Sly Cooper: An Appreciation

Sly Cooper Gang.pngRecently I wrote an article about games that I hated as a kid but would greatly enjoy now (it can be found here) and it inspired me. During the recent “Only on PlayStation” sale there were hundreds of top titles (and some lower-tier ones too) that could be acquired for next to nothing.Banjokazooie.jpgI picked up more games than I’m going to talk about here (remember to check my Backlog Blitz post for April though) amongst them though was the ‘Sly Cooper Trilogy’. A franchise that I have never experienced, in a genre that I have never enjoyed at any stage of my games playing life; yet as I progress through the game I find that I absolutely love the first game in the series…

…it’s a strange feeling too because, on paper, I should hate this game. For context I absolutely hate the Rareware platform games of the N64 era. There are numerous reasons for this hatred too;

  1. I hate the art style of the Rareware games.
  2. I hate the sound design of the games too; especially the stupid character voices.
  3. But most of all, I hate the core mechanic of arbitrarily collecting things – how do we get to the stage where “you need X number of things to move on” is a strong enough premise to create games around? It slowed progression down artificially and made multiple playthroughs of the same levels mandatory.

‘Sly Cooper’ is a game that harks back to this era and not only does it take inspiration from games like ‘Banjo Kazooie’ but it sticks rigidly to the gameplay mechanics that made those games so beloved. I have played through the levels multiple times trying to get all the clue bottles and character upgrades, dying repeatedly to the tough one hit kill system and all the while I am finding myself bigging this game up to whoever will listen to me!

WHY?!

It makes no sense!

Only it does.

Screenshot_sly_cooper_and_the_thievius_raccoonus_92.jpgThere is a narrative going around the internet at the moment that there was no evolution of the Rareware collect-a-thon games and that is why ‘Yooka Laylee’ was required; but this is absolute nonsense! Sly Cooper took the basic gameplay conceits of the Rareware titles and iterated them; they have evolved the formula by taking out the unnecessary bulk and leaving in only what is needed, adding a silly story (but one with a coherent narrative), interesting characters, excellent boss battles and using a mixture of gameplay styles to keep it fresh and interesting. The levels are also condensed but absolutely chock full of secrets for those who are willing to explore – each has an optimum path and they last only a few minutes. When you pair this with the mix up of genres what you have is a perfectly paced game that is, ironically, perfect for the VITA!

It should also be added that Sucker Punch has given ‘Sly Cooper’ a gorgeous cell-shaded art style that is like a Gallic noir comic book. Overall they have evolved the genre ever so slightly creating a far better game than those titles that inspired it and are always held above the rest in its class.

Sucker punch have simply cut the chaff and kept the wheat.

Don’t get me wrong; the game is certainly not perfect – but it does get more right than it does wrong! While it is certainly frustrating in places; sometimes veering too close to unfair, I cannot say that I am not enjoying my time with the game I’m enjoying it so much in fact that I am very close to the platinum trophy and I think that I am going to aim for that – giving me precisely one platinum trophy in total. I will also play the other two games in the trilogy and maybe even attempt ‘Thieves in Time’ – great job sucker punch!

Ratchet and clank.jpgPlaying through the game also pushed me into doing something that I thought would never happen. I bought the ‘Ratchet & Clank’ games! Yet another series that I had disregarded as “not up my street” and reinstalled my previously purchased (thanks to a pricing error) ‘Jak & Daxter’ games. Just to see if I’ll enjoy them as much – especially as these series get recommended much more than the ‘Sly Cooper’ which seems to be unfairly thrown into the heap of previous mascot attempts.

If the consensus is that ‘Jak & Daxter’ and ‘Ratchet & Clank’ are better games – surely they can’t be worse…

Have you ever disregarded a game only to play and love it years later?

Tell me your story in the comments/facebook/twitter!

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