Review: Sly Cooper: Part platform hero, part stealth star, part?environmental activist? Oh how this Seattle developer did the predictable.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus stole my attention in 2002, but was unable to steal much of my time because it was incredibly brief. Be that as it may, the cel-shaded game from Sucker Punch Productions was in step with Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, making PS2 a triple-threat platform powerhouse. Sly 2: Band of Thieves continues the powerhouse trend along with the third installments of the Jak and Ratchet franchises, all released in the fall of 2004. Even though this made the season crowded with platform titles, Sly 2 takes on a lot of improvements and, most importantly, an increased length, making it worth buying (or stealing).
Sly Cooper ended with the destruction of the evil Clockwerk, a mechanical bird that haunted the thieving Cooper family. Sly, thinking the parts were safer with him rather than the Interpol authorities, attempts a heist along with his gang, Bentley and Murrary. However, upon completing this first mission of Sly 2, the trio quickly realizes the parts are already gone. It seems that members of the ruthless Klaww gang took the parts for their own use. It's up to the Cooper gang to retrieve each part and avoid various pitfalls that occur along the way.
As with Sly Cooper, the sequel is setup like a Saturday morning cartoon, only the presentation is even more colorful, stylish and stunning. So whoever said cel-shaded graphics were going to be a fad was clearly mistaken. These naysayers were proven wrong the first time around and Sucker Punch ups the ante with Sly 2. The more rounded character models were the first thing that came to my attention, especially Sly with his hunched-over, tip-toeing, and overall slick design. However, he's not the only character that must remain stealthy in the field. Sly 2 debuts a playable Bentley, the timid turtle the turtle with brains, and Murrary, the pink hippo with muscle but without much sense. Their stereotypical attributes are used accordingly in the game and their presence really helps vary the gameplay.
In addition the characters being rounded, the levels have been expanded as well, no longer in a straightforward approach, but rather eight hub levels where different missions must be completed in each. While platform hopping, tightrope walking and shooting from a turret returns, there are many new objects like snapping recon photos, pickpocketing keys, and staying as stiff as a statue as guards pass.
Bentley brings about two recurring mission types, RC chopper and computer hacking, which really contrast the standard gameplay. RC chopper objectives involve a remote controlled helicopter seen from a top-down perspective and intend to provide air support for later ground missions. Computer hacking is also a cool way the game changes things up as it incorporates old-school Asteroids-style gameplay in which you ?unlock? the computer codes. Sly also has some interesting objectives such as dancing with Carmelita Fox, the Interpol detective always on his tail. The dancing process follows what seems to be a mix of Dance Dance Revolution and Simon Says. Murray uses mostly muscle and therefore remains fairly standard in gameplay form. Nevertheless, there are more than enough varying mission setups to suit both the average and avid platform fan.
The gameplay demonstrates some fresh ways to sneak around as well as gadgets to buy. By far, the coolest new move is crawling under tables or cars and still being able to peer out from beneath. Another novel addition appears in later levels as the crowbar Sly carries becomes a pair of ice picks to climb sheets of ice. Other items can be purchased from collected coins to help the Cooper gang make a quick getaway. Sly can parachute to escape from up high or can create a smoke screen by taping his cane down on the ground. Like the rest of the game, the design of the entire game is stylish, making it the most appealing part.
The audio effects were another appealing part of Sly 2, as they were the first game. Stylish thieving music jazzes up the missions while comic segments include blunt sounds you'd expect from such animations. The best sounds came from the mountain town level, which is also the best looking world in the game. This outdoor stage, the first in daylight, includes multiple trains that travel all over the place while banjo music from the great outdoors plays in the background. One of the many foes with a flashlight would spot me, call for backup and I could make a getaway by hopping on top of a passing train as the banjo music played on. Doing this in time before bullets started flying was exhilarating and exactly like the movies.
The voiceover work also deserves credit for being top notch and for elaborating the scheme with an excellent presentation, again, the game's greatest asset. However, I didn't find a new for the USB headset, which seems more like a gimmick than a useful tool in Sly 2. Bentley communicates the same information to players through the speakers as he does through the headset, so it's a waste. Don't buy one just for this game or feel required to use it if you already have a headset.
The fact that the schemes are more elaborate allows Sly 2 to be slightly more challenging, and the same goes for the AI. When I broke a bottle, a guard quickly turned around with flashlight in hand to spot me. I, of course, ran for my life with my tail between my legs, leaving the spotlight vacant and the guard confused. To top it off, I circled around the guard to pickpocket a key necessary for my mission. Events such as this make the game experience random at times and it's always nice to see enemies can also take damage from hazards like fire, spikes and the occasional oncoming train. Some may say the overall difficulty is too easy, but I look at the glass as half-full in this case and say it's not frustrating. And because Sly 2 is much longer, it's now worth the $40.