104th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony

There are many, many different platform gaming mascots out there. We’ve got the famous plumbers and blue hedgehogs, as well as dogs and birds, worms and space babes. In the future we’ll get more strange humans, robots and more mascots from this genre we’ll be discussing. Not just yet, however.

Today, we’re talking about a raccoon, master thief and book collector. Well, just one book, but it’s an important one for him… if he wants to learn new tricks. He’s joined by a pig and turtle in chasing down other criminals who stole part of this book. Why? Well, that’s what one does. In the mean time, he’s chased by a foxy police officer (trust me on this) who wants to arrest him. He is still, after all, a criminal himself.

He has to jump, climb and kill other similar animals as he does so… Does it work, though?

Our Thoughts

So… Whereabouts in the mascot ranking is Sly Cooper for you? I am not sure how ethical it is to have a thief as a major mascot to be perfectly honest. However, since this game’s sales were affected by fellow Playstation mascots Rachet & Clank and Jak and Daxter then I have to rank Sly Cooper on the low side. Also, it does not help that they have only made 3 games in the last 8 years whereas many other franchises would have made 5+. I guess that’s what you get for being the studio that brought out Infamous. A game that oddly enough seemed to have taken a few cues from the Sly Cooper series, in its jumping and swinging around levels.

Sucker Punch Studios have not made many games but in terms of quality output they really should be held in decent artistic regard. Playing Sly Racoon (as it is known in Europe) has really made me miss pure 3D platforming. It has become so incorporated in many recent action games (including the likes of Infamous, Uncharted and Prototype) that trying to make a physical release of a pure platformer is rather a gamble… unless you’re Nintendo whereby you can still find original twists (such as Super Mario Galaxy or Kirby’s Epic Yarn).

It seems like too simple when you consider the additional options gamers expect or seem to expect nowadays. If the genre is anywhere, it seems to have moved to the current generation of handheld with Mario, Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter all having recent examples of this. There is joy in simplicity though.  Absolutely.

True this game is not heavy on the bells and whistles but when it tries something it does it very well. It really is the basic ‘make it through the level and find a few macguffins on the way for 100% completion’, but it works by making that very playable and fun. For a platformer that is knocking on ten years old I am so incredibly impressed about how well the graphics have held up. True I could go on about how fluid and natural the controls are and how games makers should use as an exemplar of how to make a platformer flow as naturally as a symphony (how poetic) but it is the look of the game that is impressive.

We’ve discussed what graphics age better, and the cartoony look of this game work in their advantage, and it especially does so in this game. Yeah, they could have been a bit more polished here and there, but they work very well. True, the HD revamp of the Sly trilogy (with Move integration, ooh er) will look gorgeous but all it will be is a quick go at the graphics with sandpaper. The soundtrack also stands out with the game successfully creating the feel of a children’s show in a film noir setting. The crazy characters so well for this as well to be fair with a clockwork owl and a nerdy tortoise being amongst the game’s menagerie. All this culminates in a game that is equally appealing across all age brackets.

If there’s one bigger criticism I’d have to give, it’s the minigames. Every section has its own minigame with its own separate, non-platform goal, mechanics, rules and controls. While this is an okay idea, you can tell they haven’t focused as much on this as they have on polishing the platforming, and it shows – to your own annoyance. Their controls are awkward and rely more on luck at times than the skill needed to play the game. This was definitely the case with the driving minigame in the second world which got so incredibly irritating since it was so badly controlled. To have a proper driving minigame, you either need to have proper speed differences (in some way) so you can get ahead, even if just for a little while, or have enough room and chances to overtake the opponent, and be overtaken. The minigame offered few speed boosts (and most of them cost you as much time as they need you) and the cars were too big and awkward to control to overtake.

The first, based on diving, was more a personal annoyance, where your direction of move was controlled completely seperate from your direction of shooting, in what didn’t feel intuitive to me at all. Again the whole “I’m a console, you’re a PC” idea reared it’s little inbred tentacle. Or rather, I rarely used a joystick for playing games until about a year ago… which is true. Mouse and WSAD!

Final Thoughts

Good, solid 3D platforming. Good characters – with an actually useful sidekick leading you from mission control, whose snark greatly aids the game. Yeah, the minigames are annoying, but in the end it does all work together.

The remastered version is out now, and having played this, that edition moved onto our wishlist to get at some point. It’s just that good… simply that, nothing more.

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