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The Sly Collection
Graphics: 8.5
Gameplay: 8.9
Sound: 8.8
Control: 8.6
Replay Value: 8.7
Rating: 8.7

Just as a reminder, I’m doing this review because it was the top vote-getter in that poll. I sorta wanted to play this, anyway, so it all worked out. ;)

Sly Cooper is a top-quality platforming franchise that satisfied gamers and critics alike back in the PS2 generation, and we just recently heard that Sucker Punch is working on a fourth installment. Of course, they’ve also got inFamous 2 in the works, so they’re a bunch of busy bees over there. As for this Collection consisting of no less than three PS2 iterations of the agile blue raccoon, it’s exactly what you might expect with an extra touch of flair. Despite a few lingering problems that transport you back to the days when such games were less polished, the fun factor reigns supreme at all times and you’ll definitely get plenty of bang for your buck. We’re talking about three full games, each of which will take around 10 hours to complete, plus bonus content, all for the price of $39.99. If you were never into the genre, it likely won’t change your mind but if you’re a platformer lover, this one is a no-brainer.

It’s amazing what high definition has done for gaming. It really is. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any original Sly games so I couldn't do a compare and contrast (check out the vid below), but I’m positive fans of the games will be impressed by this visual overhaul. Everything is just so clear and crisp and that new widescreen presentation is a big plus. It’s also interesting to see the advancement of graphics within the trio of games; as time went on, the developers produced better and better-looking atmospheres for Sly and Co. But it’s that pervading HD luster that brings out the cartoon-y detail, and the final result is a palette of smooth lines and pleasant artistry. Granted, these titles were never designed to be graphical powerhouses but they did look pretty damn good at the time, and HD is such a gift in this case.

The sound captures the lighthearted feel of the games, what with all the genuinely funny humor and quirky environments. It’s the voiceovers that keep you smiling at the screen; they’re not overly professional or compelling (we’ve been spoiled by unbelievable voice actors this generation) but they fit the style perfectly. There’s actually a surprising amount of voice content and although the balance feels a little out-of-date, the audio comes through in fine fashion. I was never the biggest fan of the soundtrack in these games – no idea why, really – and that perception hasn’t changed. However, I’m well aware that many fans love it and because this collection is all about the fans, my opinion matters little. Like the voice acting, it works. Lastly, the special effects are just as satisfying as ever, as they amplify and enhance the basic platforming experience. Good stuff.

Although platformers aren’t as popular these days, you need only play one of the Ratchet and Clank titles to get an idea of how Sly Raccoon takes care of business. Although Insomniac’s stellar series has more of a third-person shooter element and Sly was more of a pure platformer, you’d get the gist: hulking, kooky bosses, a solid storyline with plenty of laughter and gags, well-designed puzzles, and of course, big, colorful levels and areas that draw you in from the start. Sly doesn’t feature the sprawling environments of R&C, but Sucker Punch did start to implement a more open-world feel with each entry. For instance, while the first Sly Cooper was a straight-up, linear platformer, the sequel offered more freedom, and the third expanded on most all aspects of the foundation, including mechanics and control, and how we progress through the game.

I really think it’s the inherent differences between each of the three games that makes this Collection worthwhile. In no way can one be considered a rehash of its predecessor and it makes the player want to play each adventure, simply because each quest feels like a completely different experience. I also like how Sly is responsive; the controls are solid and reliable and although I still sense some looseness – a complaint issued by those who played the PS2 gems – it doesn’t significantly hamper my enjoyment. I’m also a big fan of the pacing in these games; pacing is an essential part of any medium that features a story, and Sly is borderline addicting due to much-appreciated balance. There are some stealth features here and there, a few little puzzle sections, and both acrobatic-heavy areas as well as fast-paced brawls. Just about the time I start to get tired of one particular element, another comes right along to refresh me.

We still have a few of flaws that plagued the old games but here, I think we can call them “quirks and eccentricities.” As is the case with most nostalgia trips, it almost feels wrong to have a flaw fixed; that flaw is part of that original product with which we fell in love. So why should it go? Yeah, the camera can still go wacky and during certain intense situations, you will find yourself cursing that camera. And yeah, there are still parts in each game that are just downright frustrating, almost to the point of feeling a little unfair. The level design isn’t always all that engrossing, either. And while such drawbacks do keep these games from elite status, they shouldn’t be a big problem for the fans. In addition, we can’t forget that each title has its own Trophy set, and there are four mini games exclusive to this collection, all of which compatible with PlayStation Move. There’s no doubt about the longevity; you'll keep coming back for more.

The Sly Collection is a quality piece of fan service. It’s that simple. All three games have been upgraded appropriately, and they all retain that which made them so charming when they first released. It can be challenging to perform an overhaul without upsetting the traditional foundation; there’s that innate developer drive to make things better and add on. Well, Sanzaru correctly stepped on that urge and just delivered an attractive package where Sly and his buddies can really shine. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

The Good: Faithful recreation of the classics.  New HD is beautiful.  Diversity and longevity.  Gameplay is almost always rock solid.  Pacing is top-notch.  Presentation is fantastic.

The Bad: Camera can often be a problem.  Some parts are just plain irritating.  A few lackluster level/environment designs.

The Ugly: "If I can't beat this part next time I try, someone's gonna get hurt."

12/9/2010   Ben Dutka