Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

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Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Sly Cooper - Thieves in Time Cover Art.jpg
North American PlayStation 3 cover art
Developer(s)Sanzaru Games
Publisher(s)Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s)Bill Spence
Producer(s)Glen Egan
Designer(s)Mat Kraemer
Programmer(s)Jenny Spurlock
David Grace
Paul Murray
Composer(s)Peter McConnell
SeriesSly Cooper
Platform(s)PlayStation 3
PlayStation Vita
Release
  • NA: February 5, 2013[1]
  • PAL: March 28, 2013
Genre(s)Platform, stealth, action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a 2013 platform stealth video game, the fourth and latest title in the Sly Cooper series. Thieves in Time is available on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.[2] Though the original series was developed by Sucker Punch Productions for the PlayStation 2, this game was developed by Sanzaru Games, who had previously ported the original games into high-definition versions for the PlayStation 3. The game was teased in these versions, but it was not formally announced until several months later at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo during Sony's presentation on June 6, 2011.

The game, set in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, follows from the end of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. Sly Cooper, a raccoon from a long line of master thieves, will need to reunite with his gang to repair the Thievius Raccoonus, a book chronicling the Cooper family line whose pages have been affected by a villain traveling through time. The player controls Sly, Bentley, Murray, Carmelita Fox, and Sly's ancestors, using their skills to pull off heists and reveal who is putting the Cooper history in a jam. This game is also a part of Sony's cross-buy initiative, allowing purchasers of the PlayStation 3 version of the game to receive a free copy of the game for the PlayStation Vita via the PlayStation Network. The player can also save their game in the cloud, allowing them to play on one system and later continue playing on the other system.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was met with a generally positive critical reception upon release. It was well-received for its amount of content, graphics, writing, as well as the utilization of the Cross-Buy program. However, the return of the previous entries' stealth platform genre in the context of video games at the time, the sections for characters besides the titular protagonist, and the mini-games divided reviewers. Of wide condemnation were the loading screens, which were perceived as common and excessively long.

Gameplay[edit]

Gameplay screenshot

As with other Sly Cooper entries, Thieves in Time is a 3D platform stealth game with puzzle-solving and the ability to explore wide open spaces, regardless if they are part of the required objective.[3][4][5] Players primarily control Sly Cooper, who must sneak around and navigate various obstacles to help restore the history of the Thievius Raccoonus. Similar to the series Assassin's Creed (2007–present), players go back into time periods saving his ancestors and killing the land's tyrant.[6] Many of Sly's abilities return, such as navigating poles and ropes, jumping across narrow platforms and stealing items from guards. New to this game are costumes earned throughout the course of the game, which give Sly access to new abilities. Examples include a suit of armor that allows Sly to reflect projectiles with a shield, an archery outfit that lets him shoot arrows at targets to create rope lines, and an Arabian pirate-like suit that allows him to slow down time and use a sword to break sturdy objects.[5][7][8] These costumes can be taken to previously visited levels to reach secret areas.[4]

New secret masks and treasures are hidden throughout the game; the latter item, unlike its counterpart in previous installments, is collectible only and cannot be sold on the game's ThiefNet service (although the player still receives an in-game monetary reward). The clue bottles from Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus and Sly 2: Band of Thieves make a return, allowing the player to unlock new abilities for all of the playable characters. A new feature allows anyone who owns both the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3 versions of the game to use the Vita system as "a set of x-ray goggles" to find any of these hidden collectibles anywhere in the world, through the use of augmented reality.[9] The binary characters displayed during Bentley's plans are ASCII-encoded text messages and can be decoded manually.

Bentley, Murray, and Carmelita Fox return as playable characters,[5] along with some of Sly's ancestors, who each possess unique abilities.[10] Worlds in the game are claimed to be three times the size of the original trilogy.[11] The game also supports stereoscopic 3D[12] and local multiplayer in some sections of the game.[13]

Plot[edit]

Sly is faking amnesia to be with his love interest Carmelita, Murray is racing with the team van, and Bentley and Penelope are constructing a time machine.[a] However, the words began vanishing from the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus, and Penelope disappears, so Bentley reforms the gang to repair the damage to the Cooper's history and find out who is responsible. Meanwhile, Carmelita discovers Sly's deception after she catches him robbing an art museum to steal the Feudal Japan-era dagger to get to Feudal Japan, and wants to permanently get her hands on him for lying to her.

The team begins their time-traveling journey in Feudal Japan, where they rescue Rioichi Cooper, a ninja and the inventor of sushi. After a showdown with El Jefe, a Cuban military strategist tiger who overthrew several small countries and sold them to the highest bidder, Rioichi's cane is stolen. In the Wild West, the gang breaks outlaw Tennessee "Kid" Cooper, who was framed for bank robbery before he had started, out of jail. They also discover Carmelita being held hostage by Toothpick, a self-proclaimed "gunslinger" armadillo posing as the town's new sheriff, under the orders of a black-market art dealer skunk named Cyrille Le Paradox, who sent her back in time to impede her investigation of him. The gang, however, gets captured as well.

After the rescue, they manage to defeat Toothpick, but unforeseen complications cause them to be sent to the Ice Age in Prehistoric Australia. Carmelita is still very upset at Sly and leaves the group. A cave-raccoon nicknamed "Bob" teams up with the gang to stop The Grizz, an art thief bear forging cave paintings. After much thought, Carmelita finally decides to help the gang in order to stop Le Paradox and return home. They then travel to Medieval England, where they recruit Sir Galleth of The Knights of the Cooper Order, a knight with a flair for the dramatic. They confront the tyrant Black Knight in control of the area, but are shocked to discover it is actually Penelope, who believes Sly is a negative influence on Bentley and provided Le Paradox with a means of traveling through time. This revelation sends Bentley into a deep depression, but eventually overcomes it and arrives just in time to save the gang from Penelope and break up with her.

The gang finally catches up to Le Paradox in Ancient Arabia with the help of Salim Al-Kupar, the last active member of the Forty Thieves, and battle Ms. Decibel, a "music snob" elephant with the power of hypnosis thanks to a trumpet stuck in her trunk. Le Paradox's plan is eventually revealed: forge documents in the past depicting a fake royal lineage to expand his fortune and influence, and steal the Cooper ancestors' canes as revenge for his own family's misfortune as thieves. As a final insult to Sly, he kidnaps Carmelita.

The gang returns to present-day Paris, now under Le Paradox's control. Using Carmelita as bait, Le Paradox captures Sly. However, Bentley, Murray, and a team of Cooper ancestors retrieve the missing canes and free them just as Le Paradox inadvertently rips a hole in the space-time continuum. Finally reconciling with Carmelita, Sly sends everyone home just before entering a final showdown with Le Paradox atop his blimp, ending with Le Paradox falling into the sea. The various villains are sent to prison, though Penelope escapes and remains at large. However, though Le Paradox was later found and incarcerated, Sly was trapped aboard the blimp and has disappeared, saddening everyone, especially Carmelita who was hurt the most. Despite this, the gang vows to do whatever it takes to find him, no matter when or where he is.

If all trophies are collected, a secret ending shows Sly waking up, surrounded by the wreckage of Le Paradox's blimp in front of a jackal-headed temple and pyramids in Ancient Egypt.

Development[edit]

Sanzaru Games, a California developer whose only major credits included Ninja Reflex (2008) and the PlayStation 2 port of Secret Agent Clank (2008), were interested in developing the Sly Cooper franchise further after Sucker Punch Productions, the original developer, had moved on to the Infamous series. Quickly after the purchase of a PlayStation 3 development kit, they worked out a prototype game engine for the console which they presented to Sony Computer Entertainment. Sony was impressed and gave them the development duties for the PlayStation 3 conversion of the original trilogy, The Sly Collection and then subsequently green-lit Thieves in Time.[5][7]

Thieves in Time represents a return to the series after a near eight-year hiatus following the release of Sly 3. Several hints of the series' revival were previously included in both Infamous games by Sucker Punch. In addition to other nods to the series, such as Sly Cooper's calling-card logo patch on Infamous' protagonist Cole MacGrath's backpack in both games and the ability to use Sly's cane as an alternate melee weapon within Infamous 2, both games features marquees that included the title "Sly 4".[14][15] A teaser trailer included in The Sly Collection, released in late 2010, titled "Sly 4", was believed to be an indication that a new game would soon be announced.[16] The game was formally announced for PlayStation 3 during Sony's presentation at the 2011 E3 convention on June 6, 2011.[17] A PlayStation Vita version was revealed on May 18, 2012 during the GTTV television show.[2]

At Gamescom 2012, Sony Computer Entertainment announced the new cross-buy program. Through this program, one could purchase the PS3 version of a game and receive the PS Vita version (provided one is available) completely free of charge through a code redeemable at the PS Vita's PlayStation Store, with Thieves in Time among the games supporting the program.[18] A new trailer was also seen at Gamescom 2012, introducing Salim Al-Kupar as another confirmed ancestor and sending news that the release date had been pushed back to early 2013.[19] Sony later clarified the release date to be in February 2013, stating that they didn't want Thieves in Time to release at the same time as all of the other games coming out in the fall of 2012;[20][21] putting it in February would give it more prominence during the game's vital opening week with fewer big-name titles releasing at the same time.

A demo for the game is included on the North American version of the Ratchet & Clank Collection, which released on August 28;[22] however, it only has a single mission to play. Another demo, including the Paris prologue, was released on January 22 for PlayStation Plus members and January 29 for everyone on both the PS3 and PS Vita.[23][24] On September 21, 2012, ten years after Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus released, Sony announced Sly 4's release date to be February 5, 2013, and announced that those who preordered would gain early access to a special outfit for Murray and two Paraglider "skins"[1] that are available to everyone else in game once a certain amount of "Secret Sly Masks" are collected.

Soundtrack[edit]

The score for Thieves in Time was composed by videogame composer Peter McConnell, who also scored the previous two Sly games. McConnell composed more than 2.5 hours of music for this score in a wide variety of styles. All the music was recorded at Ocean Way in Nashville by the Nashville Music Scoring orchestra. It is available on iTunes and the PlayStation Network.

Reception[edit]

Upon its release, Thieves in Time was the 9th best selling retail game of the month in the United States,[41] and received "generally positive reviews" according to review aggregator Metacritic.[25][26] The creators of Sly Cooper at Sucker Punch Productions expressed approval as well, stating on their Twitter account that they had "no problem handing over the Sly reigns [sic] to Sanzaru. Hope all enjoy it as much as we did."[42]

Thieves in Time's gameplay, in terms of how well it adapted Sly Cooper to the generation of video gaming at the time, was debated. Official Playstation Magazine journalist Robert Pearson argued it was a success, minus the "dated boss battles and one or two grating design choices".[6] Some critics appreciated the return of the series' typical collect-a-thon stealth platform style as a nostalgic reminder of both it and the gaming era it was from.[b] IGN's Colin Moriarty was one of them, adding that it kept the franchise relevant by modernizing the previous-era mascot-based 3D platformer, not accomplished by other PlayStation series like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank which "have either disappeared entirely or gone in new and strange directions respectively".[4] As reviewers from Edge and Game Informer explained, the gameplay was fresh by how skillfully-incorporated and varied its established gameplay components were.[29][32] Others felt Thieves in Times latched too closely to the platform style and did not take enough risks, resulting in a repetitive, unsurprising, and dated experience.[27][31][33][39] Marty Sliva disparagingly described the franchise's gameplay as dated to the early 2000s era after Grand Theft Auto III: "It strives to deliver an open world, but that space feels sparse and unlived in. It leans on variety at the detriment of not allowing any one element to feel truly refined. It knows how to tell a long story, but doesn't quite know how to tell a particularly good one."[27]

Moriarty and GameSpot's Tom McShea wrote the game's new set of characters, and the addition of moves unique to the ancestors, kept the gameplay fresh, exciting and diverse.[34][4] Push Square's Sammy Barker claimed that the discovery of an ancestor's move motivated the player to search for the next world.[39] On the other hand, Bramwell was disappointed by the moves. He argued that they lacked the "tactile pleasure" of maneuvering Sly Cooper, being only for "obvious and functional skills", and were overly fiddly to alternate between.[31] GameRevolution's Alex Osborn argued the gameplay styles were too "shallow" to change up the gameplay.[33] The ratio of sections for specific characters was also considered unbalanced by some reviewers. Osborn perceived that Sly Cooper still dominated the experience,[33] and Carmichael found opportunities to play as Carmelita and the ancestors too small to be satisfying.[40] Contrarily, Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell felt that the experience was generally let down by not enough platforming with Sly, and an overabundance of mini-games and sections with the other characters that were less thrilling.[31] Similarly, Moriarty, despite being impressed by the amount of playable characters, wrote most lacked the "versatility" of Sly Cooper.[4]

The locales were generally praised for their detail, vibrant color palette, and diversity between them.[32][34][33] Stephanie Carmichael of VentureBeat also acknowledged detail and variety in the character designs.[40] However, Sliva called the stage layouts "bland" and all the same, which "does a disservice to [the periods'] admittedly interesting themes".[27] The cutscenes were praised as "bright and colorful" by GameRevolution's Alex Osborn and "cartoony, charming, and funny to watch" by Carmichael.[33][40] Staff from Edge also praised the cutscenes, although found fault with "noticeable artifacting" encountered when the subtitles were off.[29]

The story, voice acting, and humor were well-received.[3][4] Matt Helgeson of Game Informer opined Thieves in Time had one of the best stories of a platform game.[32] In addition to getting hooked the characters, Moriarty praised it as a rare video game to keep the player constantly laughing, citing examples of Murray's third-person narration of himself and Bentley's pokes at Sly's sense of humor.[4] Barker enjoyed the return of the detailed character development and silliness of previous entries.[39] Like Moriarty, he lauded the comedy as exceptional in comparison to others of its kind, reasoning that it emphasizes "fun puns and genuinely calamitous scenarios" over "shouting, screaming, and tired memes".[39] McShea appreciated the diversity of Sly's ancestors for contributing to the game's comedy, despite being non-evolving archetypes. He called Salim the funniest of them, also highlighting Tennessee's disparity between the modest way he acts towards women and his self-bloating when he's not with them.[34] Carmichael appreciated how much the voice-acted dialogue contributed to the missions, but argued Bentley and Murray provided too much advice for the player to solve problems on their own.[40] Even Edge, who found the script not funny, acknowledged that the unexpected twists in the gameplay and plot meant "even the most groansome gags and lame puns add to the freewheeling, ramshackle charm".[29] A detractor of the comedy and dialogue was Osborn, who found it "forced and played out" and had a hard time watching "any more of the nonsensical stupidity that would spew from [the characters'] mouths".[33]

Critics spotlighted the depth and length, reporting that it would take 20 hours to beat the campaign and hours more to explore every part of the stages for optional collectables.[3][4][29][40] Hardcore Gamer's Steve Hannley suspected the environments were the largest in the series.[3] McShea called the gameplay's scavenging, particularly for collectables not required by the task, its best element.[34] The freedom of maneuverability was enjoyed by reviewers, including McShea.[34][6] However, he also suggested the game focused too much on freedom of movement over difficulty, especially in the early sections.[34] The game was also criticized for continuing the platform control of jumping then pressing the circle button. It was called "archaic" by Moriarty and "clunky" by Osborn, who also noted that the button indicator was sometimes in hard-to-notice edges of the screen.[33][4]

The bosses were highlighted for their difficulty, to the enjoyment of Carmichael and McShea but to the frustration of Pearson.[34][6][40] However, they were also negatively cited for their over-dependence on patterns, Carmichael finding the last boss to be anti-climatic due to this.[39][40] McShea was the most critical toward the combat sections apart from the bosses, finding the situations "forced" and the sense of impact and peril small. The Murray sections were considered the worst by McShea, noting that they involved nothing more than repeatedly punching.[34] Murray's sections were also disliked by Pearson for the same reason, who also criticized Bentley's sections.[6] More positively, the character-specific sections besides Sly were noted by Hegelson to add diversity to the gameplay.[32]

The mini-games garnered mixed responses. McShea wrote that they were short enough to not overstay their welcome, and their disparate genres added to the game's diversity.[34] Steve Hannley highlight how the different styles of each character-specific section meshed without being jarring.[3] The Edge staff also appreciated the diversity and wackiness of the mini-games' situations, but found them "rarely exciting".[29] Barker claimed that "there's something admirable about a title that includes a fully functioning table-tennis mini-game just because it can", and found Bob's Winter Olympics-esque mini-game to be one of the title's funniest moments. He was, however, irritated by the repetition of genres, and was critical of mini-games that utilized the motion detection on the DualShock 3.[39] Bramwell disliked the mini-games as "quirky but unoriginal".[31]

The incorporation of the Cross-Buy program was enthusiastically received by critics, who recommended Sony to utilize it for future projects.[4][27][31] Bramwell did so with the advice to make the saving automatic.[31] However, there were critiques towards the towards the use of the Vita. Moriarty considered the handle console port's graphics significantly inferior to the PlayStation 3 counterpart, reasoning that it was "far more at home" on the household system in all manners.[4] Bramwell noted the framerate went from 60fps to 30fps on the Vita.[31] Carmichael disliked the requirement of the Vita for a viewfinder for masks and clues, which served a similar function of the binocucom on the screen of the prior PlayStation 2 entries.[40] The loading screens were considered by some critics to be the worst aspect, and frequently condemned as long and common.[c] Edge reported the problem being the worst on the Vita, and the magazine's staff and Pearson claimed these plus the mini-games deterred the narrative pacing.[29][6]

Legacy[edit]

Despite Thieves in Time ending on a cliffhanger, the Sly Cooper series has been stagnant since then. On November 14, 2014, following messages from Sly Cooper fans, Sanzaru Games released a statement on Facebook that they were not developing a future game.[43] Although the developer did not state a rationale, Caty McCarthy of USgamer inductively-reasoned that low sales and the industry's focus of hyper-realistic video games that took advantage of console power at the expense of cartoon-y products may have motivated Sony to not continue the series.[44] Additionally, a film adaptation with a released teaser trailer and projected for a 2016 release, as well as an announced animated series, never entered production.[44][45] When McCarthy asked Sanzaru development director Omar Woodley, who joined the company after Thieves in Time, about a potential future entry, he responded, "You never know what's on the horizon. Some of these projects come in of our own initiative trying to drive them, others are publishers outside Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and they come to us with an idea and we come together on cohesion of a vision. But you never know what you'll embark on next."[44] In August 2021, rumors of Sly Cooper 5 being developed began to surface. Although, it has been noted that neither Sanzaru Games nor Sucker Punch Productions are the team behind the sequel.[46]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

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  42. ^ Sucker Punch Productions 🎮 Ghost of Tsushima [@SuckerPunchProd] (February 5, 2013). "Looks like thrust was low on 1 of 3 landing engines. High g landings v sensitive to all engines operating at max" (Tweet). Retrieved June 23, 2022 – via Twitter.
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  45. ^ Simmons, Nathan (August 11, 2021). "Cliffhanger Game Endings We Still Don't Have Answers To". SVG.com. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  46. ^ "Leaker says Sly Cooper 5 is in development". GameRant. August 15, 2021. Retrieved September 7, 2021.

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