Forget about devious, thieving racoons. Sony’s decision to do away with PS2 compatibility on PS3 was arguably the most cunning and, dare I say it, sly moves of this generation - forcing gamers to purchase HD versions of their favourite PS2 titles. Still, given the inherent quality of the God of War Collection, there’s no denying that Sony knows how to knock together a stellar last-gen compilation disc. And when the games in question are as witty, charming and downright playable as those featured on The Sly Trilogy, you can almost forgive them.
Sly Cooper reeks of ‘comic book cool’, and whilst his daring escapades haven’t always sold by the bucket-load, it’s safe to say that they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder next to the best of Ratchet and Clank’s adventures. A combo pack featuring all three Sly platformers, The Sly Trilogy offers more value for money than any other game released this year. So the ability to play them all in stunning 720p - with vivid colours, improved character models and a silky-smooth framerate throughout means that there’s never been a better time to see what all the fuss was about.
What’s particularly noteworthy about Sly, however, is how well the game holds up to modern tastes. HD visuals aside, Sucker Punch’s ability to merge stealth, comedy and platforming into one accessible package means that each game in the trilogy still feels remarkably fresh and original. Sly himself is an absolute dream to control, and shares the majority of his moves (shimmying across pipes, climbing up drainpipes and sneaking past unsuspecting heavies) across all three games.
In the first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, Sly is tasked with tracking down the hidden pages of the titular family heirloom - a book recording the journeys and skills of all the ancestors of the Cooper line. However, in true platform-game style, the pages have been scattered across the land, and - that’s right - it’s up to the ring-tailed miscreant to retrieve them.
The game itself is played from a central hub of operations, with doors leading to individual platforming levels. Brilliantly, each world is styled to appear like an episode of a bygone cartoon series, adding comic relief to what is otherwise a particularly challenging platformer. In each episode, Sly must collect the designated number of keys in order to progress to the next world. The level of variety between levels, though, is astounding. While most pertain to stealth-oriented platforming, others levels mix things up a bit with races, twin-stick shooters and sniping sections.
Once you’ve collected all the keys in each area, you’re treated to an inevitable – and frequently challenging – boss battle. If there’s a complaint to be levelled at the first Sly title, though, it’s that combat is often a frustrating affair. Getting close enough to send enemies packing can be difficult while balancing on precarious platforms, and the game’s fondness for one-hit-kills doesn’t make things any easier. Still, the game’s underlying difficulty level isn’t without its retro-appeal, and the game is certainly entertaining enough that you’ll want to continue.
Sly 2 ups the ante by offering you control of Sly’s eclectic pals, and forming challenges around expansive environments. This superior sequel remedies many of the problems found in the first game, with a more forgiving health-bar, improved combat mechanics (including a handy stealth-attack) and a greater emphasis on sneaking past enemies, as opposed to defeating them. The introduction of expansive cityscapes also allows the gameplay to tie in with the narrative arc of the game, with missions that revolve around infiltrating buildings, damaging security equipment and snagging that all-important loot.
Developer Sucker Punch had clearly hit the height of the powers by the time Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves debuted in 2005, and while it doesn’t really add much to the existing formula, it cemented Sly Cooper into the minds and hearts of all those who experienced it. As well as featuring some of the greatest bosses in the history of action-platformers, this stunning threequel rounded off the series in fantastic form - with a fitting ending that doesn’t leave things wide open for a sequel.
Elsewhere in the package, there’s support for PlayStaion Move in the form of bonus mini-games. Unfortunately, these never equate to anything more than 15 minutes of fun, and once you’ve milked them of their respective Trophies, it’s safe to say you’ll never play them again. Sanzaru Games, the team responsible for porting Sly to PS3, has also seen fit to include 3D support across all three Sly games, which is sure to appease early adopters of expensive 3D.
As fun as these new features are, however, there’s no denying that the Sanzaru’s greatest achievement was in squeezing 720p versions of all three Sly Cooper games onto one absolutely-packed BluRay. The Sly Trilogy marks developer Sucker Punch at its hilarious best, and even if you’ve only a modicum of interest in platforming games, there’s no getting around the fact that this is a must-buy.