fairly new "Stealth Game" genre wrapped neatly in a straightforward
It worked. Critics praised, children clamored, cash registers rang,
and bank accounts began to fill up. Cue the Sequels, and (as it's
turned out) the Sequels to the Sequels.
Yet Sly, the favorite of many out of the original trilogy, was oddly
late to the party. While Insomniac and Naughty Dog were able to
churn out significantly upgraded versions of their original games
quite rapidly, Sly Cooper stayed on hiatus for two years while developer
Sucker Punch poked and prodded, reworking the original game's concepts
into what was intended to be an expanded, invigorating visit back
to Sly's world.
And now that I've got it and have played through it, I can say that
they've succeeded for the most part, but there's a few snags attached.
Of the three franchises, only Sly's seems to have had no foreward
momentum in the move to a sequel. In fact, it may have taken a slight
The premise is intriguing enough. Sly returns from the first game
after having defeated the immortal cyborg Clockwerk, leader of the
Fiendish Five, at the original game's finale. This time, a band
of international criminals known as the Klaww have stolen the first
piece of Clockwerk (which, for reasons unexplained, Sly himself
had just set out to do on his own) and are slowly making their way
across the world to acquire the remaining parts.
The cast from the first game is fully intact. Carmelita Fox is back
as the embodiment of the long arm of the law. Murray and Bentley,
Sly's accomplices in well-intentioned crime, graduate from minigames
to the real thing in this installment. This chapter also introduces
the mysterious Constable Neyla, as well as the four new villains:
Dimitri, Jean-Bison, Rajan, and Arpeggio.
It's pretty standard stuff, and it functions fine. There are no
Jak II-style trips to the dark side here, though the series
is a tad less cartoony than it was before, which will probably work
better for most people.
There are a few core changes to gameplay. Now, Sly can take more
than one hit per level, though this is offset by the radically more
difficult enemies. Also, he seems to have forgotten all the moves
he learned over the course of the first game. Call it "Metroid Syndrome".
It's an excuse to have you re-learn all the (same) moves over again,
though this time you'll have two other characters to beef up as
the game progresses. Just bear in mind, a few of Sly's original
moves are missing in action this time around. Most notably, there's
no power roll, which is a crime. There is also one puzzling instance
where Sly earns an extremely fun power-jump skill towards the finale
of the game, only to have it mysteriously vanish at the end of the
mission with no explanation. My guess is that the ability could
be used to either break the few remaining missions or somehow get
out of the game's boundaries, so it was limited, but there are better,
less obvious ways to go about that.
The game's stages have been expanded from linear affair into eight
central hubs from which individual missions are accepted. This is
a common design choice nowadays; you can take the obvious Grand
Theft Auto influence or leave it, but it doesn't hinder the
game at all, though somewhat ironically it does make it more linear.
In Sly 1, stages could be re-visited at will to hunt for
better items or simply for fun, but because of the way the missions
are staggered here, once they're finished, they only way to play
them again is to replay the entire game. Not exactly a huge issue
in the long run, but it's a weird omission nonetheless.
The missions themselves are kind of a mixed bag at times. The idea
is that Murray is the brawler, Bentley is the tech-head, and Sly
is the stealthy one. Thing is, I hated playing as Murray. He's nowhere
near as agile as Sly, or even Bentley (who, it should be noted,
is a turtle -- not exactly nature's stealth powerhouse). While the
ability to fight off enemies is nice, Murray still get shoehorned
into many of the same situations that Sly and Bentley wind up in,
but he isn't particularly well suited to them. For example, in the
Prague stage, Murray is assigned to break some alarms by picking
up various objects and hurling them at the alarm boxes, at which
point some weasel enemies pop up for you to take out with a few
punches. That's fine, but try to have Murray pick a fight with the
far more deadly, gun-toting police enemies that patrol elsewhere
in the level, and he's in for a pounding. You're supposed to be
dodging these guys, but trying to steer a clumsy pink hippo through
the streets of Prague in a stealthy manner doesn't always work and
can get frustrating.
Those instances are relatively minor, though. For the most part,
the multi-character dynamic works fine Sly is the one who is sent
in for the genuine stealth missions where avoiding combat is key,
and uses his abilities to slip along wires and pickpocket keys from
enemy guards to infiltrate where the other two characters cannot
go. Bentley's missions were a personal favorite of mine, usually
involving using his tranquilizer bolts to knock out enemy guards
before cracking a safe or blowing the place up.
In Sly's missions in particular, there's a nice sense of freedom
that still maintains focus. One of the better examples is when Sly
must tail Dimitri the chain-smoking lounge lizard to his hideout
and learn the combination for the door. You can run along the ground
and literally follow him if you like, or you can take to the rooftops.
He's much harder to see there, but conversely you're much less likely
to be spotted by him, or anyone else looking for you. Barring that,
you can just guess where he's going (not hard to do) and beat him
there -- just don't let him spot you camping his destination.
Vets of the first game will likely feel right at home once they
adjust to the more expansive nature of the levels, though the boss
fights may throw them for a bit of a loop this time around; they're
actually fights, and not puzzles as they were before. Personally,
I think it's an improvement, but tastes may vary.
This game is no walk in the park, by the way. While you can't really
call it "difficult", for a game pretty clearly aimed at kids, there's
still a meaty challenge to be had here. Kudos to Sucker Punch for
knowing that most kids are actually a lot better at games than you
might think (as anyone who's been smacked around by a 13-year-old
in Halo 2 multiplayer can attest). Parents, however, might
want to reconsider buying this for the extremely young, as some
basic mastery of the controls is required to get through even the
On the graphics front, nobody is going to be able to fault Sly
2 for a single thing. Character design is fantastic, and the
game's cell-shaded visuals and literal cartoon cut scenes are near-perfect.
Other designers looking to go the cell-shaded route should require
their graphics staff to play through this game to see how to get
it right. Notably, the game continues the weird ability for Western
developers to push the PS2 seemingly much farther than most Japanese
companies do. While the game isn't Metal Gear 3 or Silent
Hill 3 jaw-dropping in terms of visuals, the framerate is solid
like a rock throughout, and the animations are nuanced and detailed
on a level that most games never seem to achieve.
On the audio front, things are similarly solid, if a little less
memorable. I honestly don't remember much about the game's music
save for some vaguely ratpack-inspired tunes over the game's into
movie. The one snag in the audio, however, is also going to be the
first thing many people notice about the game: Carmelita's voice
actress, Alesia Glidewell, is pretty lackluster. While the actress
herself (who also voices Neyla) has a sound that fits, her flat,
almost emotionless delivery of Carm's lines clashes horribly with
the over-the-top quips from the rest of the cast. Everyone else
sounds like they're in a cartoon, whereas she sounds like she's
reading from an episode of "E.R." It improves a bit towards the
end of the game, but it left me wondering if anyone ever told Ms.
Glidewell she was voicing a cartoon character.
As for problems with the rest of the game, there's nothing truly
wrong here, but there are some things that wound have benefited
greatly from some extra time on the drawing board. Primarily, the
game gives very little reason to ever track down and acquire more
than a few of the special moves. My first playthrough of the game,
I don't think I ever switched anyone's abilities from the default
ones given to you at the start. Only three can be active per character
at a time, and since you're already given essentially the most useful
ones on the game, there's just no incentive to experiment.
This doesn't hinder the game itself, but it does take the replayability
to zero. Once you've finished the game, which can be done in a weekend,
there's absolutely no reason to play through it again until enough
time has passed that you've forgotten what the game was like. There's
next to no hidden content in the game, and a replay is identical
to the first time through. Furthermore, while it's a solid platformer,
there's a distinct lack of "Oh wow!" moments or anything you really,
really want to play through again. Level design in the game is perfectly
functional but a bit uninspired, meaning you pretty much never notice
it. In the end, that means the game is going to wind up as a shelf
ornament once you complete it. Or, more likely, it's going to wind
up as in-store credit towards a game with some more staying power.
Sly 2 is essentially the perfect rental game. It's a fast, funny, no-commitment thrill that you'll enjoy while you're playing and will quickly forget when it's all over. Fans of the first game might be a little disappointed that, in a rush to add new features, some of the charm of the original game took a hit. Had the game just been spit-polished a bit more, it could be sitting high with the ambitious sequels of it's brother games, Rachet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal and Jak III, but as it stands, the series still needs a bit of work before it gets to that level. If the mechanics are fine-tuned and Sucker Punch manages to make the variations as compelling as the default gameplay with Sly 3, we'll have a real classic on our hands. Here's hoping.