Sly 2: Band of Thieves Review

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is a great game that showed the gaming world how wonderful cel-shaded games could look. It was like controlling your very own cartoon. Now Sly is back in a new adventure and Sucker Punch, the game’s developer, has succeeded in topping their excellent first effort.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves catches up with the raccoon thief and his friends, brainy turtle Bentley and brawny hippo Murray, a few years after the events in the first game. The mechanical bird menace of the first game may have been defeated, but his parts survived and the Klaww Gang is looking to collect them to rebuild Sly’s nemesis. Sly will need a little help putting a stop to this plot and so this time out Bentley and Murray will partake in missions, giving you chance to control each and make use of their specialties.

Sly 2 has a great look.

As mentioned above, the first game featured excellent cel-shaded graphics, but Sly 2 actually manages to surpass its predecessor in this area. Calling the game’s animation “Saturday morning cartoon quality” would be an insult to Sly 2. The cutscenes are a high quality mix of animation and comic-book style stills with some movie-like elements heavily borrowed from caper flicks thrown in for good measure. It works quite well and gives Sly 2 a great look that is all its own. This quality extends to the in-game graphics as well. The worlds make you feel as if you’re moving through a 3D cartoon world, except filled with more detail and life than you’ll find in most cartoons.

Sly 2 plays as a platform game with a healthy dose of stealth-based gameplay. It differs from your typical platformer though in that it doesn’t throw jump after jump at you simply for the sake of making you jump around. When you jump in Sly 2 it is to find a new way to sneak into a building or to hide yourself from an approaching guard. In addition, the game does not rely on difficult jumps to make the game harder or artificially extend the game’s playing time. If you want to use Sly’s ability to jump onto a spire, simply press a button as you leap towards the spire and Sly will stick the landing every time. Need to run along a wire? No problem, the same button will automatically balance Sly as he runs along the wire. While this approach to platform gaming does make things arguably easier, you are freed from a lot of frustration as a result.

The stealth aspect of play is similarly designed to eliminate some of the frustration from play. Many guards carry flashlights that illuminate the areas that they can see, so you’re not left guessing whether you’re visible or not. Places where Sly can safely hide in corners, ledges, or under tables are marked with little balls of light to make them easy to find.

With these assists to gameplay you may think that Sly 2 is a kid’s game. Instead, it will appeal to a wide range of ages and also just happens to be playable by younger kids as well. The story, gameplay, and great look of the game make it just as fun a diversion for adult gamers as it is for kids.

Murray and Bentley were present in the first Sly game, but outside of an occasional mini game their roles were strictly to provide comic relief during the story-driving cutscenes. No so in Sly 2. Not only are there plenty of missions for Bentley and Murray, the mission are often cleverly interwoven in a way that has you playing all of the parts in a complicated plan that requires teamwork from all three characters to succeed. For example, in one sequence you play as Murray as he tries to launch a grappling hook onto a sign in order to pull it down. You must aim the hook in such a way as so it can be caught and placed by Sly, and then you’ll actually play as Sly trying to rein in the hook you launched as Murray. In another sequence you must use Murray to throw Bentley through a hole high up on a building and then take over for Bentley once he’s inside. Not all missions require such tightly coordinated teamwork – the majority have you acting as Murray, Bentley, or Sly alone. The coordinated missions are so clever and enjoyable though, my only complaint about them is that they are not more frequent.