If you frequent my blog, you saw that I was a huge fan of the first Sly Cooper. The HD collection has been my first delve into the series, and it started off on the right foot. However, Sly 2 did not continue the trend.
ESRB: Everyone (Cartoon Violence)
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus introduced us to the free-spirited, flirty, thief-but-really-a-good-guy Sly Cooper. A simple game with simple characters aimed at a younger audience, the game proved fun for all ages with very clean gameplay that managed to stay fresh over it’s relatively short play time.
Enter Band of Thieves. Everything the first one did well, Sly 2 managed to build on, but not in a good way.
Each “episode” of Sly 2 is split into a few parts. The first is Sly taking recon pictures so Bentley can come up with a plan. The next set or two of missions allows the player to utilize not only Sly, but his buddies Bentley and Murray as they prepare for the inevitable big heist. A fun idea. Then there’s the heist itself, also putting all three characters to use.
To be blunt, Bentley and Murray are awful. I’m not sure anyone wants to use them. The only abilities the two share with Sly are running and jumping, while climbing on ropes and traversing buildings and such are mostly left by the wayside. This is intended to be offset by Bentley’s knockout darts and Murray’s ability to carry things. However, Sly Cooper is, at heart, a stealth game. This makes Murray’s taste for picking things up and throwing them at various enemies the opposite of what I would like to do, and meanwhile, Bentley’s darts are tedious compared to hopping on a building and scurrying past everyone.
Additionally, most missions with these two revolve around either hacking a computer with Bentley in the form of a small, dual-stick shooter mini-game, or prying something open with Murray’s brute strength. Not a lot of variety here, and with what seemed to be a much longer campaign than the first Sly, the formula gets old fast.
Even Sly himself can’t keep things interesting, however. We quickly realize how one-dimensional every character in this game is. Sly, an early prototype of Nathan Drake’s witty banter, is predictable at every turn. Bentley, a dried-up Otacon, practically faints every time he has to move. And Murray, the oafish brute, is still afraid of the dark. Even Carmelita Fox, the inspector on Sly’s tail (pun intended) is a straight-shooting cop with a secret desire for the bad boy she’s after. Nothing we haven’t seen before. These stereotyped character models and crime-movie-spoof charades only get the game so far.
The new health bar system as opposed to the original one-and-done combat seems cool at first until you realize it eliminates any need for stealth in most cases, save Bentley who is so underpowered that you’re forced to suffer the tranquilizer darts. The entire strategy is sidelined save for when required of you from a mission.
Behind all this, Band of Thieves does manage a few well-earned chuckles between otherwise boring gameplay over a fiendishly long campaign, and the core, tight platforming we loved in the original Sly still exists when the raccoon gets a chance to stretch his legs. The hi-def remake did good things for the title, and trophy hunters should know that simply beating the game will almost surely net you a platinum for the display case. We get a little growth from the gang in the last few minutes, but this doesn’t make up for the lack-luster game leading up to it. The supporting cast really drops the ball, undermining an otherwise commendable performance.