The Sly Trilogy User Review
At the forefront of this charge was Sony with their HD rerelease of the first two ‘God of War’ games. Since then, there have been several such compilations released by different publishers, and in the European regions, these bundles are tagged with Classics HD branding. Whether or not they actually can be regarded as such is entirely a matter of opinion, as is the definition of ‘classic’ in any medium. Now you may be wondering why I’m waxing lyrical about the term ‘classic’ in what I’ve professed to be a review and the answer is straightforward. The Sly Trilogy falls under the aforementioned branding, and that is the game (or should that be “those are the games”?) I’m addressing. I’m not going to try to answer the question of “are these classics?”. That is not my job. Instead, I’m just here to give you an honest look at them, and perhaps allow you to decide for yourself.
Several elements are uniform across the entirety of the compilation, as it should be, given that they are parts of the same series developed by a single team, Sucker Punch (though the Trilogy was ported and the PSMove mini-games created by Sanzaru Games). The most immediate of these is the graphical style. It adopts a cel-shaded look (which I always enjoy), and puts a particular sheen over the production that leaves little difference to be seen as time passes. Yes, there are still jagged edges, and a rather severe lack of detail, but the presentation makes you forget about all those little touches as simplicity is the name of the game.
The character models have a suitable amount of detail, and none of the major characters feel shortchanged in this department. This sentiment follows over into the common enemies, although I must admit that it gets irksome to see the exact same model time and time again, when small cosmetic changes are not difficult to pull off, based on what other developers have managed to do. It isn’t really something that I should complain about though, as there is a large number of different types, with each being relegated to its particular level. The enemies act similarly, but those cosmetic changes add a nice touch.
Similarly, the animation is quite strong. Whether running, jumping or climbing, you generally get a feeling of realism. None of it looks overly exaggerated, and again, the enemies share these traits, as each reacts differently upon discovering you and attacks in various ways. Beyond this, they will also occasionally stop to look about or preen themselves. They all help to add to the immersion.
As already mentioned, the environments do lack detail, but this can easily be overlooked because of the charm of the twisted architecture and bold lines that dominate the production. One thing that must be mentioned is the variety in what you can see. Of course, there are similar cues throughout all of the levels, as certain aspects must be incorporated to keep in line with the gameplay, but the number of backdrops is fantastic, and this goes hand in hand with the level design. What you see is what you would expect to see, based on the locations presented in the stories. I can’t offer enough praise for the way that this has been achieved, especially when you consider that, in many games, it all begins to blend together. However, I got this same feeling from inFamous, which just goes to show how good Sucker Punch is at doing this.
When it comes to the sound, again it is quite uniform across the series. Perhaps this is because of a reworking into the porting process, to achieve that sense of unity, but even so, it’s quite remarkable. Each of the chapters has a different tune playing in the background, and even this seems to naturally change as you progress through to suit whatever you are faced with. They are, in general, light and airy and you get a feeling of serenity just by stopping to listen. It’s simply a gorgeous soundtrack.
The effects are similarly outstanding. Whether it be the sound of Sly’s sneaking footsteps, or explosions, even the calls of enemy characters, it comes together magnificently, with none of them seeming to be out of place. The music acts as a substitute for most any ambience, but this isn’t a bad thing as, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, the soundtrack is extremely well put together.
And then there are the voices, which I personally found to be the weakest aspect of the audio aspect of this particular production. I don’t mean that because it’s poorly acted, but because it often comes across as trying too hard. I mean, this is to be expected, given the design ethic of the games is clearly aiming at a younger market. The voices should be enough to clearly distinguish the intent and personality of each character, and in most cases, they succeed. However, this lack of finesse counts against it to me. I am aware that this is hardly fair, but a review is, above all else, the thoughts of the reviewer. Take it up with the concept, not me. Outside of that small qualm, I found the aural experience across all three games to be wonderful.
First of all the games are, at their cores, 3D platformers, and while I once proclaimed that this genre simply can’t work in the modern day of gaming, I recant that statement. There most certainly needs to be more games in this vein. Perhaps I think this because there are quite a few different genres mixed into these games but, truth be told, I simply had an immense amount of fun in leaping about the environment, searching out the collectibles scattered throughout the levels and performing the tasks set before me. In addition to this core element is the combat and stealth. Sly is actually a fairly weak character, so it’s beneficial for the player to avoid confrontation where possible, and this is made easy by the stupidity of the AI and the way in which Sly can easily move about the environment. The combat works well when it is required, and adds something to the game that would be sorely missed (even if it is only a two button setup with no real combo system. This isn’t a combat simulator, or an action adventure game. It’s a stealth platformer. Plain and simple). Now, don’t get me wrong, there are points where the controls can seem unresponsive, and the reach of your characters can easily be misjudged, but rarely does this come to great detriment.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is the first game of the series and sees the titular character taking on the Fiendish Five in order to reclaim the ancient book that has been passed down through the Cooper line for generations. He is joined in this noble quest by his childhood friends, Bentley and Murray. The game is set up in chapters, each of which contains a hub map from which you are sent onto separate challenges before ultimately confronting one of the Five. This set up gives it the feeling of being a mini-game compilation, but it works and allows the story to be told well. Hidden in each level is a set of clue bottles that you can choose to locate and these will grant you extra abilities. However, it’s clear that the game strove to be more than it was. It feels, not unfinished, but unrefined. Without this first game though, the series could not have reached the heights that it did.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves picks up some time after the end of the original game, and sees the return of one of Sly’s greatest enemies. This time, it’s about thwarting him before he can regain full power and end the Cooper line once and for all. This time, Bentley and Murray are both playable characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. It helps to add to the gameplay without simply feeling shoehorned in, although the mini-game feel still remains. The game is still split up into chapters, and there are more collectibles, though gone are the hubs. Instead, each chapter has its own open world, which you must traverse before beginning your objectives. More importantly, all gameplay takes place within these worlds and gives a much more cohesive feel than the original ever had. This comes with a small graphical upgrade, though the size of this leap is understandable given the increased scope. The formula from the original game is still clearly in place, but also clear is that this is everything that it was trying to be. The series found its identity here.
Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves starts two years after the end of Sly 2, and begins with the gang having discovered the whereabouts of the fabled Cooper vault, which houses all of the treasure accumulated by the family over the years. Unfortunately it is on an island owned by the nefarious Doctor M who is trying to break into the vault to no avail. Realising that to get past his security they’ll need help, the gang sets out to enlist an elite band of specialists, the likes of which have never been brought together before. The game follows the layout of its predecessor, though loses the collectibles in favour of focussing on the core experience. As you progress, you gain even more characters with different abilities, though these are only playable at allotted times. The graphical enhancement over the second game is quite large, though the game itself is shorter by a full two chapters. Adding replay value to this iteration is the inclusion of a challenge mode, which sees you performing some of the actions that you had to do in the main missions, though with certain limitations and objectives.
The story of the first two games feels cohesive and the third is sort of like that red-haired member of the family that no-one is really sure of where he came from. It does wrap up certain story elements, but the main plot just doesn’t really link up mainly because, while it makes sense for there to be a Cooper vault, it hasn’t been mentioned earlier, and so feels like a random inclusion.
Also, the controls across the latter two games are pretty much uniform, while the first struggles due to not really being worked out. The camera across all three can be difficult at times, but never presents any real issues. The controls can feel loose, particularly in those missions that incorporate elements other than the core platforming (which is actually very easy and intuitive). Indeed if I have an issue it is in that ease. I’d expect there to be some difficulty, but once you attain the requisite rhythm for your button presses, it becomes too easy. Thankfully, this is made up for by some of the other things that you are asked to do.
I’m not going to detail the control scheme itself, but will mention that besides the platforming, there are also section reminiscent of: first-person shooters, dual stick shooters, third person shooters, arcade flight and driving style games and plenty of others. This gameplay diversity is one of the main reasons that I kept coming back, and found it easy to play through all three games with a break only to blast through Black Ops. Beyond this though, the games are three easy Platinum trophies (which continues my tradition of only Platinuming Sucker Punch games… odd). Not only this, but they are long, the first lasting me almost ten hours, the second more than doubling that and the third slotting in between them nicely. In terms of value for money, considering this compilation released at half the price of a regular new game, it hardly gets better. Roughly 45 hours for $50AUD is a damned good deal in my estimation, particularly when the games are of such a high quality.
Honestly, if you haven’t played the games before, I’d highly recommend for you to pick up this package. It really can’t be missed, particularly if the rumours of Sly 4 being in development are true. If you have played them before, the only real drawcards are the slight graphical bump and the PSMove games (which I didn’t try out). Whether or not these are worth the cost is entirely up to you, but I’d most highly advise you to try them out if you’re one of the people pining for something different.
Thankyou for your time and I hope that you found my words to be both informative and helpful. Until next time PSXE, Peace and Law be with you.
P.S. Yech. Reading over this, the quality is absolutely appalling. I apologise for this, but I’m in no mood to rewrite it at this point in time, and really can’t think of how to improve it. Or am I just being overly critical of myself again?
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.