Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus


Source // Moby Games

Like the master thief that he is, Sly Cooper ghosted past me like he was never there at all. I had only a passing awareness that he had a few games and no real interest in them. When it came to 3D action platformers on the PlayStation 2, two far more notable series got the limelight, those, of course, being Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter.

I was a Ratchet fan, there wasn't room in my mind for anything else in that genre, and it would be more than a decade until I saw what Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was about, thanks to this 1001 list.

Don your cap and equip your cane because we're about to retrieve what's rightfully ours - straight out from underneath the noses of a cast of colourful wrongdoers.

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Fun Times

With some incredibly distracting ghosting artefacts going on via emulation, I had to turn to the PlayStation 3 remaster of Sly Raccoon, which I had picked up from somewhere and had never gotten around to playing. I don't know how much has been remastered, but it does look nice and crisp.

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We're introduced to Sly as he sneaks his way into Le Police to get a case file from the safe of Inspector Carmelita Fox. He has support through his 'binoc-u-com' from Bentley and Murray, a hacker turtle and a hippopotamus described as a burden, two lifelong friends from the orphanage Sly was left in as a child.

His father, a master thief skilled in stealing from criminals, was murdered by the Fiendish Five on the very night he was set to pass down the Thievius Raccoonus to Sly, a book containing all the skills and know-how that the Cooper Clan has developed through their history. The Fiendish Five rip the text into pieces, taking the pages for themselves. Sly wants it back, and this case file will help us track those five criminals down to get our revenge.

It is a simple plot that anyone can understand, and to really hammer it home, that whole backstory was told to us through a cartoon.

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See, there's young Sly, distraught at the events he's witnessed, coming to terms with the life he now has in an orphanage. It's a story for everyone.

I kid, but Sly Cooper looks like a game for everyone. It looks cartoony, sort of cel-shaded (remember when that was a thing all those years ago?), sort of watercoloured. It is very approachable to gamers.

Source // Moby Games
Source // Moby Games
Source // Moby Games


But it might take you a bit of time to get used to the way you approach it. Sly is a wiry chap and has all manner of abilities you would expect to find in a platformer, and some more suited to the theme. He can hug and slide along walls, and shimmy up pipes and dangle from ropes. He's a nimble little raccoon... and he's quite weak.

At its core, Sly Cooper has a one-hit-and-you're-out system. That seems to work for enemies too, but one wrong move and Sly faints, falls over and it's back to the nearest checkpoint you go. If you're learning an enemies attack, so be it. If you've been experimenting with which surfaces are climbable, or have mistimed a jump, you'll have no time to recover and will have to watch yourself die in cartoon fashion before not doing that all over again.

Thorns, water, molten metal - they're all obvious hazards, sure, but they all caught me out. Often.

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You can give yourself a better chance of survival by collecting coins. A hundred of them will provide you with a lucky horseshoe that will allow for an extra hit, and will immediately be cashed in the next time you are hit. Another hundred gets a better horseshoe, I believe, and another hundred after that gets an extra life. Collecting three hundred coins isn't difficult, especially if you swing your cane at anything and everything to see what explodes into coins, but getting that many in one life while navigating levels and avoiding enemies... well, I didn't manage that.

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As well as coins, the levels (which are all found branching off from a hub-world themed after our target) are littered with messages in bottles. Finding all of them in a level - often as many as 30 - will unlock the code to a safe, inside which will be an upgrade to your skills and equipment.

You can now dive into enemies as an attack, or roll around for extra speed, or have your binoculars point out secrets and so on. Annoyingly, I was often able to find, say, 28 out of 30 the first trip through a level. Luckily, they don't reset if you leave and come back later, so hunting them down can be done in your own time - they're often in the open, though, but in tricky to get places.

Many of them are on objects that confuse the collision detection a little bit, so you'll be jumping like a madman hoping to not fall off a pipe, for example, only to jump too much, fall off the pipe, land in molten metal, lose a life and have to restart.

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Further Fun Times

Despite dying, stupidly, a fair amount, I was enjoying Sly Cooper. It is apparently an easy game, and while I was dying left, right, and centre, I could see how people would come to that conclusion. It may be tricky to complete and get everything there is to collect, but you don't have to do it all to see the main story.

Even without extra abilities, Sly is manoeuvrable enough to have a double jump, a sort of ledge grab, the option to swing and dangle and hide. It's fun to pull off some of these moves, especially when you do so without flubbing the first attempt. You'll look really professional if you do everything like your ancestors did.

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Most sections of the game I've seen have been true action platformer stuff, but stealth sections to avoid spotlights and hiding in barrels to soak incoming attacks add to the cartoony theme that you see throughout. If you tiptoe around the level, you can ever hear the music tiptoe along with you.

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At the end of the levels are keys, and keys unlock the next section of a hub world or open up a boss fight. The first is with a frog whose name I forget and is simple enough. You hop around some platforms floating on the water and smack him when he shrinks. Nothing much to it. I can see why people think Sly Cooper is a breeze.

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Final Word

I wasn't sure when I was going to stop playing Sly Cooper, because I was getting a little annoyed at all the silly little deaths. Running out of lives just resets you back to five lives, so it really is a game for anyone to try, and I soon found myself going into levels just to see what they were, and as it turns out, I needed to go into them to unlock the boss anyway.

There was an unexpected twin-stick shooter level where you stop crabs from running off with treasure chests, but aside from that, this first Pirate themed hub-world was an excellent showcase for Sly Cooper, a sneaky platformer dressed up as a stylised cartoon.

I had some issues with the camera, but they boiled down to forgetting it was inverted controls to move it, and that sometimes it would get caught on the scenery. I've not found a section that demanded perfect camera control while navigating deadly obstacles, so hopefully that'll be a non-issue as time goes on.

And I think time will go on. It is, silly deaths aside, an enjoyable little game that tells me I'm already close to a fifth of the way through it, and probably more than a fifth of the way through the main story, seeing as I've dispatched one of the Fiendish Five already. Didn't get the credit for it, though. 'Le Police' got that...

If you missed out on Sly Cooper, it's worth a shot. I don't know if it'll wow you in the same way Jak or Ratchet wowed players, but I like it despite the competition - and they can't do sneaky like Sly can do sneaky, so if you're interested in that aspect of it, all the more reason to check it out.

Don't expect Metal Gear levels of stealth, though. That's definitely not what Sly Cooper offers.

Fun Facts

This is Sucker Punch's second game, and it turns out it is their second game on the 1001 list as well, after Rocket: Robot on Wheels. I never knew.

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, developed by Sucker Punch Productions, first released in 2002.
Version played: Sly Raccoon, PlayStation 3, 2010.