Release(s): September 23, 2002
Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre(s): Platform, Stealth
Developer(s): Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment
All the big video game companies have a mascot to help their consoles sell with kids- Nintendo has Mario and Sega has (had) Sonic the Hedgehog. Sony Entertainment felt they had to follow the trend so characters like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon were conceived for the PlayStation console. Following onto the PlayStation 2 and while these icons have fallen from grace, characters like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank took their places but one came out a bit later into the mix alongside them with style- Sly Cooper with his titular game Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus.
Sly Cooper was a bit of anomaly as it combined stealth and platforming while carrying a dark and gloomy atmosphere in contrast to the bright and colorful characters. The franchise as a whole has spawned 4 games in total for the main series, various spin-offs, a comic book series, a CGI movie (which was never released), and is generally considered a classic but how does it hold up today? Well, let's find out…
Following the footsteps of Crash Bandicoot, Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus has you take control of the titular character on a 3D plane and levels generally has you run through a linear path collecting certain items (lock keys in this case) to progress in the designated area, but this simplicity is masked like Sly by good level design as the controls are tight, the camera is surprisingly not annoying, and Sly himself is really fast and agile (he can do anything). You also face grunts along the way but they're pretty easy to defeat since they go down in only one hit and you can simply move around larger enemies. Boss battles do raise a bit of alarm but once you figure out their patterns they become a breeze as well… for the most parts.
Just don’t be too careless as you can only take one hit as well and life points are sparse so you may experience some cheap deaths. The quickest method of getting more life is collecting 100 coins for a lucky horse shoe (you can collection up to two) which allows you to take an extra hit.
While the levels generally share the same objective, The Thievius Raccoonus occasionally mixes it up with levels where you take control of the Cooper Van and participate in an amateur racing circuit, escort your partner across the level as you shoot from afar to protect them , and chase scenes where you have to dodge inspector Carmelita Fox (a member of INTERPOL and the love interest of Sly Cooper) and her shock pistol.
The main thing that really sets Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus apart from it’s contemporary is that you can climb onto ledges, pipes, ropes, or anywhere where you can find blue sparkles by simply pressing the O button while near them.
There is a total of 5 hub worlds so the game isn't terribly long and each contain the vast lair of a member from an infamous gang named “The Fiendish Five” which is led by none other than the vengeful Clockwerk. Within each lair, there's sub-sections which are the levels and aside from collecting lock keys, there's these bottles scattered across each level which are ‘clues’ to finding stolen pages of the Thievius Raccoonus book. If you find all the clues for each level, you’ll receive a safe code to learn an ancestor’s special ability. Some are quite handy (like the Dive technique) but most are useless. Luckily, you don't need them to progress any further in the game.
For a game made with kids in mind, the story for Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus is surprisingly mature and well thought out. In the beginning, we learn Sly's father was murdered by the Fiendish Five leaving the young Sly to fend for himself. He soon ends up in an orphanage where he mets his two best friends- Bentley (an intelligent and tech savvy turtle) and Murray (a pink hippo who drives the Cooper Van).
ven the villains (The Fiendish Five) have their own story for doing what they do particularly Clockwerk, who is so consumed by hate and jealousy for the Cooper Clan that he mechanically enhanced his body.
One issue I have the story is that the Cooper Gang doesn't really feel like a team. Sure, Bentley and Murray help out often but they ultimately play second fiddle to Sly. Granted, it's his story at the end of the day but still they could've been fleshed out more especially Murray. Speaking of Sly, I would have to say he's one of the most likable platformer mascots of all time- he's smooth, charismatic, and has quite the wit.
For a 2002 PlayStation 2 video game, Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus looks quite nice. Everything is colorful and vibrant plus it uses the cel-shading technique which helps give this cartoon aesthetic. The character models are a bit blocky but the animation, lighting, particle effects, and all are superb.
The music also compliments this game really well as it mostly a mix of urban jazz, soul, and funk and it uses the alert system so it can go from calm and smooth to fast-paced and hectic whenever an enemy crosses your path to keep you on your toes. The voice acting is equally good with the only questionable voice acting being from the voice actress for Carmelita Fox (though she's the best in the entire series for the character).
While the game looks all cute with its animated format and anthropomorphic animal characters, the setting and tone is actually dark and gritty like I mentioned before.
Fortunately, Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus doesn't take itself too seriously as it introduces each of this stories with not-so-subtle homages to sci-fi and detective films (cheesy titles included) and a lot of dialogue-based humor is thrown into the mix with occasional slapstick. It also contains a slight Adam West-era Batman flair whatnot with the onomatopoeia and the limited animation during prologue/epilogues for each hub world.
Overall there's not much else I can say about Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus other than it's a really fun and well-made game. While certain things about it are very archaic (like the one-hit kill aspect), it’s one of the many games that helped define the PlayStation 2.