Review by cheeseball341
Revisited this game, and...wow.
Developed by Sucker Punch
Okay. Let's kick things off with a simple statement. This is the perfect thief game for kids. Hell, this is the perfect thief game full stop. I was going to make a comparison to MGS, but there really isn't much to compare - the two are alike, yet also different. The basic gist: You're a raccoon with dexterity and agility to spare. You hail from a long line of 'master thieves', and your line specialises in stealing from other criminals. Yes, that's right. Anyway, you've been horribly wronged, your father's been killed and a priceless tome of wisdom has been stolen from you, and now you're out (partially) for revenge and reacquirement. You'd think he's angry, but his character and voice acting sort of diminish that idea. In the anti-hero category he's more of a hero than an anti, with a strong sense of justice. He has a huge lineup of moves that manage to be 'thief-like', yet also tactically realistic, something a thief might actually want to try. Well, let's get on with the review.
Beautiful. You run around snagging coins and clue bottles, smashing things and dodging alarm lasers. Everything the modern thief should do, but don't. The level layouts are linear, but there are some places where you go off the beaten track. There are obstacles in the forms of enemies, objects and laser beams. Laser beams give you one chance; get touched and the lasers vanish. Isn't that good? No. They get replaced by heat beams, which sizzle you to ashes. They've taken a Spyro style health system - get hit once and you die. However, you can get items that help you out - lucky horseshoes which absorb a hit for you. What to use those horseshoes on? If you zip through the level, you'll be hard-pressed taking much damage. However, if you want all the collectible clues, you'll be taking it slow. Collect them and find a safe to have your technophile friend come out with a combination that cracks the safe and nets you a new skill (most of the time). It's a collection system with high reward. Once you beat down a level you receive a key. 3 keys gets you to a whole new bunch of levels. 7 gets you to the boss (*gasp*). The boss fights (and normal enemy fights, for that matter) are well-choreographed. Enjoy it while it lasts.
No, really. Many games try to been cartoony realistic (Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, etc). This game is realistically cartoony. By that I mean they take a cartoon world's quirks - running off cliffs and continually to run, flipping repeatedly over in mid-air despite having experienced what normally would have been a decapitation, and so forth - then make it as realistic as possible. The enemies are all detailed (you can zoom in on them to see), and the backgrounds are cartoon heaven. Enemies lumber, strut, or saunter depending on their character (and species). Bosses are depicted well, and the background stories to all the characters are reflected in their movement and choice of clothing. Sly in particular is well done. There is a movie that draws particular attention to how he tiptoes, and rightly so. It's really very good.
This is music that you think you'll get sick of, but won't. Sound effects and voiceovers are excellent, and there are lots of little things that make up the well-thought-out soundtrack. When all is calm, the music is calm, or as calm as sneaky can be. When there is an enemy nearby, but still ignorant, it's quiet, and your steps, movements and any other sound effects you make are defined. When there's an enemy attacking, semi-rock music kicks in, giving the effect of an adrenalin rush. All of the separate stages (a Las Vegas style casino, an ancient Chinese temple collection, even a library infested with walruses and squid-men) have their own unique effects somewhere, all of which seem realistic and appropriate. Sweet sound which doesn't get old easily. It's always changing, because the threat to you is always changing.
Simple and sweet. Left analog moves, right analog rotates camera. They've gone with the classic X jump Square attack layout. Circle executes a sneaky move, and later gives you invisibility whenever you want. Triangle uses a special move, such as diving, throwing a mine (in the shape of your hat) and even rolling whilst creating electric fields around you. R1 and L1 go into your first person view. R2 and L2 change the Triangle skill instantly. Other times you control death-buggies that have 360 degree shooting by using the right analog stick. There are race levels where you use the left analog stick alone, sort of a precursor to the Halo warthog. All new moves are explained in depth by the helpful turtle Bentley.
To put it in the game designer's words: Sly's background is awesome. He come from a line of super raccoon thieves whose source of power is this book: the Thievius Raccoonus. That sums it up - Sly is an orphaned master thief whose incentive is to avenge his family's downfall and retrieve their precious heirloom. He has two companions: Bentley the techno-turtle (technologically ingenious, not half robot) and Murray the pink hippo. They add just enough to make it amusing and not enough to make it unoriginal. Classic. The 'rival' character is also Sly's love interest - a spunky police officer determined to bring Sly into custody. As such she ignores everything else. She has witty banters with Sly on several levels, and she also makes those levels fun, shooting at you angrily with an electric pistol. Now, the enemies (SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS). First, there's the robotic genius Raleigh. He's a frog. Muggshot, the brawn-for-brains bulldog. Next is Ms. Ruby, a voodoo alligator who like playing with her victims. Panda King, a bad guy you feel sorry for but also want to hate - he grew up in poverty but now blows up villages in anger. Finally, the baddest of the bad...he's an owl, he's centuries old, and he thinks he's better than your entire family added together. Also, his name's Clockwerk.
(Spoilers end here)
In short, the character development is well thought out and in-depth. There's a lot of moments where you feel empathy, some moments where you feel hatred, and some where you just want to laugh. Good stuff.
Undoubtedly one of the most diverse early PS2 games. There are several mini-game levels introduced halfway through, a lot of games that make you want to throw things, and plenty of platforming gold. You can go track-racing, there's games where you're just firing cover for the pink hippo, and even one where you chase chickens whilst dodging suicide bombers. That last one was not made up.
Some people think it's an easy game. I'll be frank: it is. However, if you want all the clues and all the speedruns done, you're looking at another world. The clues are easy enough, the levels are linear enough for you to do a area-by-area search. However, the speedruns are difficult beyond belief. You are given a timer, which is probably a developer record plus a couple seconds. Then you have to complete it. The difficulty varies - one level I got 16 seconds to spare, another few I had 0.01 seconds left. One in particular requires you (not optional, requires you to) to execute a move I found frustrating at best repeatedly just for some speed. I beat the level with 0.03 seconds to spare. This is easy to start, hard to complete.
Replay value: 5/10
Finish all the clue challenges, breeze past the speedruns, heck, how hard can it be? The answer: Very. However, beat it once and you're done. Pssh, that was fast.
Buy? Or don't?
You can't rent games like this anymore, but if you can, do so. Veteran platformers will find it quick to beat, and it'll sit there afterwards once you do so. It did for me, and I replayed it a few days ago. It was pretty sweet. If you feel like adding this beauty to your collection, go ahead. Rent, buy, it doesn't matter. As long as you get to play this gem.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Sly Raccoon (EU, 01/17/03)
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