The Sly Racoon Trilogy HD

   10/12/2010 at 14:27       Phil May       7 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - The Sly Racoon Trilogy HD, Sucker Punch, SanZaru, Sony, Playstation 3

I'm all in favour of the recent trend to polish up last-generation games with all new HD visuals. If for no other reason than to see the look of angst crossing the faces of people who currently sell games on Ebay for stupidly exorbitant amounts.

The Playstation 2 is certainly a ripe platform for reaping some retro nuggets of pure gold from, and in the case of the Sly Racoon games, bringing a classic trilogy to a whole new audience who either didn’t bother with them or had no exposure to them the first time round.

I’ll…ah…hold my hand up here. I never actually got round to buying Sly 1, 2 or 3 but I remember playing Sly Racoon 1 and 2 for hour after hour at a friend’s house as we took it in turns to complete the games in tandem. What struck me was how beautifully the game played. Sucker Punch made the 3D platforming genre their own, splicing together seamless and intuitive gameplay with slick cartoon visuals.

In Thievius Racoonus (the first game, merely known as Sly Racoon on this side of the pond and released in 2002), the heroic master thief Sly Cooper and his motley crew of misfits aim to reclaim a stolen family heirloom – the mysterious book that gives the game its name. The Thievius Racoonus gathers together ancient information passed down through centuries of the Cooper family, imbuing the reader with the skills and master moves of generations of sneaky tea-leafs that made the family a notorious force to be reckoned with.

The book has been stolen, separated into several pieces and hidden away at various locations, closely guarded by some extremely unsavoury characters.

In classic 3D platforming style, Sly Cooper must cross diverse puzzle-and-platform filled environments in order to retrieve the book pieces. Each time he finds one, he nets himself a new set of skills to use in the next location. To start with, Sly Cooper is adept at stealthy sneaking around certain parts of his environment, and he can use a stylish but lethal-looking cane to swing or cling onto various hooks, pulleys and trapdoors in each level. Of course, the cane also comes in useful as an offensive weapon against henchmen and nasty boss characters too.

The PS3 conversion of the Sly Cooper trilogy by Sanzaru Games is extremely playable and very well executed. Breaking the player in gently with a tutorial-esque set of objectives, we soon begin to learn a little more about Sly Cooper’s back story, and also meet several of his arch nemeses. Chief amongst these is the delectable Carmelita Fox, a hard boiled member of Interpol who is constantly thwarted in her attempts to bring Sly to justice. Always one step behind but constantly chasing Cooper around the various worldwide locations he finds himself in (including, weirdly enough, Wales!)

The first game in the trilogy provides a tidy and complete gaming experience in its own right, but Sucker Punch went on to expand the series with Band of Thieves in 2004 and later Honour Amongst Thieves in 2005. Both games have received the same sumptuous HD makeover as the original game, and it’s amazing how good these games still look and play. What becomes apparent is that very few developers carry off the “Looney Tunes” style of cartoon mayhem quite as well as Sucker Punch did with the Sly Cooper games. Perhaps it’s a lost art, and in the struggle to produce ever-more realistic graphics and gaming experiences, games like this just aren’t seen as a priority. A damned shame because when they’re done well, they show that there’s still plenty of life left in what has become a sadly under-appreciated genre.

There’s a ton of value in this package but so far I’ve managed to overlook one of the negative aspects of this compilation. Dubbed as “move compatible” you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Move controls, how seamlessly motion control helps you guide Sly Cooper around each level, how deliciously satisfying it is to finally find a Move game that appeals to the hardcore gamers as well as the casual crowd.

The simple reason is that Move is used as an afterthought in this compilation. You can’t even control the game’s menu system with your Move wand – and it’s only as you delve a little deeper through the game’s collection of goodies that you find there are four Move minigames carelessly tacked into the package. Four games that are so utterly unsatisfying and awful that they make Rayman Raving Rabbids look like Street Fighter IV.

So why are they there? One can only assume that Sanzaru had some last minute Move compatibility pushed onto them, and rather than ruining the three superb games on offer here, they shoved a bit of motion-controlled nonsense in, expending as little time and effort on the minigames as possible.

They really aren’t worth your time. In some ways it’s good to know that you don’t need a Move wand to play the Cooper trilogy, as often the games require the deft touch of a control pad rather than the clumsy laggy and chaotic movements you sometimes get with Move.

If you missed the Sly Racoon games first time around, you owe it to yourself to grab this trilogy, particularly if you’re a fan of anything like Ratchet and Clank or similar stuff.

With more HD remakes to come in 2011, this is a very good place to start if you like the sound of three of the greatest games of the last generation being given a serious nitro boost. Ignore the Move stuff, just get your teeth into the proper games instead.

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