Review by Argyle

Reviewed: 02/19/03 | Updated: 02/20/03

Short and sweet - but as original as writing "short and sweet"

Sly Cooper - a laid back, cane-wielding raccoon with a bevy of nutty platforming skills, silly sidekicks, and a world to save. No, wait, the world is ok, perhaps a princess to save. Oh, no, sorry - how about reclaiming the scattered pages of the Thievius Raccoonus, family heirloom and tome of stealthy maneuvers. The pages, naturally, torn from the book's spine by the Fiendish Five... Yes, it's silly. And yes, it's fun. A quick few hours of entertainment that places Sly in the upper echelons of action/adventure gaming. Ok, not much adventure, and little action, but quite a bit of platforming.

Sly Copper and the Thievius Raccoonus is divided into five main locales, following a brief introductory level that teaches the player how to control Sly (cool - no need to open the manual). These five areas are further divided into a series of platform and mini-game style levels, each accompanied by a boss battle against one member of the Fiendish Five. Find the keys, open the doors, defeat the boss, progress to the next level, blah blah. Standard platforming fare, but delve a little deeper and there's some innovation to be found. A few stealthy bits and some very cool moves help set Sly apart. Sadly, many of the raccoon's abilities are completely unnecessary and remain unused.

So, how does one acquire these crazy skills? By locating the numerous bottles that riddle each level. Within the bottles live clues to open the safes in which these skills reside. Yes, Sly collects items - coins and bottles, neither of which are difficult to come by. The coins are everywhere. One hundred will grant you an extra life or a lucky horseshoe to survive a fall or an enemy's deadly swipe. The bottles, as stated, give hints to unlock Sly's moves and are incredibly easy to find. Unfortunately, a little too easy - a missed opportunity for the developers to create some adventuring challenge. But not all the levels are about collecting items, as many mimic the same mini-games we've seen time and again in similar titles, including the obligatory car races and gun turret shooting sprees.

Yet each level, despite the traditional framework, is so well designed and so incredibly fun to play that it's easy to forgive the fact that we've covered this ground before. Granted, there are very few enemies to lay waste to - it's just not the game's focus, but Sly is fast and his arsenal of moves easy to pull off (with the touch of a button). And the mini-game approach is frighteningly well executed. The boss battles? Each quite different and as equally entertaining, if not more so, than anything else the game has to offer. And controlling Sly and the (almost always) agreeable camera is undeniably smooth.

On a more superficial note, the game looks and sounds fantastic. An incredibly cool visual approach through the use of cell shading, with detailed enemies, fluid animation and brilliant backgrounds. The music is appropriate and satisfying as background filler, and the voice acting is surprisingly excellent. Further, beautifully detailed story sequences open and close each chapter as we follow the adventurous Sly Cooper around the globe. As for length, anyone can complete this game in a few short sittings. Yet the levels are so well designed and appropriately paced that the game definitely feels like a complete, tidy package. And should one feel so inclined and have the patience to do so, the main platforming levels can be played against the clock to open developer commentaries.

Overall, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is a great platformer, better than Jak & Daxter but certainly no Ratchet & Clank, a worthy addition to your collection should you fancy the genre. Otherwise, a fun rental easily worth your time to complete. A nifty little title by any standard.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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