There weren’t a ton of new PS3 announcements at Sony’s E3 2011 conference, but one that was there and got quite the positive reception was Sly: Thieves in Time. While fans were elated at the idea of the Sly series finally returning there was some apprehension at the idea of a Sly game not developed by Sucker Punch themselves. I got the chance to see more of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time at a meeting with Sony today and I am happy to say that my personal concern at the idea has been assuaged.
Sanzaru Games may not be the originators of the series but they’ve been fans since the beginning and after working with Sony on Agent Clank they decided that there needed to be another Sly game and they were just the team to do it. After testing their chops on the Sly collection Sony and Sucker Punch were confident that Sanzaru could do the series proud. That’s not to say that Sucker Punch has absolutely no say in the story as Sanzaru assured us that they frequently talk to Sucker Punch to trade ideas and just in general keep them in the loop. The story revolves around Bentley making a time machine and then discovering that the Theivius Raccoonus was disappearing before his eyes Back to the Future style. So Sly and the gang have to get back together to uphold his family’s history.
Once the game started up the first thing I couldn’t help but think was how happy I was that the PS3 was getting another game with such a cartoonish art style. Seems like every game that comes out on the HD consoles these days tries to emulate reality but Sly takes me back to the days where you couldn’t get close to real life in games so you didn’t even try. There’s something to be said about focusing on an art style over the power of your engine. Uncharted 2 was impressive but I’m not sure that its visuals can possibly stick with me as much as a game like Valkyria Chronicles or Okami will. Fans will be happy to know that not only are the visuals in the same vein as the rest of the series but all of the voice actors have reprised their roles so you won’t have to hear Nolan North’s version of Sly.
I saw two quick snippets of gameplay with the first focusing on the interplay between Sly and his pal Murray as well as Sly’s staple platformer/stealth gameplay. Starting off as Murray the developers used his characteristic strength to pull a wheel and lift a ship wreck out of the water (with a small help from a pulley system I assume) which he could then use to traverse the water in front of him. Things then switch over to Sly who has to use his sneakiness to get past a guard and jump onto a trigger. Unfortunately the trigger doesn’t open the door for long enough for Sly to jump through and this is where some of Sly’s new abilities for the new game come into play. Previously costumes in the series were used solely as disguises but in Sly: Thieves in Time costumes give Sly special abilities such as slowing down time to make it through an annoyingly timed door passable or jump across debris in a quickly moving stream.
After showing off a bit of the classic Sly gameplay the guys at Sanzaru wanted to show off some of the epic boss battles that they emulated after some of their favorite moments from the first game. This specific boss battle was against an evil tiger dictator named El Gefe (obviously a reference to my buddy Gabriel Franco) who smoked a cigar as he and Sly exchanged smarmy banter. El Gefe quickly decides that he’s losing in the war of wits and starts the boss fight in earnest. The actual boss fight was a classic example of pattern recognition with multiple stages and each stage broken up by bits of platforming. Costumes made another appearance as Sly donned a suit of armor that allowed him not only to survive the undodgeable fire based attacks of El Gefe but using his shield, timing, and Jedi skills he was able to reflect El Gefe’s fireball attacks back at him. One thing in particular the guys as Sanzara wanted to showcase was how the environment was destroyed during the boss battle and made it feel like a truly epic fight. By the end what was once a massive wooden construction scaffolding would be just a pile of burnt toothpicks. It was an interesting way to showcase the kind of power your enemy has.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is slated to release sometime in 2012 and even though I never got around to playing the other games I have to say I’m kind of excited. The visual styling is something different and the focus on platforming and stealth help to stave off my depression from a constant sea of shooters. I wish Sanzaru all the best and I hope they do the series they love proud.