Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Review by Skinny Minnie
February 2003

Holy Masked Mammals, Batman! There's a New Hero in Town!

He's stubbornly nocturnal and he's lost his family's journal.
The Fiendish Five have taken it but Sly has not forsaken it ...

(Aw, sorry, I couldn't help it. Don't worry; I won't give up my day job.)

Ahem. Meet Sly Cooper, a cane-toting, cel-shaded raccoon of larcenous descent who was victimized by a nasty gang at the tender age of 8. The Fiendish Five broke into his home, overcame his father and stole the family bible called the Thievius Raccoonus. This book contained generations of Cooper lore documenting the fine art of stealing (from the unjust only, of course). To make matters worse, each gang member got greedy, ripping out pages of the Thievius Raccoonus and locking them away. As Sly grew up, he and two of his pals built a secret hideout and from it plotted to retrieve the Thievius in its entirety, researching the backgrounds and current locations of all gang members. Finally, the day came for action ...

Golden cane in hand, you as Sly will climb, grab, swing, swat and sneak your way around many whimsical, colorfully rendered lands. You will prowl a bluish seaside town by night, climb the highest heights of a pink and teal Vegas-style casino locale, and stomp through a swamp with tree monsters. There are mini arcade levels full of fun races and spunky shootouts in every land, which seem to come along just in time to provide the right amount of variation. You will have to light up 25 tiki torches in a swamp using a swamp skiff and later cover your pal Murray as he makes a mad dash for a key by shooting enemies from afar as they try to stop him. In another area, you must stop crabs from making off with 40 treasure chests, and in yet another you must race a gang around a track in a kooky race car.

A Devious Thievius

The general emphasis in the lands is really on stealth over attacking. Fiendish Five underlings across the globe swing yellow-beamed flashlights and plod below golden spotlights, but as long as Sly can creep, leap or climb around them, all stays quiet. Should he be caught under a light, they will all go to red and kill Sly should he encounter any one of them again. Baddies will also come running as horns blare as well, but Sly can disable the horns with a swat of his cane and fell baddies with another stroke, rendering his surroundings quiet once more.

Sly's general goals in every level (besides the usual platform coin-collecting to build up extra lives) are to collect enough keys to enter an area's final boss level and to gather all the clue bottles per level to help find lost pages of the Thievius Raccoonus. One key is awarded for each victorious arcade sequence and each regular level's completion. The collecting of Thievius Raccoonus pages actually awards Sly additional fancy moves, which, like the rest of the game, are easy to control with simple game pad buttons. Sly can make it through the game without them, but they add variation. Sly is also awarded fancy jump-and-land or water-rescue maneuvers by defeating bosses.

The Cost to Be the Boss

Yes, every land (usually made up of nine levels) harbors one boss, and as Sly and his pals (Murray the getaway driver and Bentley the mechanical genius) leave one land for another, narrated life stories of each of the Fiendish Five flash across the screen in their comical glory. The arcade-style boss confrontations are as humorous as they are tricky. You jump across moving platforms to avoid giant frog Sir Raleigh's whipping tongue and later leap in time with jungle voodoo priestess Ms. Ruby's beat ... or else! Even if you fail to defeat any boss the first time, though, this game is very forgiving. It merely asks if you would like to try the boss battle again instead of dumping you back at the start of a level.

If You Only Knew How Long it Took Me to Realize That the Save Kitties Were Really Raccoons ...

There are also glowing blue raccoons that serve as midlevel checkpoints. You can fall back on these should Sly die before a level's end, at least until he runs out of lives altogether. Sly starts every level with five lives (not counting the additional ones gained by coin collecting), and he can also find lucky horseshoes floating about which save him from losing a life in otherwise-deadly instances.

"How many ways can Sly die?" you cry. Basically, if he falls into water, is zapped by a red light, or is attacked by an enemy, he immediately loses a life. There are lots of laser-rigged floors and platforms as well, with moving beams that require vertical and horizontal timing to cross.

Moves and Grooves

However, much of this game is also spent breaking open surrounding objects for extra coins, scaling poles, ships' masts and gates, running atop spinning wheels to trigger doors and moving platforms, and leaping across fancy steps and islands. Sly also has a way cool cane trick: he can leap up toward metal hooks, grab them with his cane, and swing toward other hooks to repeat the process or land at the end of a run. And as far as falling goes, outside of hitting the water or landing in flames, Sly can't get hurt. He also has integral moves like a wall-hug that allow him to creep past enemies or across the edges of electrifying or watery areas. Sly's physical moves are truly raccoon-like too; his darting, jerking and tail bobbing an amazing and realistic sight. Sucker Punch put a lot of effort into Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, and it shows!

Sly must break open slot machines and poker tables in the casino areas and leap across colorful, electrically rigged, spinning roulette wheels. He must dodge fiery pipes, and he even gets shot out of a cannon at one point as well! There is also a police officer named Carmelita Fox who chases Sly, being aware of his thieving roots. In one rooftop chase she guns for him with her shock pistol, although her shots travel slowly enough that escaping with most of the clue bottles isn't too difficult. Carmelita never quite seems to catch our hero, but that doesn't stop her from taking public credit for the defeated bosses he leaves behind!

This is an entertaining romp with just enough variation, humor and story to hold your attention right to the end. Although having its moments of repetitive frustration and difficulty, overall it is not nearly as head-bashing a gaming time as Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. Furthermore, the voiceover work is fabulous and funny, the visuals are becoming and unique, and the bonding of the three friends as the story progresses is an added treat. I wavered between a thumb up and a gold star only because of the high volume of jumping and coin-collecting in this game—I am settling on the star because of Thievius Raccoonus's creative locales, humor, personality and cool moves. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: September 2002

Available for: PlayStation 2

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Where to Find It

Chips & Bits 42.95

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