Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus – Review

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

(PlayStation for PS2)
By Eric Chon

The world of platform games has a seemingly endless supply of wise-cracking main characters, nearly all of them being one form of animal or another (discounting the pasta-eating humans, of course). Whether we have bandicoots, cats, or dragons, each tends to get lost in the crowd of attitude-slinging, Gen-X style mascots that are so prolific in this day and age.

Enter Sly Cooper. Yes, he’s another animal (a raccoon). Yes, he’s cool and has a little attitude to spare. But he and his game aren’t the stereotypical platform fare we’ve come to expect.

Throughout history, the Cooper family were known as phenomenal thieves, making the most daring heists of their day. They passed down their thieving techniques in a book known as The Thievius Raccoonus – a compendium of tricks to help make stealing an easier and more rewarding experience. They never stole from innocent people, that would be dishonorable and unchallenging. What greater trial, then, existed beyond thieving from master criminals?

Of course, this tends to piss off said master criminals and a few plotted revenge on the Cooper family. When Sly’s father was preparing to hand down the book, they disposed of Sly’s father and tore the book into five pieces, taking them to all the corners of the earth. Your mission? Get the book back and restore the name of your family.

As platform stories go, this is pretty intense. Each stage brings to life the next chapter in the story seamlessly and keeps you motivated to continue. The game’s comic-book style narrations are delivered like a hard-boiled detective novel.

The game itself follows these two-dimensional elements by using a cel-shading technique on the graphics. It looks and plays like a three-dimensional cartoon: meaning it’s gorgeous. Animations are natural and smooth, levels are highly-detailed and well-designed, and even the enemies are worth looking at (giant squid guards in overalls, anyone?).

Of course, if there isn’t gameplay, even the best graphics in the world mean squat. And Sly Cooper delivers on that score as well. The puzzles and challenges are never too hard to be frustrating, yet never too easy either. You have a roster of excellent moves you earn as you continue on your quest, and for those who like collecting secrets and treasure, this game has it in spades.

As you continue on your way, you will be constantly reminded of moves, abilities, and objects from your pals back at your base (a near-sighted brainiac of a turtle and a big fat hippo). Your conversations make up half the fun as they quibble and argue over finer points of each level as you’re doing them. It’s a refreshing and fun way to learn about each mission.

My few gripes about the game are small but must be noted. First, it’s far too short and quite easy. I doubt this was intended for twenty-somethings that’ve played their share of Sonics and Marios. The learning curve seems tailored to sixth graders. Couple that with an infinite number of lives and the sense of danger just isn’t there. The plus side is that this promotes exploration, and that’s always a good thing. The other is the camera. Although you can control much of its movement, it can get stuck in odd places making it very difficult to see what you’re doing.

Overall, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is fun, and the good far outweighs the bad. There’s an innate sense of fun and adventure here that’s missing in today’s world of “extreme” games and violent action. The world of our thieving raccoon is alive and thrilling, but the trip is too short. My final verdict? This game rates twelve lobsters.