Sly Cooper is a Slick Title

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In recent years, the gaming industry has grown quite considerably. The days of making games out of the basement are gone, replaced by huge corporations such as Electronic Arts and Capcom developing games in huge design teams. In this recent growth spurt, the number of games available to the casual player has also grown considerably.

Due to this, developers have to do something unique in order to get noticed. One of the most recent examples of this is developer Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper. The game is unique because, while still maintaining platforming elements, Sly Cooper also delves into stealth-style games as well. While the concoction leaves something to be desired, Sly Cooper is looking to be a very interesting game.

The story follows an animal by the name of Sly Cooper. Sly, being a member of the world’s greatest thieving family, is given the Thievius Raccoonus. The Thievius Raccoonus is passed down from generation to generation, as each heir is given the responsibility to protect it. It’s protected for a good reason to, as the Thievius Raccoonus contains many top-secret thievery secrets. Unfortunately, one day the Thievius Raccoonus is stolen from Sly, and in order to hold up the family honor, Sly must go after it.

All though the plot is pretty basic, everything else is not. Take the actual gameplay for example. Borrowing elements from games like Metal Gear Solid, Sly Cooper requires you to perform several stealth techniques in order to complete the levels. It would seem this would be a poor choice by the developers, to have the player dodging searchlights and sneaking around pillars opposed to beating up enemies. Sucker Punch has come through though, as the stealth game mechanics are executed well, and fit well with the traditional platforming gameplay.

If you do choose to dispose of your enemies rather than avoid them, you’ll find a healthy combat system as well. Enemies are intelligent, and attack you in a myriad of ways. In response to this, you’ll have to attack them in many ways, using Sly’s cane stick as a weapon. This keeps the combat somewhat fresh, all though it does feel a little repetitive at times. Hopefully, Sucker Punch will be able to cure that before the game’s release, currently scheduled for September 9.

Besides sneaking around and whacking enemies with a stick, Sly Cooper will also have you solving puzzles. While in the demo there was nothing of ICO’s caliber, the game did have you using your head a lot more than the traditional platformer. Unfortunately, there are a few puzzles where the answer falls into the "who would think of that?" category. Still, there’s time for Sucker Punch to clear these problems up before the game’s release.

The levels in which you’ll be playing in are fairly linear. A majority of the time you’ll walk down a one single path, going against various obstacles. These obstacles, things like rapid river currents, and shifting paths, keep the levels interesting. There are times though when the levels suddenly turn wide open. In these sections of the levels, you’ll have to do exploring in order to find various items. In the demo build, the items that needed to be collected were well hidden, but not impossible to find. Hopefully this aspect of the game won’t be overdone, thus making Sly Cooper join the thousands of boring scavenger-hunt style platformers. At this point though, it doesn’t seem Sly Cooper will go that way.

What makes the levels even more enjoyable though, is how good they look with the games graphics engine. Featuring the cel-shading technique, everything from the waterfalls to staircases looks great. Also, unlike some earlier cel-shaded games, the animations are smooth and fluent.

The audio for Sly Cooper is also very well done. Trying to keep you in the mood, the game music is very slow and timid while you are sneaking around, but feverishly fast and blood-pumping when you are discovered. The only hitch in the music at this point is that sometimes, after you’ve beaten up all your enemies, the music will take a long time to transition back to timid. This means that you’ll spend a lot of time sneaking around to blood-pumping music, which just feels weird.

The sound effects aren’t anything ground breaking, but they still serve their purpose. The pinnacle of Sly Cooper’s audio though, lies in the voice acting. While many platformers have terrible voice acting, which sounds like it was thrown in last-minute, Sly Cooper is the exact opposite. Sly, sounds exactly like the charismatic thief he’s supposed to be, and despite the somewhat lackluster plot, the voice acting is good enough to keep the game interesting.

The area that needs the most work is the controls. For the most part, the controls are intuitive and work well within the setting, allowing you to attack and avoid enemies with ease. The big problem is that the controls are very touchy, which is a big problem in a game that requires you to be stealthy. This will lead to many instances of accidentally walking into searchlights or right off cliffs.

That’s just one of two of the big problems in Sly Cooper. The other one has to deal with the game’s continue system. Like many other games in the genre, Sly Cooper gives you a set amount of lives. The problem is that there are very few lives, and like previously stated, the touchy cause you to lose them pretty quickly. When those lives are done with, you have to start all the way back at the beginning of the level. This is a huge problem when you take into account how big the levels are, and it seriously hampers the rest of the game.

Besides those two errors, and a couple of smaller ones, Sly Cooper is shaping up to be a great platformer. If Sucker Punch can just fix up those problems, then PS2 owners will be blessed with yet another great game. The question is, will the casual gaming population buy into Sucker Punch’s radical changes to the genre? Only time will tell.

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