By Jeff Luther
I didn't even know this title existed until I saw it at E3 this year, but a few minutes of playing it put a smile on my face. The wonderful cel-shading creates a thoroughly cartoon ambiance. Essentially Sly Cooper is a mixture of Metal Gear spy skills and a classic platformer. This creative coupling holds a wealth of potential.
You assume the role of Sly Cooper, master thief. Your family heirloom, the Thevious Raccoonus, is stolen by a group of five ruthless villains. The villains split the artifact into five pieces and go their separate ways. The Thevious Raccoonus holds all the lore, secrets, and thieving techniques around, so naturally you want it back. So begins your quest. Your precious family lore is recovered one page at a time; each page delivers a boost to your thieving abilities, thus Sly Cooper is constantly gaining new skills. This should help the game feel fresh and exciting even after hours of gameplay.
Though stealthy by trade, Sly Cooper certainly isn't above laying a beat-down when the situation requires it, and the situation often requires it. The ever-handy giant metal hook on the end of Sly Cooper's staff is a tool of many uses. One whack is sufficient for dispatching baddies, but it has other uses as well. It can be used to grab things like ropes, which our hero can crawl across ever so stealthily.
When Sly Cooper isn't whacking bad guys or hoping to and fro, he's dodging security features like spotlights and lasers--both of which can incinerate him with one unwise step. Dodging spotlights, hopping lasers and sneaking up on guards is a lot of fun and a natural environment for a platformer to thrive. Amidst Sly Cooper's escapades he is on the lookout for clues, which are conveniently strewn about in glass bottles, and the woefully predictable gold coins, which of course earn Cooper new lives.
And Cooper will likely need new lives. Stealth is the name of the game here. Sly Cooper's body seems unsuited for taking rough punishment. One whack is generally enough to do our hero in, though items can be found to give him another chance. Traps too tend to be fatal, so the brute force method is not recommended.
This cel-shaded platform spy caper looks promising, and it's just in time. Sony is going to need some strong platformers if they want to offer gamers an alternative to Nintendo's monstrous platform lineup looming just off the horizon. Look for Sly Cooper and the Thevious Raccoonus early fall 2002.