- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Sanzaru Games
- ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
- Release Date: February 5, 2013
- Genre: Platform, Family
- Website: Sly Cooper
- Pros: Clever Story, Smart Dialogue, Fun For Young Players
- Cons: Not as Much Fun For Older Players, Simple Gameplay
Sly Cooper, a raccoon who comes from a long line of notorious thieves, has to use his stealth and a bit of time travel to save his own ancestors. With the help of Bentley, a wheelchair-bound turtle who is really the brains of the operation, Murray, a pink hippopotamus who often serves as the group's muscle, and Sly's love interest, Carmelita Fox, the gang zips through time, allowing for the developers to offer a variety of environments and gameplay elements to players. The game can also be played with Cross-Save, allowing those who own both copies to start a game on the PS3, save it to the Cloud, and continue the adventure on the PlayStation Vita. For a relatively simple game like this, it's a neat addition in that one really doesn't lose a whole lot by experiencing it on the Vita. In fact, I played a lot of "Thieves in Time" story on the Vita, as it feels more like a handheld game and the flaws aren't as prominent as they are on a large TV.
The game opens with a tutorial and one realizes pretty quickly that this is a simple game. There are shiny blue marks on where to jump. There are spotlights to avoid. Swinging at enemies is easy and turns them into flashy coins. It's a kid's game. No doubt about it. And that simplicity of gameplay threw me off for the first hour or so. As Sly and the gang adventured around the first time-travel spot (Feudal Japan), I hoped for more of a challenge. And I do think that the developers of "Thieves in Time" could have found more of a balance in terms of gameplay that would be simple enough for the kids and challenges that felt more complex than "go here, get this, come back."
If the gameplay is disappointingly thin, what elevates "Sly Cooper" is the writing. Dialogue and storytelling are so much stronger here than in your average family game that it didn't really dawn on me that this was a title aimed at kids at the beginning. In general, family games are awful. Most of them are based on TV shows or animated movies and feel like they were given the bare minimum of effort to serve as a tie-in. They're about as creative as Happy Meal toys. "Sly Cooper" may be a simple game in terms of gameplay but it is a smart game in terms of storytelling, character, and dialogue. And it could be a fantastic gateway game for kids trying to transition from their Leap Frog to more complex gameplay. My 3-year-old wasn't ready to play it but he was fascinated watching me do so and as he enjoyed the animation and storytelling, I realized that this was a fun, clever game that I would definitely want my kid to play before most of the alternatives.
The developers also maintain a healthy degree of variety, largely because they get to reset their scenarios every time the gang travels to a new era. From Feudal Japan to Wild West to Ice Age to Medieval England to Ancient Arabia and back to Paris, "Thieves in Time" allows for a gameplay that is often refreshing itself, in no small part because you get to play the Cooper ancestors as you rescue them, each with their own unique skill sets. A kid's game that doesn't get boring is a true rarity.