Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Review by Skinny Minnie
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
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
gameI am settling on the star because of Thievius Raccoonus's
creative locales, humor, personality and cool moves.
Release Date: September 2002
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