Back when I purchased the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection, I had planned on doing a preview of the upcoming Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time based on the demo that came with it. Unfortunately I found that demo too short to really write a full post on. This past Tuesday, PlayStation Plus users got access to a second demo and I figured I’d take another stab at that preview with two different demos to talk about this time around.
The latest demo is actually the game’s prologue. It opens with the story setup which is great. Without saying too much about the end of Sly 3, Sly has been out of the thieving game for a bit prior to the start of Thieves in Time. He’s been getting the itch to get back to his thieving ways and when the pages of his family’s legendary thief handbook begin to disappear, he finds the perfect reason to get the gang back together. The opening level takes place in Paris and has Sly and his pals setting up a heist so they can steal an ancient Japanese sword which they will use to time travel back to Feudal Japan and begin to fix the issues arising with the Thievius Racoonus. This level isn’t that different from other Sly games’ prologues. It acts as a tutorial, but does allow you to play a bit as Sly, Bentley and Murray. As Sly, you will run across some wires and hop on some small points with your ninja spire jump as you avoid spotlights before sneaking up on an enemy and stealing a key you need to gain access to the sword. After this, you will take control of Bentley to hack in and deactivate some sensors that are protecting your prized artifact. Here you get to speed around in his wheelchair learning to use your bombs to blow up gates and enemies as well as hover to cross long gaps. Bentley’s section ends with a hacking minigame that plays like a twin-stick shooter very similar to those in the other Sly games. Finally you’ll play as Murray which tasks you with beating up a bunch of guards before taking out a few fuses with his throwing abilities. Murray’s sections have always been a bit weaker than the other two and that feels the same in this brief time with the characters. I just prefer the more stealth approach to Sly and Bentley’s levels as well as their movement capabilities. This demo is capped off with a bit where you escape in the van. You get a bit of control in this section, but it doesn’t feel like you actually do much.
The demo that came with the Ratchet HD Collection actually occurs a bit further into the game. Because of this the platforming feels a bit more involved. You’ll be doing the same kind of stuff with Sly, but a lot more of it linked together with many more hazards to avoid. This level takes place in a circus during Medieval times, so you’ll be hopping between trapezes, off trampolines and through rings of fire. It isn’t particularly hard, but definitely a step up from the first level. This level shows off one of the upcoming game’s new features: costumes. Admittedly, 3 also had costumes of sorts, but instead of just being used as disguises, these grant you new abilities. Here you have access to a Robin Hood-esque outfit which allows you to shoot arrows from various spots in the level. If you hit your target, you will create a rope to run across to continue on. New abilities gained through these outfits and the new playable ancestors will be used as a way to “gear-gate” like in the Metroid series. So sometimes, after gaining a new outfit, you will be able to get to previously inaccessible areas in older levels. At the end of the level, you are treated to a scene with one of your ancestors and that brings an end to this demo.
Both of these demos are rather linear and as such don’t show a big part of what the game will be about, the open-world hubs. They do give you a good idea that new developer Sanzaru has the basic feel of Sly Cooper down which should be good for anyone worried about the dev switch. And I hope there are a lot of levels in the game similar to the circus demo, but with even more challenging platforming. The series definitely got too far away from these linear platforming levels as it went on and I’m hoping they can strike a good balance between these types of areas reminiscent of the original game and the more open hubs that make up the overall structure which will be similar to Sly 2 and 3’s. They best have some tough Master Thief Sprints too as I look forward to testing my skills in these more linear levels in the full game.
There are a couple of other little differences apparent in the demos. For one, the back to the wall move no longer requires you to hold the circle button, but just tap it like most other “grab-able” things in these games. It’s not a big deal and makes some sense since that was kind of the oddball move as far as how the circle button worked, but I am always resistant to give up more control within a game these days. I also really love the graphics. It may not be as technically proficient as say the better looking PS3 Ratchet & Clank titles, but jumping from the Sly HD Collection to this, you can see a big jump forward for the series. I mean that should be the case given its been over seven years since Sly 3 came out, but the artstyle looks great with more detail and the colors really pop off the screen. Both demos include a couple of the new collectible as well. I believe they are called masks and look like little Cooper symbols. I love exploring the worlds of Sly games, so an extra collectible is always welcome. Especially after they unceremoniously got rid of clue bottles in 3 (why Sucker Punch why?!?).
Even with two demos, this was only a small taste of what Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has to offer. But it reinforced the thoughts I had after reading and watching various previews for this game prior to trying it myself: the series seems to be in good hands. Sanzaru clearly has a passion for this series and I look forward to seeing what else is in store when I grab the full game next month. Look for my full review within the next few weeks.