By Shaan Khan (16/09/21)
Courtesy of Videogmz on YouTube
While the 2000s featured a plethora of action-adventure games of humanoid animals as protagonists, none aged as well visually than Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. A game that, unlike the rest, wasn’t dabbling into the design trends of moulding 3D objects with a lacklustre amount of polygons that are hard on the eyes for your modern gamer. Instead, the first installment of the Sly Cooper series featured cell-shading rendering that turned a video game world into a familiar Cartoon Network show which you can enter, navigate platforms and see if you’re as stealthy as a Tom Clancy character.
Right off the bat, the game shouts at you to say, ‘I’m a quirky creative piece of art!’. It’s expressed in the funky soundtrack courtesy of the late Ashif Hakik, the wacky voice acting and 2D comic-book themed cutscenes. It’s an inviting style that can brighten your mood as soon as you launch the game and so can the gameplay, with a formula fun to engage with passively.
The Sauce of The Series
While the Ratchet & Clank series offers gameplay variation through the diverse loadout of handheld weaponry; Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus just has you manipulating a handheld cane throughout the game; passed down to Sly from his father.
But variation is offered elsewhere, through a mixture of levels with these gameplay features:
- Driving vehicles for races & chases
- Arcade-style gameplay similar to Space Invaders
- Shooting down foes with turret weapons
- Stealth missions where you take down enemies in secret
- Hacking & puzzles, which granted, also is a feature in Ratchet & Clank games
- Rhythmic sequences that were popular in that era thanks to Guitar Hero
- Many minigames such as catching chickens
So, playing as a thief, it makes sense the core gameplay is about stealth takedowns opposed to ‘all guns blazing!’ all the time! It only takes one blow with a crowbar to take down grunts, making this game a walk in the park compared to most in its genre. However, stealth isn’t only the central part of the game; it’s platforming. Where most of your concentrated thinking will be focused on.
Courtesy of MahaloVideoGames on YouTube
Although the story is expected to be completed within 7 hours, that doesn’t stop you from dumping in some more hours with the ability to partake in timed challenges or uncover coins in levels to unlock collectables. The game is and has been a strong candidate for Speedrunning and it wouldn’t surprise me gamers have dumped hundreds of hours into this virtual world.
Story, Plot & Environments
Something to note is that the backstory of Sly is one that influences you to cheer on his journey of revenge. Sly isn’t some archetype Zelda; he’s a racoon that so happens to be a master thief. He even runs a gang of two members, Bentley, the brains, and Murrey, the brawn. You play as Sly that’s sets off to seek out ‘The Fiendish Five’, to reclaim your family book known as ‘Thieves Raccoonus’, which they stole from your parents right after murdering them!
So yeah, a little deep. Sly had to grow up in an orphanage where he met his best friends Bentley & Murray. The gang wants to retrieve the book because it holds the knowledge to Sly’s ancestral thieving moves that he can learn & acquire.
Each milestone you reach within the story, you’ll engage in a boss fight with one of the Friendish Five and in your victory, you’ll acquire a new move! It holds that satisfying Goku progression of powering up your character after the more adversity you face.
However, not every move is all that useful. In fact, it can just become a hindrance, such as slowing down time that holds no combat advantage.
The characters’ dialogue and animations don’t feel stiff; they’re smooth with naturally flowing conversation and captured in this film-noir aesthetic; it’s got the attributes that give it a cinematic feel.
Courtesy of MobyGames
You’ve got tons of locations to explore, categorised into levels that you get to pick & choose when you want to enter, similar to the Crash Bandicoot series. Some environments include a town, casino and a spooky swamp crawling with monsters & ghosts!
If you’re into story games that offer you a journey filled with dorky humour, lovable characters and a casual platformer stealth game, then pick up this classic and if you grow to love it, then rejoice, for there are four more games in the series that came afterwards!
There’s a reason PlayStation has branded it as a Greatest Hit on their consoles and gives us a glimpse into when high budget games weren’t so grounded with their cliche human action stars and real-life backdrops. Instead, letting their imaginations run wild and reaching a point where you can feel like a goofy character in a cartoon and in this game’s case, a raccoon!
- Unique cartoon-style graphics
- Comedic dialogue
- Compelling storyline
- Gameplay variety
- Some pointless moves
- Needed more screen time for Bentley & Murray