Gamescom 2012: Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Preview – Stealing Time
Written Tuesday, August 28, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
It's been seven long years since the last fully-fledged Sly Cooper, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves hit PlayStation 2, and while The Sly Collection offered a stop-gap dose of the thieving raccoon, early next year finally sees the launch of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time or Sly 4, if you prefer. Annoyingly, the game is actually pretty much complete, but Sony has decided that it's a good idea to hold the game back until March of next year, to give it more of a fighting chance at retail. “It's not a development delay at all,” the folks at developer Sanzaru Games assure us.
Having ported The Sly Collection to PS3, Sanzaru is no stranger to the pilfering procyonid and for Sly 4, the team is bringing Cooper's ancestors to the fore, as the story picks up where Sly 3 left off and takes Sly and his buddies on a journey through time. The clue's in the title. For our Gamescom presentation, we're shown a section from Salim al Kupar's Arabian level, where Bentley finds himself offering advice and helpful hints as usual, while the rest of the crew (Murray, Carmelita and co.) join him to put right stuff that's gone wrong in the past, or something. It's like Sly does Quantum Leap. Kinda. Other ancestors in the game include feudal Japanese ninja Riochi Cooper and dashing English Medieval knight, Sir Galleth of the Knights Cooper Order, and each has their own unique abilities.
Salim is able to not only climb ropes and poles faster than Sly, but he also has his very own magic carpet that he can use to fly around a bit. He even has a funky whirlwind attack, which proves indispensable for killing sewer-dwelling scorpions and any other antagonistic fauna and bad guys. He also has the classic Cooper family hooked cane, used for swinging from pole to pole and for yanking or snagging certain objects. In this Arabian stage, we see Salim breaking out his acrobatic skills for some vertical traversal, but not before crawling into the sewers and dealing with some scorpion nests.
Plagued with the stinging little bleeders, Salim needs to swipe his way through the nests to prevent them from continuously spawning. You can keep tabs on enemy positions using the radar on your HUD, which comes in useful when fighting multiple enemies like this or engaging in stealthy evasion. Scorpions duly dispatched, Salim crawls on his belly through another gap in the sewer wall (the view still switches to first-person while crawling) and finds himself in an opulent Arabian tower, where the vertical platform jumping challenge commences. Climbing some charmed snakes rising from their Ali Baba-style wicker baskets, the first of many smart film nods crops up, as Salim exclaims, “snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?!” Ah, the obligatory Indiana Jones reference always goes down well, and the assembled press enjoy a chuckle, as you'd expect. There'll no doubt be plenty of these one-liners in Thieves of Time, which is a good thing.
As Salim ascends the tower, he can look down and see just how far he's come, and it's a long, long, long way down. There's huge moving gears and cogs to navigate your way through, as well as the intricately designed platforms, and there's even a bit of stealthy evasion (as mentioned earlier) required too. Presented with a room full of gorillas looking out for intruders with big spotlight lanterns, there's a great deal of patience required to successfully bypass the simian guards, like any stealthy section. Clocking the timing of the spotlights, Salim is able to swiftly dash past the big apes, and continue his climb, picking up a few coins along the way. Coins can be used in Sly 4 to purchase new abilities for Sly, Salim and the other ancestors, so it's worth hoarding away your booty.
Bounding between falling platforms suspended by rusty, disintegrating chains, Salim completes the final part of his climb, and we're then shown a smart little hacking mini-game. Gameplay variety is something Sanzaru is keen on emphasising for Thieves in Time, and the Spark Runner hacking mini-game is just one small part of that. A ball rolling maze puzzle that uses the Sixaxis controller's motion sensing capabilities (remember those?), Spark Runner offers up a challenging little distraction from all the platform jumping, stealth and bad guy whacking action, and there'll be more where that came from in the full game too.
To wrap up the demo, Sanzaru shows us some of Sly 4's PS Vita cross compatibility, which also includes some neat little features that tie-in with the PlayStation 3 version of the game. For instance, you're able to use your PS Vita's camera to snap photographs of valuable tapestries, mosaics and other artistic works directly from your TV screen that can then be sold in-game for coins. The same coins you can use to buy upgrades and new abilities. You can also use the Vita as an X-ray device for revealing hidden collectibles. It's all very clever stuff, and if you buy the PS3 version, you'll get the PS Vita version of Sly 4 free, as part of Sony's 'Buy One Get One' scheme. Sweet.
Sanzaru really knows what it's doing with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, with some well thought out Vita integration, interesting hub worlds to explore and a cast of raccoon ancestors that each play differently, injecting the gameplay variety that the developer has been touting for the game. Fans will dig the art style, which sticks to the tried and tested Sly formula, while newcomers to the series can simply enjoy the game as a great platformer that promises between 15-20 hours of gameplay (that's Sanzaru's own estimated run time). All in all, Sly 4 is looking mighty fine, and it's not out for a good few months yet. Here's hoping it finds the audience it deserves and steals some cash at retail next spring.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will be launching in March 2013.