Developer : Sucker Punch
Publisher : SCEA
Release Date : September 14, 2004
Pre-order 'SLY 2: Band of Thieves': PlayStation 2
SCEA may be its own worst enemy, really. In the race to supply the PlayStation 2 with a platformer mascot to call its own, it seems to have given itself three decent franchises: Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and the only one of the lot to really be a “classic” platformer hero while simultaneously being the only one to have his own name standing alone on the marquee: Sly Cooper.
If you’ll remember, Sly Cooper and the Thievus Raccoonus was a slightly underrated game a couple of years ago. If you played it, odds are that you liked it, despite its tendency to send controllers flying now and again; Sucker Punch had taken the interesting step of providing gamers with the first new platformer hero in a long time who died with one hit. Granted, he was an agile, well-animated platformer hero, and he could collect lucky charms in an attempt to prevent his unfortunate death, but Sly Cooper could still be a remarkably difficult game.
Sly 2 is set two years after the conclusion of the first game, after the fall of the Fearsome Five. Sly and his gang – Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo – are once again traveling across the world, this time to steal the scattered parts of their nemesis Clockwerk. Sly thought that he’d finished Clockwerk off at the climax of the first game, but it’s apparently not going to be that easy. It appears that the villainous Klaww Gang is attempting to reassemble Clockwerk, which puts Sly and his crew in a three-way race with them and Inspector Carmelita Fox, the rocket-launcher-wielding policewoman who’s out to arrest Sly.
Game Reviewer Cliché #123: Sly 2 looks like a playable cartoon. Now that the cel-shading trend appears to be over and done with, that’s a statement that means something again. Sly 2 seems to take its visual cues from old “Pink Panther” cartoons and film noir; its cartoon version of Paris, for example, is all slow jazz and dark rooftops, with lumbering boars stalking the streets. The cinematography is really just top-notch, to such an extent that I don’t feel like a jackass using the word “cinematography” to describe a game.
Sly 2 also seems to take some of its cues from recent cinematic heist capers like Ocean’s Eleven. Sly is “The Thief”; his buddies Bentley and Murray are “The Brains” and “The Brawn,” respectively. Each of them are introduced with their own cuecard, and now, each of them will enter the field.
Sly himself has gained a lifebar, although he’s still not the most durable of heroes; two good hits will tend to finish him off. The game is set up to allow you to avoid conflict whenever possible, especially if you’re up against an enemy with a gun. While he doesn’t have as many moves in Sly 2 as he had at the end of Thievus Raccoonus, what he has is enough to get the job done.
Sly also retains his all-purpose thieving skills, which are again triggered with the Circle button. When you want to inch across a narrow ledge or leap effortlessly onto a tightrope, just hold down Circle. Sly takes care of the rest, allowing you to get on with the business the heist.
You’ll also get to take control of Bentley and Murray this time out. Bentley is, if anything, even more fragile than Sly, but has a crossbow loaded with sleep darts and a pocketful of bombs; where Sly has to slip past enemies, Bentley can just knock them out. His role appears to be that of a sniper, demolitionist, and proactive enemy of disco, as one early mission will find Bentley going in under cover of darkness to destroy a dance club from the inside.
Murray, on the other hand, is the violent one. “The” Murray has gained a certain superhero complex for Sly 2. While Sly and Bentley will have a hard time beating even standard enemies, Murray can drop them with one or two powerful punches, accompanied by a trumpet flare and visible sound effects (my favorite is “AARGH!”). Naturally, he’s also slow and cumbersome, but whaddaya want. The brother’s a hippo. Cut him some slack.
The action in Sly 2, for the most part, is straight platforming, especially when you’re playing as Sly. It combines the responsive controls and variety of gameplay that you find with decent 3D platformers with a lot of style and flair. It’s a serious improvement on the original, which was already a pretty good game.
Sly 2 will be out on September 13th, just in time to jeopardize your grades in the new school year.
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