Back on the PlayStation 2, a small studio known as Sucker Punch was looking for a way to re-establish itself after making just a single game for Nintendo 64 called Rocket: Robot On Wheels.  As low-profile as that title may have been, it did show promise and Sony enlisted them to work on an all new franchise.  In 2002, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was born, a stylish platforming adventure featuring a lovable thief (yes, there is such a thing) and his band of misfits as they attempted to piece together a family book containing all the Cooper secrets.  The series managed to span across three games in all, recently seeing a re-release last year on the PlayStation 3 under the name The Sly Collection.

Proving that one trilogy isn’t enough to go around, Sly Cooper is once again making a return, this time in an all new adventure for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.  Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time once again catches up with the gang as they take on a whole new adventure, this time through several eras in the past.  One notable factor this time around, though – instead of Sucker Punch handling development (they’re probably working on stuff related to their most current franchise, Infamous), Sanzaru Games, the studio behind the Sly Collection, is handling development duties.  They certainly appear up to task with it.

The game follows events from the third game, Honor Among Thieves.  Bentley, the genius turtle of the group, has managed to complete his building of a time machine but, upon activating it, ends up losing the Thievius Raccoonus, the valued item from the original game.  Once again, Sly once again ventures back in time to retrieve it along with Bentley, Murray the Hippo (the getaway driver of the group) and Carmelita Fox, the investigator who’s been hot on Sly’s tail (for both business and personal reasons).

The problem is another figure from the past, an ego-laden tiger by the name of El Jefe, is also pursuing the book and will do anything to get it.  Sly will enlist the help of several faces from the past, including Rioichi Cooper, a ninja who has mastered the Leaping Dragon and former allies like Dimitri from the second Sly Cooper game.

As with previous releases in the series, Sly Cooper will have a heavy emphasis on platforming and solving puzzles.  We’ve only seen bits and pieces of the game so far, but there are many inspired segments that require Sly to use his athletic abilities to move ahead, such as using his cane/grappling hook to grasp onto ledges and avoid traps, or walk along wires and perch across points of a stage to avoid falling to his doom.  He’ll also be able to use melee attacks on enemies and special abilities that he learns from his numerous ancestors – something he picked up since the original Sly Cooper game.

In addition, players will be able to control Carmelita for the first time, using her gun and other abilities to get through tough sections.  Bentley and Murray will be playable as well, along with the ancestors who engage in boss battles and try to help Sly retrieve pages from the Raccoonus, keeping them out of El Jefe’s grasp.  The single player game promises hours worth of gameplay, with unlockable bonuses galore.  Multiplayer is also being considered for the game, but nothing has been made official yet.

Thieves In Time will retain the same colorful charm as the previous games, with beautifully designed levels that will dip into the rich cartoon universe, along with smooth animation, humorous situations and plenty of other charming additives that will make this purely Sly territory.  The game will also support stereoscopic 3D, just as The Sly Collection did beforehand.

Surprisingly enough, Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time will also feature a strong set of voice acting, with many humorous performances that bring characters to life.  Nolan North, who’s usually right at home as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, will try something new here as El Jefe, while veterans like Yuri Lowenthal and Grey Delisle will return.  Expect plenty of laughs along with great music to back up the action.

Even though Sucker Punch isn’t handling the game (they are consulting), we’re pleased with what we’ve seen so far from Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time.  Everything that made the previous games click is present and accounted for, while a fresh new coat of paint and a variety of challenges will introduce the character like he’s never been done before.

Expect more impressions from Sly Cooper soon, leading to his return to store shelves this fall.