Sly Cooper Retrospective, Part One

Released in September of 2002, Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus was one of three Sony platformers that was released in late 2001 and 2002. The others being Jak and Daxter, in 2001 and Ratchet and Clank in November of 2002. Sly Cooper was developer Sucker Punch’s first game on the PS2. Of course they are now probably more well-known as the developers of Infamous on the PS3. The game centers around Sly Cooper and his quest to retrieve pages from the Thievious Raccoonus, a book containing secrets on becoming a master thief that has been passed down from generation to generation in the Cooper family. The book was stolen from Sly’s father by a group of criminals known as the Fiendish Five. They each took pages from the book, so now Sly must travel to each one of their hideouts and take the book back, page by page. Sly doesn’t take on this mission alone, however. He has two partners in crime: Bentley, the brains of the operation who provides Sly with intel, and Murray, the team’s driver. Sly also has to deal with Carmelita Fox, a police inspector constantly pursuing Sly, and with whom Sly has a love-hate relationship. All of the different characters and story elements give Sly Cooper the feel of a caper movie, and you will definitely be reminded of movies like Ocean’s Eleven as you play it.

A majority of the gameplay in Sly Cooper consists of a combination of traditional platforming and stealth. You’ll find yourself jumping from platform to platform, sliding  up and down pipes and ladders, and swinging from place to place using Sly’s cane. You can also use the cane to fight off his enemies, though the combat in Thievious Raccoonus is pretty basic. Your primary method of attack is swinging the cane, and you can learn a couple of optional techniques like a dive attack and a roll attack. In addition to the enemies you face, you’ll also have to contend with alarm systems. These alarms consist mainly of spotlights and lasers. Getting spotted by a spotlight or tripping one of the lasers sets off an alarm. After an alarm has been set off, spotlights and lasers will incinerate you if you come in contact with them.

Sly is a thief, and many opportunities present themselves which allow him to take a more stealthy approach through the game. Throughout the levels, certain areas are marked with blue lights. Hitting the circle button at these areas causes Sly to perform stealth maneuvers, like crouching behind obstacles to remain undetected by spotlights or enemies, or to sneak past well-guarded areas. Also, many of the enemies in the game carry flashlights, and they will only see you if you step into their light. Avoid the flashlights and you can sneak past them, or make short work of them while remaining undetected.

Platforming and stealth aren’t the only types of gameplay you’ll encounter in Sly Cooper, however. Some of Sly Cooper’s levels are far-removed from that. Some levels have Sly manning a turret, taking out Murray’s enemies as he makes a mad dash for a key. There are other levels that play like a twin-stick shooter, and some levels have Murray driving the van in a race. There’s even a brief on-rails shooter section. As good as the platforming levels are in the game, these other levels make for fun alternatives.

Like many platformers, there are items to collect in the various stages. Coins scattered across the stage or dropped by downed enemies can be picked up. Collecting 100 coins gives Sly a lucky horseshoe, allowing him to get hit one extra time before he dies. There are also clues scattered about many of the levels. Collect all the clues in a level and Bentley will be able to crack the code of that level’s safe. Many of these safes contain additional pages of the Thievious Raccoonus, giving Sly additional abilities, including the ability to perform a dive-bomb attack on your opponents, or to create decoys of yourself to distract enemies. None of the moves you learn from the pages in the safe are absolutely necessary to get through the game, but they do give you multiple options for approaching the obstacles you will face.

There are five different locations Sly travels to, the name of the group he’s after is the Fiendish Five after all, and each location has a number of levels you must complete. As you complete stages you are rewarded with keys. These keys are used to unlock doors and activate equipment that grants you access to more sections of the map and to more levels. Unlock enough doors and activate enough equipment and you’ll be able to confront one of the members of the Fiendish Five. After you defeat one of the Fiendish Five you are rewarded with a page from the Thievious Racconus, providing you with new thieving techniques to be used in subsequent levels.

Having recently played though Sly Cooper again, I can honestly say I’m impressed by the way it holds up after all this time. It’s cell-shaded graphics still look great, almost eight years later. The audio is well done too, with good voice acting that helps to give the characters real personality. The gameplay is still fun, and overall the game has a style to it that you don’t really see with platformers. Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus was an excellent start for Sucker Punch on the PlayStation 2, and an excellent start for the series itself.

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Written by Paul Nash

Paul is originally from New York City but now lives in South Florida (A former New Yorker now living in Florida? That NEVER happens…). Paul has been playing video games for a long time. He started playing games during the days of the Sega Master System and NES, and hasn’t really stopped since. He’s owned just about all of the major consoles since then, and quite honestly, doesn’t see the sense in stopping now. Some of his favorite games include Revenge of Shinobi, Final Fantasy Tactics, and The Mark of Kri.

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