The lights are on
Where has Sly and the gang been these past years? Their previous developer Sucker Punch has moved on with the Infamous series, and Sly seemed to be trapped on the previous generation of consoles. After years of absence, the gang made it's way onto current gen consoles via an HD Trilogy. Exciting enough, but this wasn't anything new. So when the announcement came that Sanzaru Games was taking the series and bringing it back, I was immediately intrigued. But there were a couple questions that plagued my mind until the disc was humming in my PS3: Has the Sly series aged well over the years? Can Sanzaru keep what Sucker Punch had going?
Thieves in Time will be immediately recognizable as a Sly game from the start. The crisp, but not overdone cartoon graphics, the highly animated characters, and most impressive of all, is the same sounds remain. The clink of the coins, the randomized grunts of the guards, ect.
Visually the graphics are impressive. It's a lightly done cell shading art style that brings about a very strong cartoon effect. Detail in the characters movements are always taking place: Sly's tail waves back and forth, Lanterns wobble when hit, and guards will occasionally stop to scratch their hind side.
Each of the different "worlds" or in this case, time periods you explore look drastically different. You'll travel between the ice age, a castle, feudal Japan, the wild west, and more. Each looks great and has their own artistic feel to it. One thing I must comment on is the sun light. The rays of the sun sometimes catch the camera in such a way that looks spectacular. You have to see it for yourself.
The sound is probably the most reminiscent of the presentational aspects. As I said, old sounds return, and the new sounds fit in well with what you'd expect from the Sly series. The characters are back in full, blurting out quirky lines, and sliding in sneaky puns every so often.
During my playthrough, I didn't encounter any glitches or bugs, which is exceedingly good. Thieves in Time has made the transfer to the PS3 seamlessly. Well done Sanzaru.
So where did we leave off? Oh that's right, at the end of Sly 3 the gang went into thieving retirement, going their separate ways. I won't go into details, as Thieves in Time does a good job of keeping you up to pace. Bentley has been doing extensive research on the Thievious Racoonus, Sly's family book of thieving secrets, and he began to notice the words were literally disappearing on the pages. It's not long before Bentley concludes that someone must be tampering with time, changing the history of Sly's ancestors. After hurriedly getting the gang back together, they set out on an adventure through time to set things right!
It's a small story, but suitable for the Sly series. It does lack an intriguing plot, and twist are all but absent except for one, which will only shock fans of the older games. I don't see it being a big deal for any new comers. It's a pretty straightforward plot, and the motivations of the gang don't change throughout the story.
The use of Sly's ancestors are interesting, but oddly enough, it feels like they're more there to help the gang than vice versa which is what's actually going on. By this I mean that the troubles of the ancestors seem to be more trouble for the gang than any one else. Nor do the ancestors bring any of their own story to the game.
This isn't to say the story is bad, just very simplified. So new comers should be able to keep up perfectly fine without prior knowledge other than what's presented in the games introduction. But personally, I wish there was a bit more to it.
The gameplay is probably the most preserved from Sly's absence. You'll still be tightly engaged with light stealth, pick-pocketing, and running along blue lit ropes. Further more, Murry's fighting returns, as does Bentley's bombing and hacking.
What's really impressed is that even after years time, and a developer switch, Thieves in Time automatically feel familiar. It's as if nothing has changed, and this is a good thing. It's nothing new, but I've missed the days of running along wires, and tip-toeing my way up to a guard to see what's in his back pocket, and it's all here.
Many of the gangs old abilities are back as well, such as Sly's para-glider, and Murry's thunder flop. You can also collect the 30 bottles on each level to unlock a secret ability, along with treasure you have to return to the safe house in a limited amount of time, both of which have become tradition for Sly.
There's so much "old Sly" about this game, it becomes easy to overlook what's actually new. The biggest addition is the cast of new playable characters: Sly's ancestors. While in their respective time, you can eventually take control of them. They each have a unique ability, and style of play, some of which work better than others. Also, Carmellita Fox, the detective usually on Sly's case, play's a much bigger part in this game.
Along with more playable characters, Sly now gets a costume he can switch into for each era he visits that will grant him an additional ability that will usually be critical for completing that area in time, and will be used to get secrets in others.
Other additions are a bit smaller inclusions, but they're good none the less. The safe house now has a couple mini games for you to play, and there's a new collectible "mask", which you can collect that unlock cheats such as new costumes for the characters. Bentley's hacking returns with the old shoot em' up style, but now there are two other forms of hacking. One involves moving a ball to a destination using the six axis, and the other is a different type of side scrolling shoot em' up. The variety is nice, as there is a good number of hacking Bentley must do. Luckily, if you don't care for these hacking portions, they're all relatively easy.
Running around in Thieves in time is a ton of fun, but the combat is either hit or miss. Literally. You swing around and you either hit or miss the enemy. Essentially hammering the attack button and steering into your enemy is the best way to do it, but even then enemies will nail you with an unavoidable attack, since there really isn't a block feature. It becomes best to simply avoid combat as much as possible and facilitate the incredibly easy stealth mechanics.
But apart from combat, Thieves in Time is everything I expected from a Sly game, even if it does seem to play it safe.
If you're picking up Thieves in Time, you're most likely either 1. A fan of the series, or 2. Completely new to it. For those of you returning, chances are you'll enjoy spending more time with Sly. Everything you remember is back, just don't expect anything groundbreaking for the gang.
If you are new to the Sly games, you can still jump right into this one instantly. Expect a fun time. However, as friendly as the game is to new comers, you're not as likely to enjoy it as much as a series veteran, because it's not anything incredibly phenomenal in modern gaming. So I highly recommend getting the HD trilogy first if you can. Sly 2 is where the series becomes really fun, so you can start there as the 1st is the most unique of the series.
Personally, I had hoped this game would do more for Sly, but at the same time I'm highly impressed with how well Sanzaru has transferred the title across a generation and developer switch. I enjoyed playing Thieves in Time very much, but it falls just short of a full blown series revival.