Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sly Raccoon and the Thievius Raccoonius - HD Update [PS3] [QUICK&SHORT]


The original PS2 box art.
So What's The Story Then?
This is the first title of the Sly Cooper trilogy, which were released on the Playstation 2 between 2002 and 2005, and chart the antics of a master thief raccoon - Sly Cooper - and his gang of helpful animal friends. 


This review concerns the high-definition remaster of the first instalment, Sly Raccoon and the Thievius Raccoonius. Originally released by developers Sucker Punch and updated by Sanzaru Games in 2011. In this game, Sly is searching for the stolen pages of a family heirloom - the Thievius Raccoonius - an ancient manuscript which generations of Cooper thieves have added the knowledge of their special sneaky powers and secrets. These pages have been stolen by a gang of criminal masterminds and taken away to opposite ends of the Earth - so Sly must break into each of their headquarters in turn to steal back what is rightfully his! At all times he must be wary of the long arm of the law, always trying to chase Sly down, the form of the foxy Inspector Carmelita!


This is Sly swinging into action with the foxy Inspector Carmelita on his arm.... phwoar!


So Is It Any Good?
+++ Cartoon Colourful +++ 
Graphically great, excellent use of colour and with a really vibrant, cartoon style.... but that was all from the original version. This new HD update offers a higher resolution and some very minor graphical refinement - it's pretty much the same graphics but adapted for bigger TVs.



Sly's special moves - dive bombing, quick rolling, rail grinding - are all great fun and get unlocked as you carry out robberies. Special mention goes to slow motion - this really brings out the best in the updated HD graphics - allowing you to let things smash up as you jump away and watch the action unfold at a quarter speed.


The sections where Inspector Carmelita tries to shoot you with her laser gun are particularly fun - you have to race across the level while she blows up the structures you are standing on - and when combined with the slow motion these sections look and play incredibly. 


The variety in traps and special moves is complemented by the an nice bunch of scenarios and villains - such as a Haitian swamp with a voodoo crocodile, and a Chinese palace complete with a firework-flinging panda. They're well characterised, fun to beat, and perfectly matched to the cartoon tone of the game.



+++ Glorious Platforming +++

This is a 3D platformer from the glory days when platformers rule the gaming charts. You can tell that a lot of effort was put into the design of the characters, gameplay and environments - but that was just the way we used to make games (ah, nostalgia trip...)


Early levels are nicely paced and allow you to get used to Sly's skills and try out a few robberies. Later levels are a web of platforms to cross, enemies to fend off, and traps to avoid - and if you fail at the end of the level you can find yourself having to trek a loooooong way back to continue. 


This is because the health system is archaic and punishing. By collecting a hundred coins, which are produced by smashing background objects to bits, you earn a shield to protect you from one hit of damage. Once that is gone, or if you still haven't collected all one hundred coins, then a single hit of damage and you're dead. You have to go back to the start of the level and try again.


That's not a bad thing, it means that you have to take care and not just run recklessly through the levels. It builds a sense of danger - the traps and enemies are all threatening because they can easily lead to a "Game Over".



Then we get to the bosses - they always have a sneaky change or a last-minute trick to catch you off guard - and then you have to start the whole boss fight again. No handy mid-fight checkpoints or autosaving in Sly's boss stages - you have to get from start to finish without taking any damage. Boss fights are three-tiered: the first stage is basic and you learn what the boss's moves are, the second mixes it up a bit and makes you do something slightly different, and the third stage normally has the boss do some sneaky attack (like a frog who bounces around all battle until at the last minute he starts viciously whipping his tongue around).


Again, even though they are quite challenging this is not a criticism - it makes you adapt and learn how to beat each of them - and you become a better master thief as a result.

You are aided on your quest by a tech genius tortoise and a hippo.... who drives the van.


--- Minor Sound and Control Issues ---
Some of the sounds can be distinctly "low-fi" - most of the music sounds great but certain effects can sound very tinny and unpleasant (especially when played over the music). This doesn't happen too often, but it would surely have been part of the HD update to remaster the sound as well so that it works on bigger stereo systems.

Again, a very minor gripe, but Sly can sometimes ignore commands because he is millimetres out alignment with the object you want to interact with. Rails, ledges and wires are the big culprits - leading to a lot of deaths on-screen and a lot of blood boiling in my veins.


With a game that demands you to make as few mistakes as possible, when you input perfectly correct button presses and still end up watching a raccoon plummeting to his death - you feel a little cheated.


The same goes for the two driving sections - your hippo friend takes over and you have to complete a three-lap race. The controls are so pants that these sections get really annoying - particularly when you have to try them a couple of times. Luckily you'll only be spending about fifteen minutes of your total play time in the driving sections.

Conclusions

This is a welcome blast-from-the-past - and surely a welcome addition to anyone's platformer collection. If you missed Sly's adventures the first time around then I strongly recommend you give this a go now.

Although this is a kids game, it still has enough character and depth to keep adults entertained until the end. The colourful graphics aren't quite High-Definition quality, but are functional and bright enough to make the game both fun and enjoyable.

Perhaps with a bit more time and care taken over the update to the graphics, sounds and controls then this would be a stand-out title. As it is, this is an excellent reminder of one of the PS2's treasures.

Feel free to post comments or contributions to improve the experience!
Any images in this review are subject to relevant copyrights and are kindly provided by:
http://www.suckerpunch.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=57&Itemid=107
http://www.sanzaru.com/wp/games/the-sly-collection/

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