It's been seven years since Sly Cooper and the gang went on a new adventure. For many fans, getting any sequel would be acceptable. For a while now, Sanzaru's Thieves in Time felt like it was providing exactly that: a sequel that stuck very close to Sucker Punch's original trilogy. While it was serviceable, it didn't feel like a sequel that was worthy of the seven-year wait.
The newest build of Sly 4 has completely changed my opinion of the game. This isn't just a good Sly game; it has the potential to be one of the best.
Technically speaking, Thieves in Time has progressed so much since we first saw it over a year ago. Animations, in particular, are especially impressive now, with the world feeling even more like a living cartoon. The worlds you can explore are massive, making the playgrounds of Sly's PS2 efforts seem diminutive by comparison. Also, the cel-shaded animated sequences that bookend each chapter are an absolute delight to watch; can we please have a Sly animated movie, Sony?
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While these technical advancements are noteworthy, it's the gameplay that surprised me the most. While playing as Sly will be familiar to anyone that's played his previous adventures, Thieves in Time has you controlling a number of new characters beyond the core gang. As you travel through time, you'll get to control some of Sly's ancestors, and each have a few new gameplay tricks up their sleeves.
One mission in particular convinced me that Sly's latest is in capable hands. After sneaking around as Sly's odd Japanese ancestor, the game threw me in control of Murray, dressed in drag, who had to perform a karaoke number to distract/seduce the villainous guards. A beat-matching game followed, but it was difficult to follow, if only because of the hilarious antics happening in the background. As Murray shakes his hips and the guards stare, mouth agape, drool coming out, I knew that this was the Sly game I've been waiting so patiently for.
Sure, Thieves in Time may have been delayed until 2013, but it looks like the additional time was worth it. Sly 4 may not be made by series progenitor Sucker Punch, but Sanzaru clearly has the chops to carry on the franchise.