Over the past few years, the developers at Sucker Punch have really come a long way with their thieving hero Sly Cooper, first introducing him on the PlayStation 2 and continuing his antics across two sequels. Even though Sucker Punch has moved on to more electrifying territory with the Infamous games, they left the franchise in good hands over at Sanzaru Games. That team previously released The Sly Collection for PlayStation 3, featuring all three original games in stunning high-definition, and this February they're returning with an original adventure: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time.
It was recently announced that the game won't be making its debut until this February, but we're fine with any delay that gives Sanzaru the time they need to polish it for its cross-platform release on PlayStation 3 and the PS Vita handheld. To help pass the time, Sony provided us access to a playable demo of the game, which you can actually get for yourself as a free bonus thrown in with the Ratchet and Clank HD Collection.
Though the demo is brief and doesn't give you any hands-on time with Sly's cohorts – the genius box turtle Bentley and the bumbling but noble hippo getaway driver Murray – it does give you an idea of what kind of skills Sly brings to the game, and fans of the previous games should immediately recognize them. The master thief is as nimble as ever, able to jump onto trapezes, sneak around corners and walk along tightropes without breaking a sweat. He also has a cane that he can use to hook onto higher ledges, as well as use a melee weapon to strike enemies and break open objects to reveal more loot, which can be used over the course of the game to unlock extra goodies.
Anyway, the stage we got to take place in unfolds in some circus-based level straight out of Europe. Sly finds himself whisked back in time hoping to track down ancestor Sir Galleth Cooper, a courageous knight who has since been forced to act as a jester of sorts for whoever runs the circus. As a loyal ancestor, Sly sets out to free him of his bonds.
Just a few seconds into the demo, you'll notice several of Sly's traits perfectly intact when it comes to gameplay. A press of a button will have you sneaking around corners and up pipes, provided that they're glowing with blue magical sparkles, indicating that he can interact with them. He can also walk across ropes with ease (again, as long as they're glowing) and jump across ninja spires with utmost precision. There are times he'll need to move pretty quickly -certain horn objects that we could land on collapse in a few seconds if you wait too long. (If you do fall to your doom, there's a "rewind" function that automatically kicks in so you don't lose any health. Just don't take advantage of it too much.)
Additionally, Sly now has the ability to shoot arrows with ropes tied to them across chasms. This helps him get to new sections of the circus level. You simply need to hunt down a barrel with arrows in it, draw one out, and aim for a bullseye that appears across the way. At first, it's rather easy to make a shot by directing the arrow after firing it to easily hit your target. Later on in the level it gets tricky, as the targets start moving and obstacles such as cannonballs float in the way of your shot. After a couple of tries, you should get it.
After you fire the arrow, you can traverse across the rope dodging cannonballs that will come flying up at you. These can do damage upon contact, so you'll need to learn their firing times and make your way across safely.
As the first original Sly Cooper game for PlayStation 3, Sanzaru has done a pretty good job with the art style. While it doesn't take complete advantage of the hardware, it does bring Sly's cartoon-like world to life in great ways, from the fire effects to the slick animations. The demo is a little dark in sections, but the final release should allow you to adjust brightness.
It's also good to hear the original voice cast back in action. Though we only caught Bentley and Sly chatting in sections, they're just as natural as ever. Galleth, once you find him, is a hoot.
Though short, this demo does show that Sly hasn't lost any spring in his step over the years. That bodes well for the final release of Thieves In Time, which hits this February.