Before Sucker Punch made its mark with the PS3 sandbox smash Infamous, it cut its teeth on the Sly Cooper trilogy featuring a George Clooney-cum-Robin Hood raccoon hero, plentiful dialogue and cinema, and slick cel-shaded graphics. Electronic Gaming Monthly, among other gaming pubs, consistently gave Sly high scores even though the series was lost in the ruckus made by seminal PS2 platformers Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. Now, in what seems like something of a restitution release, Sony has repackaged the trilogy into the $40 Sly Collection, adding support for Playstation Move, Stereoscopic 3D, and a fresh helping of high-definition sauce.
Now, I’ve got to level with you: This game made me realize that I really don't like 3D platform games. I don’t know if it’s the dumb-but-merciless enemies (high stakes kills, them) or non-stop collecting of junk (coins and clues everywhere!) or the one-hit kills (not hardcore, but sadistic) or all the running and jumping (and dying!). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good platformer in one less dimension. I once beat Ninja Gaiden on the 8-bit NES without losing a single life. But the Sly games force players to run, jump, climb, and attack whilst manipulating a camera, which mysteriously feels more complicated than a skilled bout of Street Fighter IV.
Cool, but what about whether you should play this game? Maybe. First off, Sly Collection has aged well. The original retina candy graphics rendered in HD strangely aren’t as eye-popping, but the clarity prevents the visual strain associated with some standard def titles of the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era. More importantly, the game looks great in the 16:9 aspect ratio, finally giving Sly’s Burton-esque imagery the cinematic flair it deserves. Also, Sly’s soundtrack is a careful blend of synth-heavy, jazz-sampling spytronica. As before, Sly, the protagonist, controls intuitively and animates gorgeously. His raccoon tail is seriously entrancing.
Meanwhile, as far as platforming games are concerned, you could do worse, but probably shouldn’t. Are you a freak for the genre? Have you beaten the all the Jaks, Ratchets, and mainline Mario titles of the past 10 years? I know that those games are all better because they either frustrated me much less or, in the case of Mario Sunshine and Galaxy, are fucking canonical. Sly Collection has all the trimmings of a solid 3D platformer. In addition to great graphics, music, and interesting “grownup-kid” mythos, Sucker Punch offers ample gameplay reinvention with each new installment. The problem is that the Sly games simply don’t challenge the genre in ways its competitors do. Jak and Daxter features respectful difficulty and unparalleled production values. Rachet & Clank is powered by a bizarro, highly-addictive weapons system. And only gaming’s worst trolls try to pretend like Nintendo doesn’t change the game every time they drop a new, major Mario installment.
In other words, Sly Collection is a nice, value-priced distraction, but only if you don’t have better platforming to do. •