It’s been eight years since the last new Sly Cooper game – so long that Sony saw fit to repackage the original trilogy in HD for the PS3 to remind players of the larcenous raccoon’s existence before releasing this fourth outing. Thankfully, the stealth-based platform gameplay proves to be timeless rather than dated.
Sly’s latest caper sends him on a trip through time to save his ancestors and recover the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus, the Cooper family’s repository of thieving knowledge. Joined by allies Bentley, a tech-wizard turtle, and Murray, a muscle-bound hippo, each mission sees players jumping to a different period in history, switching between character’s skills to complete different objectives. Bentley has a wheelchair tricked out with weapons, a jet pack, and computer tools, his sections often culminating in a hacking mini-game. Murray is combat oriented, using brute strength to pummel enemies, while Sly lives up to his name, leaping around environments to pickpocket guards or nimbly avoid searchlights.
The time periods visited are a mixed bag though – the opening level in modern day Paris is a beautiful labyrinth of light and shadow, reflecting the romantic influence of Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin novels, but a later trip to the Ice Age feels sadly repetitious of every ice level you’ll have played before. There’s more good than bad though and the swift pace of the game keeps things fresh beyond its locations. A particularly neat side feature comes courtesy of Sony’s CrossBuy (purchase the PS3 version, get the Vita one free). The Vita console can be used as x-ray goggles, revealing hidden items and unlockables on its screen – a clever use of augmented reality, one that’s more than a quick visual gimmick.
Perhaps it’s nostalgia at work given the series’ long absence but Thieves In Time succeeds in delivering pure, simple fun. There’s a charm and swagger to the characters, great animation work, and a surprisingly detailed time-travel narrative. Undermanding but thoroughly enjoyable fun.