Video games, as we all know, have been growing up. Sony initially created series like "Jak and Daxter" and "Ratchet and Clank" to compete with Nintendo’s Mario games in the arena of platforming games. Both Sony series have gotten progressively darker, so it’s almost a charming relief that Sony’s third platformer, Sly Cooper, sticks to its cartoonish routes. Each stage is introduced with retro title splashes starring "Sly Cooper and The Gang", which feel heavily reminiscent of old Warner Bros. cartoons. The cel-shaded graphics and anthomorphic animal cast are a long way from Jak’s post apocalyptic wasteland or Ratchet’s arsenal of guns.
The Sly Cooper series emphasizes platforming and stealth over pure action, and has always done a fairly good job of this. Developer Sucker Punch somehow came to the conclusion that the series needed to branch out a bit. The second game, "Band of Thieves", allows you to play as the brainy turtle Bentley and brawny hippo Murray, offering some slight alternatives to Sly’s sneaky run n’ jump marathons. "Honor Among Thieves", the third game in the Sly series, takes this idea even further. Bentley now rides a wheelchair, which houses even more goofy gadgets, and Murray can turn into a ball to bounce around the landscapes.
Sly 3 also introduces several new characters that are playable throughout the game: amongst them are the Guru, a tiny koala bear that can ride on top of bad guys; Penelope, a female mouse who’s skilled with remote control vehicles; and series antagonist Carmelita, the foxy police officer who shows up a few action-based shooting segments. Plenty of characters return from previous Sly games, so fans will definitely be happy to see some returning faces. There are also tons of other mini-games segments – dogfights, boat races, crane games, and (oddly enough) opera singing contests, amongst others.
Honor Among Thieves does vaguely suffer from the "Sonic Adventure" syndrome – that is, the alternate characters aren’t quite as fun as Sly. Murray’s deal is that he’s big and can punch stuff, and therefore doesn’t need to sneak around. Unfortunately, the bulky controls for this huge hippo, combined with the game’s camera makes this less than ideal. Bentley doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of interesting gameplay, except for some of the noted mini-games and puzzle segments. None of the characters control as smoothly as Sly, and none of them can perform the tight acrobatics that makes scampering through each of the games cities so fun.
All of these new characters are introduced to further the game’s story. Sly has discovered that the secret heirlooms from his family are stored away in a hidden vault, under the control of Dr. M, a maniacal mandrill. The island is so heavily fortified that not even Sly’s crack team can make it through security. Only by scouring the globe can they recruit the team members necessary to pull of this heist. The game begins with Sly’s plan going to hell, and the story is primarily told through one gigantic flashback. The adventure takes the gang all around the globe, with each country featuring one big city and several minor missions to pull off.
Honor Among Thieves is incredibly amusing due to the ridiculous scale of Bentley’s plans. Almost everyone participates in these overly complicated schemes, but watching all of the goofiness come together is part of the game’s fun. While some of the writing and characters seems to be aiming for a young audience, there are still a number of hilarious bits – like watching a nerdy, wheelchair-bound turtle, in all earnestness, challenging a brute three times his size to a fist fight by insulting his mother. There are plenty of other clever segments like this, including a (probably unintentional) parody of Shadow of the Colossus. The manual includes a pair of 3D glasses, but in the segments that take advantage of them, they don’t really use them to great effect, and the 3D can be turned off anyway.
While Sly 3 isn’t particularly long or hard, there are plenty of challenges before you reach 100% completion. There are also three two-player modes. The first is a split screen variation of the dogfight segment, where you players can get together to shoot the hell out of each other. The second is a cooperative version of the Robotron-esque hacking minigame, where you control tanks with dual analog firing power. The third is a cops and robbers game where one player controls Sly as he hunts through Venice for various loot, while the other player attempts to blast him to bits as Carmelita. It adds a bit more value to the core game, but with only one level in each mode, it definitely feels like an afterthought.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
Sly 3 is completely in English and is on store shelves in North America now.
+ Pros: Solid graphics engine, great platforming action, amusing characters
– Cons: Too many characters leads to unfocused and unpolished gameplay
Overall: Even though some areas are less polished than others, Honor Among Thieves is still an extremely enjoyable game, with colorful characters and enough scenarios that the game never gets stale.
Written by Kurt Kalata.
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