Review: Sly Cooper

Ah, Sly Cooper, a game that as a kid I'd assume was just some stealth heavy game; not really my type. Instead, it was Spyro the Dragon and the Rayman series that I'd grown up with back in those days (though that was mostly during the first PlayStation era and not so much PlayStation 2, I uh, don't really think there was one particular mascot I'd got attached to during the PS2 era, but I digress).

I believe there was a demo of the second game that I'd played on the PS2 back in the day, but it's not really a very detailed memory, so it's impossible to say what impression it sprung on me back then. As far as I recollect, it might have had a multiplayer mode which I tried with a friend? It can't have left too of a significant impression, given it wasn't a game I'd pursued at the time, following that.

A few years ago there was a demo for the fourth game in the series that I'd played on the PlayStation 3 (back during that generation), but again, it didn't really catch me for whatever reason. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it was slightly frustrating for me to play, likely because of my inept ability at playing games at the time.

A bit more recently I'd seen some videos, reviews, and other little things throwing around surrounding the game, and decided, sod it.

So, long story short, it seemed like the right time to buy the Sly Cooper Collection on the PS3 and give the series a try - and I've already finished the first in the series!

The Good

It's a minor thing but the way the game opens up is actually really nice and not something I've seen too many games do, but essentially the game opens up to the main menu with Sly in the background standing in some level. When you start the game, it turns out that's the first level of the game, and it immediately kicks off. It's a minor thing but given it's not something I've seen too many games do it really caught me off guard. Very nice.

So, the music, ah! Perfection. It's quite bouncy and thumpy, a little like Spyro the Dragon's soundtrack, I'd say. Regardless, loved it. When looking into the credits for the game, it surprised me that it doesn't look like the music artist(s?) went on to work on the other games in the series, so I'm curious how the music in those compare - guess I'll find out when I play them.

If you want to check out the soundtrack for yourself, you can give it a listen here. I've tried listening to it outside the scope of the game myself, but I'd say the music works better alongside the game rather than as something on its own, in my opinion of course.

It's not too unusual for games of this era to feature a limited number of lives and Sly Cooper was no exception to this rule, however running out of lives isn't nearly as punishing as other games I've played. You run out of lives, you start the level again, but besides that, you don't actually lose anything.

Generally, the movement and platforming felt great. As Sly jumps around, you can press the circle button on the controller to automatically magnetize him to specific points in the level, and that could feel pretty great at times.

The bosses were all very lively as characters, each having their own unique and distinct personality and design. Each boss had a unique gimmick too, making each fight interesting.

One other thing I'd really like to highlight too is the amount of variation in the levels you visit. While artistically it would've been nice to see a little more variation, quite a number of levels have some unique gimmick to them that makes them stand out from the others, such as having to navigate through a level while in a barrel, using a mounted gun to blast your way through obstacles, running away from a huge serpent, taking part in a race and more - okay it's not quite as varied as say Spyro the Dragon, but it's still pretty good!

The Bad

So there were a few issues I need to get out of the way which seem to be unique to this version of the game. Not sure how they ended up shipping, but I can only guess the team were pressed for time. 

One issue was with the sneaky-footstep sound effect as you approach an enemy, I'm not sure how it could've happened, but the range on this was cranked up dramatically to the point that it will be active most of the time, which takes away from the novelty of the effect.

Another was texture corruption, which was a bit more subtle, but essentially in some cases textures on Sly or on elements in the environment seemed to display some odd rainbow effect, which I'm at least assuming was texture corruption. I'd noticed this very infrequently, to be fair.

And another, I'm not even entirely sure of, but in some situations it seemed like checkpoints didn't activate? Perhaps it was a simple case of a mechanic I didn't understand, but I had noticed upon dying I'd be sent to the start of the level despite passing by a checkpoint (and yes, I'd had more than one life left). Again, might've just been me, but otherwise, I'd classify that as a bug.

And finally, one other bug that bothered me is that in at least two levels, the developers implemented a sort of projection from a light onto the environment below - very damn impressive for a PlayStation 2 game - however in this version of the game this appears to just get replaced with Sly's own shadow instead. It's a very glaring problem that I'm surprised it ended up in this release.

Anyway, otherwise, that was it when it came to bugs.

Many of the abilities you unlock in the game felt, useless? I was anticipating them to come into use further into the game, but alas, that didn't really happen, and I get the impression you could probably just finish the game without using any of them at all. For me, the most useful ability was the fast ability as it made getting behind some enemies a little easier, but otherwise there was hardly ever any need or incentive to use any of the others.

When it comes to the bosses, the difficulty was a little odd. I'd almost say that the difficulty of each boss felt like it went backwards, and that each boss further into the game (bar the final) got easier? Some of the challenges involved there were nicely varied, but it would've been great to see Sly's abilities come into play, perhaps each boss could've depended on the player using some specific ability in order for them to be defeated.

The final boss probably pushed the climbing mechanics a little bit to the edge of how they were designed to work. Right at the end of the game, you've got to climb up a large tower while lava rises beneath you - I'd struggled a lot during this point, and most of it was due to the climbing mechanics not working quite as I would've expected them to. There were some questionable camera angles during that whole sequence as well.

And finally, on the subject of lives, while I praised for being forgiving, it does make me question why they're even there. It was the style at the time, for sure, but even so it feels like the game could've put a little more pressure on the player to retain their lives. When I'd started playing, I was trying to rack up as many lives as I could before it hit me how easy they were to obtain and how practically useless they were.

Verdict

I'd realized the bad section ended up a little larger than the good section, but despite that, it was a fun experience, and I'd absolutely recommend it to anyone that enjoys some of the other classic platformers. I'm looking forward to trying out the other games in the series.

4/5

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