world where critics can't even be bothered to write proper introductions anymore?
- Worth The Time?If you're a fan of the series then hell yes, it's still as entertaining as it was when George Bush was a thing. Newcomers may not be as enthusiastic but this is still a shining treasure from the PS2 era.
- Things LovedThe game's humour, art style still holds up, Sly's voice is smoother than Walter White's head in a silk scarf. The mission structure and variety are great as well as the variety of locations you travel to. Each game is great fun. Sly 3 is still the high point of this franchise. The games have aged rather well...
- Things Hated... but that doesn't stop the mechanics from feeling a little dated at times, especially in the first game. Combat is a mess. Poor utilisation of Vita controls. Visuals have scarcely seen an upgrade.
- RecommendationThis is great value. A trilogy of games swimming in nostalgic appeal that just so happen to have stood the test of time rather well. For fans I'd dare say this is a must-have, especially if you found Thieves in Time somewhat lacking. Anybody who has never touched a Sly game can now get a taste of them and I urge you to, the games are still great fun and actually come off as better than Thieves in Time.
- Name: The Sly Collection
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PS Vita, PS3
- Developer: Sanzaru Games, Sucker Punch Productions
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R445
- Reviewed On: PS Vita
Nostalgia farming is a strange thing. Publishers commission remastered editions or HD collections of games that released on PS2 for the sole purpose of making money off of people such as myself who want to relive those great gaming memories.
The trouble is that our memories don’t adapt with changing times, instead we remember something as it was and sometimes the way we remember it will only intensify. Humans crave an interesting story so in some cases your mind will exaggerate bits and pieces to craft a better narrative. Call it creative license.
Now, the problem here is that the games you loved as a kid may not have aged as well as you did. You lost your puppy fat, grew a beard and ride tigers to work. The game can’t do that. So when it gets released as part of an HD collection, it hasn’t had years to reshape itself but rather probably a little over a year’s worth of a second string developer applying concealer to those acne scars and oil to the creaky mechanical joints.
In this metaphor the game is a Robocop-like cyborg. Accept it.
I suppose we can start talking about the actual game now or rather games, plural. The wonderful thing about these collections is that you’re getting a complete trilogy for the price of a single game. Whether it’s worth it is a different question for a different day but that’s exactly what they’ve done with The Sly Collection.
The ominous they in this instance being Sanzaru Games who ported the trilogy of Sly Cooper games – Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, Sly 2: Band of Thieves and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves – from the PS2 era onto the PS3 way back in 2010. It’s just now making its way onto the PS Vita.
If you’ve never heard of Sly Cooper, he comes from that sexually experimental phase when Sony was really into Furries and every game needed an anthropomorphic protagonist. It stretches all the way from Crash Bandicoot to Ratchet, Sly, Jak and more. It was a great time that gave me some great childhood memories.
Sly Cooper is a master thief who comes from a thieving dynasty stretching as far back as you get care to go. He’s joined by his lifelong pals Murray and Bentley as they go on various thieving quests and adventures. It’s an action adventure series with plenty of platforming, a light narrative and plenty of variety in locations and gameplay.
The general structure is that each game is broken up into episodes. each episode has an ultimate goal but in order to reach that and pull off the final heist there is planning and groundwork to do. This comes in the form of a number of smaller jobs which need to be performed first in and around the hub of that specific episode.
Though on the small side in the first game, the hubs are rather big and worth exploring for collectibles in Sly 2 and 3. They are also littered with enemies, not to mention well utilised in terms of chases, tailings and jobs which require the player to go a number of locations around the hub.
For the most part the trilogy has not aged badly at all. The old controls and mechanics take some getting used to but once you’re there they work just fine if a little too finicky at times. There’s no object-snapping so if your jump is a millimeter off you’ll end up a Venice canal instead of on a gondola. At times it feels like a welcome platforming challenge as opposed to what the Assassin’s Creed school of parkour offers but at other times the navigation is too delicate for its own good.
Combat on the other hand is a frantic mess that has certainly not aged well. Luckily these games are mostly about stealth and avoiding enemies rather than beating down a room full of them. Most of my deaths came either from a jump that was slightly off target or negotiating the messy combat system.
The game’s mechanics are dated, that’s factual but whether they feel dated is subjective. These games handle differently, they’re from a different era and that takes a little getting used to. The most immediate thing is that they require more focus and care than your modern fair and present more of a challenge. In most games moving around is as easy as holding the run button and letting the character vault over any obstacles. In The Sly Collection it takes a little more skill and timing which I quite liked. Even if it was frustrating and finicky at times. It’s not as fluid as anything you’ll find today but it’s still fun.
The controls themselves take some getting used to but would be perfectly at home in a modern game. A small gripe is that despite coming four years after the PS3 version, The Sly Collection on Vita makes hardly any use of the Vita’s dual touchpads. Tapping one shows objectives, tapping the other brings up your binoculars. That’s it.
If you need modern, easier game mechanics then you’re probably in the wrong place. Perhaps I could direct you to Aisle 7 where you’ll find Beyond: Two Souls and Assassin’s Creed.
Not everyone will find gameplay mechanics from 2003-2005 as serviceable or as enjoyable as I did and that’s an intrinsic factor which will determine whether you connect with these games or toss them aside as outdated garbage.
The first game’s mechanics do feel a little dated but Sly 2 and 3 are dramatic improvements on that. In fact, as you play through each successive sequel you’ll notice the progression of the series.
Sly 2 has a pretty impactful story for what is really a game designed for kids and even ends with a key ally being permanently injured. It also has a globe-trotting narrative that takes players to a number of locations and environments.
Sly 3 is a crowning achievement for the series though with all of the above set against the backdrop of a massive caper. the entire game builds up to this one heist. Amassing a crew of world class thieves, laying the ground work, doing reconnaissance and more. All for that final caper. It’s got a variety of locations from remote islands to the streets of Venice. Better still, you’ve got plenty of mission variety. There’s safe-cracking, gondola chases, tailing enemies, using a disguise to sneak into an enemy’s building and even rhythm-based dancing mini-games to fit in at a party. You’ll also play as Bentley, Murray and a few other characters as the games go on. Each character has a specialty that causes them to play differently or be suited for different types of jobs. For example, Sly does the sneaking around, Murray is on hand when something needs to be destroyed and Bentley is your typical tech guy.
The most important thing though is that this game is fun. It’s light-hearted, full of soul and wants the player to have a good time. Spoiler: I did.
It’s a series of kiddy games, let’s not delude ourselves about that so even back then the multitude of mechanics were simplistic and shallow but that doesn’t stop them from being fun.
Of course, the trilogy hasn’t been hermetically sealed in a vault all this time. It has aged and it’s clearly noticeable in places other than the gameplay. There is little to no visual improvement over the original games on PS2 and though this is far from a deal-breaker and doesn’t spoil the visual style, the character models are chunky and could certainly do with some work. Moreover, the load times are a little long. Then again, Thief was released this year and suffers from the same problem so maybe this is just the trilogy’s way of keeping with the times.
Overall, despite it’s age, the Sly trilogy holds up remarkably well after almost a decade. The only potential spanner in the works is Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. the game was released last year, also developed by Sanzaru Games. The trouble is that while I berated the game for feeling exactly like it’s PS2 predecessors, it was still good fun and a good game. It also boasts better visuals. However, for all the modern tech at its disposal, Thieves in Time still comes off second-best to Sly 3. The setting, premise, jobs and variety on offer in Honour Among Thieves simply can’t be bested by a game that came 8 years later but still tries to ape its older brothers.
I enjoyed Thieves in Time but given the choice, The Sly Collection is more fun, better value and unlocks all your childhood nostalgia as bonus DLC.