Sly Cooper & The Thievius Raccoonus
All Sly Cooper wants to do is take back what's rightfully his. See, when Sly was a cub, a group of five master criminals, called the Fiendish Five, descended on the home of his famous thief family and stole the Thievius Raccoonus, a book that contains all the greatest thieving secrets of the Cooper clan. They each ripped a few pages out and went on crime sprees around the world.
Now that he's a little older, Sly's set off to the far corners of the globe to get those secrets back and avenge his family in a game more akin to Metal Gear than Mario. "Metal Gear Solid 2 is the best example going of how to combine sneaky gameplay with a solid storyline," says Nate Fox, one of Sly's designers at Sucker Punch. "We have definitely tried to incorporate, and hopefully improve on, some of the 'thiefier' aspects of that title in Sly Cooper." For example, when Sly radios to his buddy Bentley (see sidebar) back in the truck, we're treated to a codec-style conversation. Familiar, right? But this is combined with a binocular view so you can clearly see where you're supposed to go or what you're supposed to do next. "We also wanted to take the radar concept from Metal Gear Solid and project it within the game world so that the player knows exactly where a guard can and cannot see Sly," Fox says, referring to the flashlights some enemies hold and searchlights that patrol areas of the levels.
"This 3D representation of stealth challenges means the player never has to take his eyes off the action." You don't have to look far for other "stealthy" examples. In the Readin' Room level, Sly jumps inside a barrel to hide from searchlights and get past motion-sensitive dart guns (the darts hit the barrel instead of him). And in most other levels of the game, you must disarm the alarms that can alert enemies to your presence. "That's what makes Sly Cooper a different title," says Fox. "Its levels, characters and story are all in place to help define him as a thief. Our main character has a professional identity, which is the source of all his adventures. We don't have arbitrary jumping puzzles just for the hell of it. The motivation for all his actions is to act as a thief in an attempt to rip someone off."
Well, maybe not all. Some levels (about a third of the game, actually) deviate from the norm even more to present you with minigame challenges that include racing monster trucks, sniping enemies from afar and an Asteroids-style underwater submarine blast-a-thon.
All this in the name of good overcoming evil, 'cuz Sly wouldn't rob just anyone off the street (that'd be too easy). As he says, "Rip off a master criminal and you know you're a master thief."
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If all we told you about Sly Cooper was that its an action-platform game, whats the first thing that comes to mind? Saving the princess/Earth/your friends from a power-hungry madman bent on world domination? Hey, we cant blame you. Weve been lulled into thinking thats all the genre has to offer because so many character-based action games follow that same save-the-world concept. Well think again. Sly proves you dont need a damsel in distress, a planet in peril or six different colors of bananas to collect to make a modern action-platformer; its still possible to innovate in this old genre.
The first thing that steals your attention in Sly is the games cartoon-like presentation. Each of the five worlds begins with a Sly-nar-rated animated cinema chronicling the tragic (yet hilarious) life story of one of a group of villains called the Fiendish Five. The humor is straight outta the Saturday morning toons of old and doesnt end with the cinemas it continues into the game. For example, as you wander into the first of the Fiendish Fives hideouts, you hear the boss over the P.A. system chewing out his employees for allowing someone to break in and screw with his operation. Taking a closer look at the backgrounds (and you have to Sly doesnt hit you over the head with busy visuals) reveals other chuckleworthy details, like the framed pictures of steaks and fire hydrants found in canine criminal Muggshots casino. Even the story features more detail than youd expect; while it focuses on your search for pages of your familys thieving guidebook (the Thievius Rac-coonus from the title), theres also a very fun cat-and-mouse, love/hate relationship going on between our hero and his nemesis, Inspector Carmelita Fox.
But the plot and presentation arent the only things that make this game wicked cool. The control and camera systems are both intuitive and very responsive. Gameplay is initially simple: just sneak around avoiding detection. But a few levels later youre at the controls of a cannon turret, defending your buddy Murray in first-person as he runs for a key. Or youre grinding down railings. Or jumping over icy cliffs in China while avoiding Ms. Fox and her shock pistol. Or dodging monkey snowballs. Or riding a hover scooter, blasting monkeys with nunchakus using Robotron-style, dual-analog control (one stick moves you, the other handles the direction you fire). We could go on, but youre just going to have to play the game yourself. Trust us, every level has something new, and we dont just mean the mini-games (see sidebar). Even during the very last boss encounter youll be doing things you havent done in any previous area.
Sly deftly avoids the monotonous fetch-quest trappings of the genre, too. You can collect clues that unlock more moves, but its optional you can finish the game without nabbing any of them. Lets hope when theres a sequel it can stay as fresh.
Sony CEA Fall 2002 -- Prepare yourself for a new, slightly unscrupulous action hero: Sly Cooper. This cuddly master thief must recover the Thievius Raccoonus, his family's precious heirloom. Mario meets Solid Snake in this cel-shaded action/stealth romp from the wizards at Sucker Punch.