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Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PlayStation 2) artwork

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PlayStation 2) review

"While Sly Cooper occasionally shows glimpses of stealth, it just doesn't do enough to be called a stealth game. It's a decent action game, and a very good platformer. But, a stealth game, it isn't."

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus has a bit of a misleading name. OK, so the main character's name is Sly Cooper, and there's a book in the game called the Thievius Raccoonus. But with a name like that, you'd think that the game would be a stealthy one. And while Sly Cooper occasionally shows glimpses of stealth, it just doesn't do enough to be called a stealth game. It's a decent action game, and a very good platformer. But, a stealth game, it isn't.

The game starts with a brief description of the Cooper family, a line of master raccoon thieves that can trace their lineage all the way back to the ancient Egyptians. In every significant period of time, a Cooper was there, thieving it up. But, these guys don't rob normal people. As Sly says, there's no honor or challenge (or fun) in robbing some Joe Shmoe. Instead, the test of a true thief is robbing other thieves. The Coopers detailed their crimes in a book, called the Thievius Raccoonus, which became the go-to manual for how to become a world-class thief. But, on the night Sly was set to inherit the book, his house was ransacked and burglarized by the Fiendish Five. In the process, they killed Sly's parents, stole the Thievius Raccoonus, and tore it apart, taking the pages to their specific corners of the world. Sly ended up in an orphanage, where he met his best friends and future partners-in-crime; Bentley, a nerdy turtle (nerd-tle?) with a hand for computer hacking and strategy planning, and Murray, a hippo who serves as the team's getaway driver/wrecking ball. They've pulled off some decent jobs up until now, but recovering the Thievius Raccoonus will be the toughest job of their thieving lives. Will you be up to the task?

The game plays out like an animated TV series or a comic book. The cutscenes are usually still shots with camera panning. This layout really fits the cartoon-ish feeling of the game. Another thing that fits in the game is the excellent voice acting. Video games aren't known for having great voice acting, so when a game like this actually pulls it off, you notice it. You can actually believe Sly when he's talking about his ninja ancestor jumping and landing on spires like a... well, like a ninja. You're actually interested in Sly's one-sided romance with the cop that's been tailing him for seemingly years, and you're actually curious as to how one-sided the romance really is.

As I said before, the platforming in this game is superb. Developer Sucker Punch took the platforming from their first work, the grossly underrated Rocket: Robot on Wheels, and improved it by making the camera not so temperamental, allowing you to actually see what you're trying to jump on. It also improves on Rocket by tweaking the physics engine. When you jump on something with Sly, the object doesn't sway as wildly as it did with Rocket. And some of the game's seldom stealth elements appear in the platforming. Throughout the course of your adventure, you'll find blue auras that will let you do something sneaky. Some of the early abilities include sidling around corners or crawling under tables, so early on, the game is about as sneaky as a typical Zelda game. But, later in the game, you'll acquire some pretty neat power-ups, like rail-sliding and spire-landing.

The music in the game is also note-worthy. While you’re doing typical platforming, the music is nicely appropriate, from somber and melancholy in the voodoo swamps of Haiti, to up-beat and jazzy in the deserted casinos of Western America. However, when you're sneaking up behind someone the music gets quieter, and a string plucks every time you take a tip-toey step. And when the stealth fails, and the enemies start to swarm on you, the music picks up accordingly, until all of the baddies are downed, when the typical music returns.

I can't say that the game is bad, because it doesn’t really do anything that poorly, and my major criticism of the game may not even matter to some people. But, I feel that if the game was less of a platformer, and more of a stealth game, this could've been an all-time classic. Instead, it's just an above average platformer with some missed potential. The PS2 already had two cartoony platformer franchises, Jak and Daxter & Ratchet and Clank, so it didn't really need a third. However, making Sly Cooper a stealth game could've separated it from Jak & Ratchet, and vastly improved its initially poor sales. Throughout the course of the game, you can recover some of the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus, but more often than not, the moves that you learn improve your combat skills rather than your stealth, and the ones that you get for the stealth are largely pointless, like the one that lets you throw out cardboard cut-outs of yourself.

As a one-time fan of Thief games, this game disappointed me. And just to prove that adding more stealth to Sly isn't a bad idea, the two sequels to this game, Band of Thieves & Honor Among Thieves, had a much bigger stealth focus, and they rank 16th and 6th on my top 25 games ever list. (If anyone is interested in the top 25 list, I might make a thread about it later.)

New thing: This scale will help determine my scores. Each category is individually judged on a 0-10 scale, and the combined average score will be the final score. The categories are:
Gameplay: Is it easy to pick up and start playing? Are the controls fluent?
Concept: What were the developers trying to do with the game? Could they have made it better? (changing next review)
Graphics: How does the game look? What's the art direction like?
Replayability: Does this game offer much in terms of post-game material? Is it fun enough to warrant a second playthrough?
Characters: Are the characters relatable? Do they have actual flaws?
Setting: Are the locations interesting? What about the time period?
Impact: Did the game make me think? Did I take anything away from the game?
Originality: How new is the idea of this game? Does it include any new gimmicks?
Audio: How's the music in this game? Is the voice acting believable?
Nostaglia: 5 years from now, will this game matter to me? (changing next review)

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I'm still working on the scale, categories will change in the next review, and maybe more afterwards.

nickyv917's avatar
Community review by nickyv917 (February 16, 2012)

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threetimes posted February 17, 2012:

One of the things I loved about this game was creeping up on enemies and swiping their loot. And doing that quick flip attack from behind that laid them out in a jiffy. Interesting take on the game, although the fact it wasn't a stealth game but an excellent platformer was a plus for me. I think you underrepresent the range of locations and missions. And collecting the bottles was just so sweet.

Your scale misses out the most important thing: enjoyment!
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nickyv917 posted February 17, 2012:

Replayability plays into how much I enjoy the game. And yes, the quick flip was fun the first time, but it got old for me after a while. Plus, I usually prefer pacifist runs, because I feel that being stealthy is a better test of skill. I still enjoyed the game, and if asked yay or nay on it, I'd say yea. It just wasn't what I was expecting it to be.

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