Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
As a hardcore Sly Cooper fan, I’ve been waiting for what seems like a lifetime for the announcement of a fourth game in the cartoonish series that mixes stealth and platforming. Thieves in Time, announced at last night’s Sony press conference, looks like it will answer my prayers even though it’s not being developed by the Sly creators at Sucker Punch.
Development duties on the Sly series are now being handled by Sanzaru Games, the same team that put together last year’s Sly Collection, which up-rezzed the original PS2 trilogy into HD. As it turns out, the guys over at Sanzaru are also big fans of Sly who realized that Sucker Punch probably wouldn’t have time to work on the franchise now that they’re busy with Infamous. With that in mind, they purchased a PS3 dev kit, created a prototype, and pitched Thieves in Time to Sony, who handed them work on the Sly Collection as a test of sorts.
The work on the Sly Collection clearly helped Sanzaru get a handle on the series’ well-regarded visual flair, as the brief demo that they showed us looked exactly like the old Sly games…but in HD! Environments were shaped oddly and colored softly, and fan favorite characters like Sly and Murray were even more detailed than ever.
The biggest addition to the visuals is an increased focus on animation. When Murray pulls on an object, you can actually see his pink muscles bulge. Characters’ faces show extremely impressive facial expressions ranging from disgust to surprise to sarcasm. These added details really increase how much Sly looks like a cartoon in motion.
Thieves in Time takes place following the end of Sly 3, where the group split up and Bentley went off to create a time machine. Bentley realizes that the pages of the Thievus Racoonus are disappearing, so he must pull together his old friends to travel through time and make things right.
We watched one level where players begin as Murray and quickly switch over to Sly, demonstrating that character swapping will be happening throughout the course of levels. The Sly portions looked completely true to what Sly fans know and love about the older games: a mix of tight platforming and not-too-challenging stealth. The game even uses the exact same dramatic noise when Sly is trying to sneak past a guard unnoticed.
One major gameplay addition is costumes. In previous Sly games, the dashing raccoon would sometimes change costumes in order to infiltrate areas where he wasn’t supposed to be. In Thieves in Time, each costume will grant a new power of some sort. For example, I saw a pirate suit that slowed down time, allowing Sly to slip under fast-moving trap doors. Another costume provided him with a suit of armor that made him invulnerable to fire along with a shield that could deflect projectiles.
Beyond some basic platforming, I also got to see a boss battle with a tiger character known as El Jefe (voiced by none other than Nolan North, though he’s using a Spanish accent that sounds pretty different from any of the characters he’s known for). Sanzaru emphasized that they want to implement epic boss battles taking place across multiple areas.
In the El Jefe fight, Sly had to climb a burning tower while the foe shot fireballs at him. Once he reached the top, he had to dodge El Jefe’s attacks until he could get in close to punch him over and over in an up-close, cinematic angle. Once Sly knocked Jefe around enough, the tiger retreated and Sly had to follow him across another precariously aflame location. Sanzaru suggested that each boss fight would mix up the actual fighting with platforming segments in this style.
This first look at Thieves in Time already has me relieved that the game looks solid despite Sucker Punch not being involved. Sanzaru still has a lot of time to keep working and clean things up, too, as the game isn’t expected to be released until 2012. My hopes are officially high for another memorable Sly Cooper adventure.