Review by warbeast2000

Reviewed: 09/30/02 | Updated: 09/30/02

Here's to hoping they make a sequel!

SLY COOPER AND THE THIEVIUS RACCOONUS. Maybe one day that name's going to get the recognition it deserves. Seems like for now, though, it'll be a sleeper hit. It's a shame, too, because this is a good one.
Bear in mind my categories ARE NOT arranged in any particular order of importance.

GRAPHICS
-Wow.- Very impressive...Sure, Sly is cel-shaded, but it's *high-quality* cel-shading. Sometimes this game is so Saturday-morning-cartoon it's unreal (but in a good way). The often comically-warped world around Sly comes alive just as much as he does. The movement animations are very nice, very fluid. Some of Sly's death animations are amusing, too . (Falling in the water or getting lasered are my favorites.) Particle effects look very good, and everything is in some way vivid or striking. Certainly, there's nothing dull to look at. The only complaint I would have is some noticeable framerate slowdown (watch for it in the ''Dark Center of the Swamp'' level, particularly). Fortunately, it's not frequent enough or serious enough to ruin the game.

STORY
When Sly was a kid, a criminal gang called the Fiendish Five--Sir Raleigh, Muggshot, Mz. Ruby, Panda King and the mysterious ClockWerk--broke into the Cooper mansion to steal the ''Thievius Raccoonus,'' aka ''Master Thievery for Dummies.'' Basically it's a book containing all the techniques passed down in a LONG line of Cooper raccoon thieves. They each took pieces of the book and scattered across the globe. Sly made it his personal mission to one day track down the Five, recover the Thievius Raccoonus, and restore his family name. There's also an interesting bit of love/hate between him and a certain Inspector Carmelita Fox.

GAMEPLAY/CONTROL & CAMERA
Absolutely no problems with the gameplay. Control was highly responsive, and some of the moves earned for finding pieces of the book are incredibly cool. Sly earns the ability to slow down time (a la THE MATRIX), bounce back from falling off cliffs, and throw his hat as a mine, among other cool tricks. All of this is pulled off easily with the Triangle button, using L2 and R2 to switch special moves. X jumps, Square attacks and Circle is action. Very easy to get used to, which is good. Sly will die after one hit, which could eventually get annoying if not for earning lucky horseshoes, which will absorb one hit for you. Besides, if he could take more than one hit right out of the gate, some of the challenge would be gone.

The camera never really had much of a problem with ''getting stuck'' on anything, which is somewhat surprising considering the player can manipulate it freely using the right stick. Standard third-person view, and it works well for what you're doing. Only problem is, occasionally, it can be hard to see everything you need to see, and moving it too much can induce some of the framerate slowdown mentioned earlier.

SOUND
Don't groan when you hear this game has voice-acting. It's really executed remarkably well. The game looks like a cartoon, so, like cartoons, the words actually MATCH the characters' mouth movements, and the voices don't seem outlandish or inappropriate. The music gets soft and sneaky for the most part, and changes to panic tunes when you're fighting an enemy (or boss). Also, when you first hear Bentley's voice you might be tempted to mute--I was--but relax, he's just stressed. He WILL sound less annoying soon. ^_^

FUN FACTOR/STYLE
Now, to me, this is about the most important thing of all. And Sly has fun by the truckload. Some of the moves you can earn make it fun to just mess around, and many can also make beating up the enemies more enjoyable. Some of the humor inherent in the game (and in Sly's attitude) definitely adds to the experience. Mz. Ruby has GOT to be one of the most unusual boss encounters I've had in a while... Of course, the occasional minigame does help by keeping things interesting--a few times you'll be playing in a sniper-like setup, trying to keep some other character alive until they reach their goal. There's also a couple of racing games, a few shooting levels...even one that reminds me of ''Asteroids.'' It's really hard to imagine somebody -not- having at least a little fun with this game.

CHALLENGE/REPLAY VALUE
While it may not seem all that challenging initially, Sly Cooper tends to ramp up the difficulty a bit in some later areas. The entire last map area comes to mind...also, the final boss (not giving it away) is worthy of many top-notch platformers. And, just beating all the levels isn't enough. You'll have to go back and find all the clue bottles, and after THAT, you'll have to beat each stage's Master Thief Sprint. Basically, you go back to the level, and you're usually given approximately 2 minutes to make it to the goal. This is where the game's ''Insanely Hard'' difficulty mode would be. ;) Sure, you might be able to blaze through the game and beat the last boss, but it's going to take A WHILE before you're good enough to conquer all the Master Thief Sprints.

SUMMARY
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus has a little something for everyone. It's a bit of Mario, a bit of Crash, a chunk of Metal Gear Solid, a little bit of a racing game, a dash of shooter, and even a pinch of DDR-like gameplay. (Play it and you'll see.) Top all that off with an attitude that's all its own, and some really amusing things thrown in here and there, along with A+ gameplay, some cool moves, and all the joy of a quality cartoon, and you've got one incredible game. It's so good, I choose to overlook the mild framerate and camera problem and give it a 10. If this game doesn't sell well, it should. And if Sucker Punch doesn't make a sequel, THEY should.

RENT OR BUY?
If you're a die-hard platform gamer, buy it. If you want something family-friendly that anyone can enjoy, buy it. If you go back and play your favorites over and over, buy it. If you play your games for maybe an hour or so at most daily and won't speed-play through this game, buy it. And if you're looking for a fast-paced, action-filled challenge(Master Thief Sprint), buy it. However, if you're the kind of gamer who wouldn't go back and find all the clues, crack all the safes, and try to beat those insane Sprint runs, rent it, as the game could be just-plain-beaten in a Blockbuster rental period.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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