‘Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time’ revives, but doesn’t revolutionize

It has been seven long years since the raccoon thief known as Sly Cooper last appeared in a game of his own, and with the creator of the original “Sly” trilogy now working on the superhero-themed “Infamous” games, many fans feared that they had seen the last of their furry friend. Sanzaru Games picks up where the series left off, and while it doesn’t add much to the formula, “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” is a great game for younger players and fans of the series.

Sly Cooper comes from a long line of thieving raccoons. How long? Well, the main plot of the game involves traveling back in time to team up with his ancestors from feudal Japan, Medieval Europe and the Wild West (to name a few) to stop a mysterious villain who is fiddling with the very fabric of timespace.

With the help of the tech-savvy turtle Bentley, the lumbering, thrill-seeking hippo Murray, and Sly’s currently estranged Interpol agent girlfriend Carmelita Fox, he must take down an array of nefarious villains, like the cigar-chomping Tiger mercenary known as El Jefe. If he and his ancestors fail, their legacy will be erased from the history books forever.

The endearing characters have always been one of the best things about the “Sly Cooper” series, and “Thieves in Time” serves up plenty of lighthearted laughs and silly segments, such as when Murray has to disguise himself as a geisha and do a rhythm-based dance minigame to fool the guards. Each of Sly’s ancestors make for interesting additions to the cast, though the mastermind behind the game’s plot pales in comparison to the spooky robotic owl that served as the final boss of the first “Sly Cooper” game.

Long-time fans will feel right at home with the game’s controls, as Sly can still sneak, climb and leap onto spires and wires with a single button press, and sneaking up behind guards to pick their pockets and scurrying out of the way of spotlights forms the streamlined but effective core of the gameplay. It’s a simple predecessor to the stealth action and parkour-inspired movement that the “Assassin’s Creed” games made famous, and it works just as well as it did in the other “Sly” games. Murray has as little understanding of the word “stealth” as he does of the word “restraint,” so his missions involve lots of punching and tossing objects and enemies around, while Bentley’s wheelchair comes equipped with sticky bombs and rocket boosters. He also has several “hacking” missions, where the player delves into a cyberspace world for shooting minigames like something out of an ’80s arcade machine.

Throw in a playable ancestor in each of the game’s main areas, as well as the interchangeable period outfits that Sly can equip (such as the bulky but defensive samurai armor or a Robin Hood-inspired getup that lets him shoot arrows) and you’ve got a game that offers lots of variety but occasionally feels scatterbrained, since not a lot of time is spent on any one element.

The main story is of a decent length, but collecting all of the hidden treasures the game has to offer will take much longer. The graphics won’t steal your breath away, but the charming art direction largely makes up for any lack of technical ambition from which the visuals might suffer. The presentation is sharp, with animated cutscenes to tell the story and music that somehow manages to keep up with the game’s many split personalities, whether the player is sneaking in the shadows, driving a getaway van or punching their way through a gaggle of goons.

Add in the facts that “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” comes brand new at a reduced price of $39.99 and lets the player game on the go with a free copy for the PS Vita, and it’s easy to forgive the slightly unambitious (but still fun) gameplay. While it doesn’t bring the series to new heights, fans and those looking for a solid platformer will find “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” to be a real steal.

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