The Sly Trilogy Review

Mark Botwright

Moderator & Reviewer
Reviewed by Emmanuel Brown



Format – PlayStation 3
Developer – Sucker Punch Productions/Sanzaru Games
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Certificate – 7 (PEGI)
Release date – 3/12/2010


Synopsis

Many people will know developer Sucker Punch solely through the excellent Infamous, but too few remember the series that developed their platforming lineage - Sly Cooper. Once destined to be a prominent mascot of the PS2 era alongside Jak & Daxer or Rachet & Clank, Sly flew undeservedly under the radar of the dualshock-wielding masses, and yet retained a glowing critical reception with every iteration. They were titles that were never content to rest on their laurels, and by the third instalment Sucker Punch had moulded their engine into some of the finest gaming on the previous generation.

The Sly series is primarily platform-action based, with a heavy dose of stealth added into the dark and comic mix. Sly himself is a raccoon and wise-cracking master thief, aided by two anthropomorphic sidekicks in Bentley and Murray. Throughout each game he runs into trouble with the flirtatious Carmelita Fox and various entertainingly-designed boss characters across colourful and stylish environments, all the while adhering to the skills laid down in the ‘Thevious Raccoonus’ - a bible of pilfering techniques passed from one generation to the next.

Released here in glorious HD and with the benefit of being on one disc, The Sly Trilogy is a chance to revisit or discover all three of the games in a format designed to bring out the brilliance of those cartoon visuals.



Presentation

True to Sony’s efforts thus far, the upscaling and remastering process is handled extremely well here, with Sly’s heavy cartoon outlines and bold colour palette standing the test of time without any of the blurry texturing or muddy visuals that occasionally hampered the conversions of Prince of Persia or God of War. A good frame rate is sustained throughout each of the games, and although there is a small increase in visual fidelity between the original and each of its sequels, all three look as good as your memory allowed you to imagine them to be. Animation is fluid and graceful, and the camera sits on the cusp of an era when developers mastered the dark art of framing the action with minimal fuss.

On the whole there are only a few small niggles to pick apart with the package then. The audio - as so often is the case with older games - simply doesn’t hold up to the standards introduced with the visual overhaul. The musical accompaniment is fantastic in setting a noir-detective style atmosphere, but vocal work and sound effects are noticeably low quality in comparison. It’s difficult to know how to get around this without re-recording every line of dialogue and all the accompanying effects, but it’s worth mentioning for any audiophiles thinking about picking up any of these HD remixes.

Another slight bugbear is the menu system, which is straightforward enough but lacks inspiration and suffers from a rather jarring PlayStation Move implementation. Switching between games is easy enough with the controller, but the Move menu is separated out entirely and controlled only by your flashing wand, leaving the impression that the motion-control components were shoehorned in at the very last second to tick another marketing box.



Game Mechanics

Whilst we’re on that subject, The Sly Trilogy features possibly the most tenuous Move compatibility yet seen. None of the original games are playable with Sony’s new interface, but there are four mini-games thrown in here to satiate those of you yearning for another throwaway bit of waggling. Whilst none of them are particularly bad, they really needn’t have been included for the 20 minutes it’ll take to play through them all, and it’s sad to see the title being marketed as ‘Move compatible’ for what amounts to the tiniest sliver of gameplay in a completely separate menu.

Those concerns aside however, the main attractions are refreshingly brilliant to play even in 2010. Sly controls with a simplistic grace, navigating the brilliantly-designed and occasionally challenging environments in a manner that would be the envy of many modern-day platformers. It’s difficult to nail exactly what Sucker Punch got right with the control scheme here, but the rhythm of jumping, melee combat, stealth and action sequences feels intuitive and solid, whilst every death is marked by a failure in the player rather than the underlying mechanics.

In terms of progression between the titles, Sly 2 is probably the largest leap in quality, with combat coming under a fresh focus and steering away from the one-hit kills of the original. It’s no God of War of course, but adding a layer of complexity into the attacks works supremely well, with Sly 3 honing that formula to a supreme shine. Stealth and puzzle elements are light and well-judged throughout, largely avoiding the restart frustration of other titles and frequently offering an alternative solution when things go wrong.



Longevity

Leaving the undercooked Move diversions aside, there’s a hell of a lot of game here for your money. The Sly Collection can already be picked up for around £25, and for that you get three full-length action titles that’ll take anywhere from 6-8 hours each to complete - depending on how many of the collectibles and unlockables you want to go after. There is a somewhat disappointing lack of additional material to unlock and the bare minimum of presentational fuss, but when the core games are this good that’s easy enough to forgive.

Final Thoughts

The Sly Collection is a fantastic reintroduction of a much-overlooked character that bodes well for the (hopefully) upcoming Sly 4. The noir atmosphere and comic-book style holds up as well today as it did on the PS2, and the HD remixing and remastering process stands the series in good stead for a new generation of hardware. It looks fantastic and all three games play wonderfully well, displaying a fundamental understanding of core concepts that all action games should adhere to.

If you’ve never tried the wily charms of Sly Cooper then there’s no better education, and if you jumped in first time round, The Sly Trilogy will be a trip down memory lane that for once lives up to the images you have in your head. Even better than that, it may actually surpass them - and that’s not praise that’s easy to come by in an era when cheap and easy remakes are becoming the norm.


Under cover of darkness
- An excellent trilogy of games
- Huge amounts of value
- Technically excellent


In the spotlight
- Shoddy move compatibility
- Could do with a better interface
 

Stephen Carter

AVF Games Reviewer
Nice review mate, im hoping santa will be kind enough to drop this off for me on Saturday :)
 
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