Let’s face it: the economy sucks. Gaming companies are going under, people are losing jobs, and some gamers might be wondering how they’re going to keep themselves occupied when they can’t even afford to download WiiWare games (not that they’d want to anyway, but still). Fortunately, there are bound to be good games for older systems that you haven’t played yet, and you can get them pretty cheap in the used game bins.
One series of games that you may not have heard of is Sucker Punch Productions’ Sly Cooper trilogy. This PS2 series is one of the few that I’ve seen Adam Sessler of G4 get giddy about (and I actually agree with his “5 out of 5” rating). Maybe furries aren’t your thing, but set aside your preconceptions and cough up the eight bucks to try out this game. Don’t let the E rating fool you—everyone can get a kick out of these games. There are witty zingers like, “Show me your bling and let me shine you!” The dialogue is fast and fun, the missions are fun and varied, and replayability is pretty high. But it’s really the memorable characters that enrich the story and engage the gamer. Plus, the games are cheap, so you really can’t complain, since you’re getting such a steal.
The first installment, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, provides the background history of our raccoon hero, Sly Cooper. Sly comes from a long line of honorable thieves, whose secrets are written down in the family guidebook, the Thievius Raccoonus. However, Sly’s parents are killed, the book is stolen, and Sly is sent to live in an orphanage. There, he meets Bentley, a brainiac turtle who’s the smarts behind the operations, and Murray, a purple hippo with a penchant for punching. Together, the gang sets forth to collect the various pages from Sly’s heritage. Along the way, they meet some unique villains and try to avoid Sly’s lovely nemesis, the blaster-wielding cop, Carmelita Fox.
Gameplay-wise, this game isn’t too hard. The circle button does most of your special moves, but you still use the entire controller to run, hop, climb, bomb, punch, and so forth. You gain new moves throughout the game, which you can assign to the triangle button, depending on your mission and personal fighting style.
The missions are area-specific. You go to one area and complete about 10 mini-missions in order to pull off your heist and defeat the bad guy. In this game, you visit areas ranging from the Wild West and Voodoo South to Discotheques and Chinese mountains. Each level has missions unique to the geography, your skills, and your enemy. You are a thief, so stealth is encouraged and rewarded. For those of us lacking the patience or…*ahem*…abilities to pull off some of the more delicate moves, there are frequent saving opportunities and walkthroughs online.
In most levels, you play as Sly, but Murray and Bentley get in on the action, too. As a result, you get to use a range of skills, and the missions are pretty varied. And, compulsive completion gamers, you can collect bottles to gain new abilities, and you can go back and replay any missions that you particularly enjoyed.
There are a few downsides to your bargain bin purchase. The graphics are dated. The voices are good, but the volume controls? Not so much. The songs are variations on one theme, but it’s neither irritating nor inspirational; it’s just background music. And sometimes the camera angle gets a little frustrating. And, it’s regrettably short. It’s only about 30 hours when you play straight through. Still. You paid 8 dollars for it. So be happy. And, you have to remember that there are two more installments to follow the gang through, so shell out another 16 bucks to complete your trilogy.
The second game, Sly 2: Band of Thieves, takes place a few years after you successfully defeated the main boss of the first game. Turns out pieces of the villain are being used in all sorts of dastardly plans, so it’s up to Sly and the gang to stop the evildoers. And it’s up to Miss Fox to stop you, so you’ll have several encounters with her as you’re stealing back what was stolen. In this game, you travel from Paris to India, Transylvania to Canada. You’ve got your old moves, but graphics, sound, and gadgets have all gotten an upgrade. It’s still dated, but its story is just as strong—if not better—than in the first, and the game is equally entertaining. However, like most second installments of a trilogy, this one ends with a cliff-hanger: after a tragic accident, the gang separates, and the player is left to pop in the final disc.
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is the Return of the Jedi of the Sly Cooper series. It even has an Ewok—well, actually, he’s a koala guru, and he’s one of the many new characters that join your team to make this final installment the best of the bunch. But the guru is awesome, and he even speaks in a way that only the game characters understand. And he has a fighting stick. And Jedi mind skills. And he’s awesome. Yub yub!
…Anyway. Sly is after his family’s secret stash that they’ve accumulated over thousands of years. The Cooper Legacy is supposed to be filled with wonders beyond imagination, and more loot than even seven thieves could know what to do with. Unfortunately, Dr. M, a crazy monkey scientist, is after it as well. It’s up to the Cooper gang and a few new and familiar faces to get to the Cooper stash before Dr. M makes his move on the treasure.
This game is awesome. No, seriously. Crazy koala guru aside, it’s a ton of fun, and it tops the other two, hands down. I mean, how many other games let you brainwash your enemies, hack into computer systems, and play pirates? Controls are dramatically improved, the music is more prominent and good, and there’s plenty of replayability to keep you occupied. Sure, the graphics are still dated, but it is a four-year-old game, and you paid less than ten dollars for it, so stop complaining. Plus, the storyline is great! Without giving away the ending, I can assure you that the series comes to an end in a way that will leave even the most old-school of gamers satisfied with the conclusion.
So, move your couch cushions and start a penny jar. These games are worth the effort of scrounging up the cash. You do need to play them all in order to appreciate the entire storyline, but the characters should grow on you, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting motivated to play. The only downside is that there are rumors of a Sly Cooper 4 game in the works. This would be all well and good, except that it’s supposed to be for PlayStation 3, which is expensive, which defeats the purpose of getting into a new series because it’s as cheap as it is good. Ah well. Too bad you can’t pull a Cooper coup and steal one….