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Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PlayStation 2) artwork

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PlayStation 2) review

"It makes out like a bandit"

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PlayStation 2) image

I can hardly dredge up anything more satisfying than witnessing a collection of ideas come together. Every "episode" of Sly 2: Band of Thieves begins with a loose assortment of concepts and schemes hatched by the protagonist's buddy, Bentley. In each section, the pilfering trio (which also includes the hippo, Murray) plan to steal one of the lifeless body parts of their adversary, the mechanical bird Clockwerk. Each outing begins with Bentley sending Sly out on recon. He photographs key locations and eavesdrops on the local villain holding a piece of Clockwerk's anatomy. Sly's intel informs Bentley well enough that he cooks up a handful of seemingly hair-brained schemes. As you advance through the missions, though, Bentley's elaborate plan becomes steadily clearer and easier to appreciate.

In the first episode, for instance, Bentley asks Sly to detach a giant mirror ball from a nightclub's ceiling. Such a chore sounds dubiously relevant to the task of securing the first Clockwerk fragment, but Sly humors his companion anyway. After a mission fraught with stealth and pickpocketing, the globe separates from its chain and crashes onto the dance floor. Its advantageous effects become apparent, and it's clear from that point that the developers at Sucker Punch put a lot of effort into the Sly 2's writing and structure.

You engage in a whole score of other shady plans near the nightclub: planting a bugged painting in an office, readjusting satellite dishes, destroying a massive water pump and smashing security alarms. Before you know it, you're on to the final stretch. Sly climbs a tremendous neon sign, while Bentley and Murray position a vehicle with a grappling hook nearby. The outcomes of the previously mentioned tasks culminate in a grand heist, concluding with a boss encounter and a satisfying cutscene.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PlayStation 2) image

It should come as no surprise that Sly 2 itself operates in a similarly graceful fashion. The game provides you with spacious hubs packed with hidden spaces, obstacle courses and goodies galore. You'll race across the Canadian countryside, outrunning bears or tiptoeing along electrical wire along the way. You'll climb to great heights in a fortress in Prague, all while avoiding automated tanks and grotesques that come to life. You'll grind down a rail, leap onto a vertical pipe and ascend it until you reach a series of hooks. You'll swing from each hook using your cane, until you land perfectly on top of a spire. Disregard the implied complexity of these actions, though; you only need two buttons and moderate timing to complete each item on the list and Sly automatically clings to interactive surfaces.

Of course, you'll sail through these gauntlets with ease when the game's camera permits it. Although the camera's perspective is typically not an issue, it does sometimes lag behind the action. You might leap off a rooftop to snag a ladder on the way down, while the lens remains focused on your initial position. After a second or two, the game suddenly realizes it's behind and rushes to catch up to your location. Thankfully, this is a minor, uncommon hiccup, but one worth nothing regardless.

Sucker Punch carefully planned each piece of the environment and utilized every one to its fullest. Sly 2's missions take you through various parts of an episode's hub, thrusting you into wild situations and heart-stopping moments. In one errand, you leap off a plane and glide down onto three different moving trains to unlock hatches on their cabooses. Another assignment requires you to examine your surroundings and figure out how to scale giant radio towers to activate them, in the hopes they'll guide a certain ally to your location.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PlayStation 2) image

Of course, you can't battle baddies and flip switches simultaneously, so you need to use Sly's stealth skills when necessary. When a muscle-bound warthog rounds a corner, for instance, you'll have no wiser a choice than to either crawl under a table or to cling to an overhead rail. After the goon passes by, you can swoop in for a stealth kill to clear the coast and continue with your operation.

Stealth opportunities are not the only moments that break traditional platformer conventions. The game offers variety in spades, providing you with thoughtful and exciting diversions. This adventure also eschews the irksome racing mini-games from the previous title. Instead, you take control of Bentley as he hacks into computer systems, transforming Sly 2 into an arcade-style, twin-stick shooter that would be at home on Atari 2600. You blast computer defense programs represented by tiny ships, while attempting to plug your own vessel into a few slots to override the computer's functions.

Murray, now calling himself "The Murray," also leaps into action and suddenly Sly 2 morphs into a beat 'em up. Murray vanquishes his opponents with a mere two punches each, erasing the disadvantage created by his size and lack of speed. Murray's stealth style is brilliant when you think about it. Guards can't spot you and inform their cohorts of your presence if they're all dead...

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PlayStation 2) image

Surviving the aforementioned sequences grants you access to wilder tasks. Bentley flies an RC helicopter equipped with bombs, aiming to dispatch sentinels or decommission troublesome vehicles. Meanwhile, Murray fires up several turrets to blast aircrafts out of the sky or destroy massive structures. Segments like these stray from Sly 2's core mechanics, but they also keep the experience fresh and thoroughly thrilling.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves juggles more elements than its older brother, and manages to do so much more effectively. The game expands on the previous installment's best features, while tossing in some terrific new content. Sucker Punch organized each episode properly, turning a series of missions into an painstakingly woven tale of friendship. Unlike some cinematic games, though, Sly 2 doesn't use its most exciting scenes to wrest control from you. It involves you in every step of the heist, almost as if you're one of the titular band of thieves. You're privy to every conversation, witness to moments when Sly hang glides after an Interpol officer or Murray brawls with a tiger, along for the ride when you gather information and listen to Bentley roll out another grand theft. I'll spare you the nonsense about Sly 2 being "more than just a game," but I'll definitely vouch that it's not just a simple mascot platformer.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 26, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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