Sly 2: Band of Thieves ReviewCain Dornan
There is no denying that there is an abundance of overly similar platform titles available for gamers. Sly 2: Band of Thieves, which boasts stylish cel-shaded, cartoon-like graphics, offers players the ability to play as a group of three different, unique characters using a range of different gadgets and abilities to pull off a range of creative heists.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves follows the quest of a Racoon, known as Sly Cooper, on a mission to obtain the parts of Clockwerk a giant mechanical bird who terrorized Slys family when he was young. After Clockwerk was destroyed in the original Sly Cooper game, his parts were dismantled and distributed to members of the Klaww Gang, who are using the parts to perform illegal activities. It is then up to Sly and his small band of thieves to recover the Clockwerk pieces and make some money along the way.
Unlike the original Sly Cooper, where Sly himself was the only playable character, Sly 2 offers the ability to play as both of his gang members; Bently the intelligent, problem-solving turtle who devises all of the gangs heists, and Murray, a hefty, strong hippo who packs an extremely powerful, deadly punch.
Sly 2s heists of the Clockwerk pieces are divided into episodes, with each requiring a number of pre-heists and missions in order to set-up the final, major heist. In order to do this, a range of moves and devices are made available as you progress through the game, opening up new ways to complete missions, which are referred to as Jobs. Although the majority of these Jobs are relatively straightforward, some require some puzzle-solving skills in order to complete to progress further through the game. In one Job, Bently is required to hack into a train terminal and change the direction in which the train is travelling. In order to do this, a series of classic, arcade-styled mini-games need to be completed. This involves controlling a green space ship through a 2D maze whilst avoiding attacking ships. As you progress through the game the hacking mini-games become harder, involving more attacking ships and harder doors to get through.
Jobs are shown using the Binoc-U-Com, a device that not only works as a pair of binoculars, but also offers the ability to locate Jobs that required attention, or to communicate with other members of gang. Jobs are colour-coded accordingly to which character that will complete the job.
Although the majority of the Jobs are completed on-foot, several missions throughout the game require one of the gang members to utilise machinery or vehicles in order to successfully complete a specific Job. In one Job, for example, Bently takes control of a large gun to destroy a squadron of attacking planes. In another, Bently controls a remote-control plane to eradicate a small army of enemy guards. What keeps Sly 2 interesting is that with each new episode, a number of unique, interesting Jobs are made available. Rarely do you have to complete a similar Job multiple times.
Like a real thief, the only way to make money in Sly 2 is to steal it. Smashing objects that are located around the stage will yield a small number of coins, just as killing enemies will. Major money is made when you manage to heist a valuable object, which are often seen as a Job or a side quest. Sly also has the ability to pickpocket his enemies, which often offers a wealth of coins or other valuables. Once Sly has valuables, Bently is able to sell these on ThiefNet, a network of both thieves and buyers alike, willing to pay good cash for stolen goods.
Since Sly is a racoon, many of his missions revolve around using rooftops. Some missions even require Sly to follow enemies from point to point, using the rooftops to keep out of sight from both the guards that roam the streets and the person you are following. Likewise, both Bently and Murray have Jobs that focus on their own special abilities. Bently, with his extensive knowledge of computers and the like, is able to hack a range of computer-orientated objects. Murray, using his impressive strength, is often used to clear areas of enemies or carry objects from point to point. New gadgets also become available throughout the game, which are purchasable with coins. These can range from new distractive toys, such as alarm clocks, through to move exciting gadgets which can include a hoverpack for Bently.
Developer Sucker Punch Studios has now added a health bar, rather than the one-hit one-kill which was used in the original Sly Cooper game. As a result of this, enemies now also feature a life bar, requiring several hits from the Cooper Gang to kill them.
Although the game is rather lengthy, the urge to replay through the game again is rather low. Apart from collecting message-filled bottles on each episode, there are very few additional objectives that can be completed. A disappointment nonetheless.
As said earlier, Sly 2: Band of Thieves features stylish cel-shaded graphics, similar to those seen in a cartoon. In fact, the cut-scenes resemble a cartoon book, telling the storyline in an amusing, sometimes humorous fashion. Naturally, everything doesnt look lifelike; rather, everything has taken on a cartoony look and feel.
Your surroundings, which can range from a sleepy, gothic city filled with high-rise buildings and plenty of vehicles, through to elephant-filled India and even a cold, snowy village in Canada, are generally well detailed in a cartoony type of way. Character designs, which are all based off actual animals, have also received a makeover, now looking more stylish and unique than ever before. Characters move as you would expect them to; Sly is flexible and quick and Murray is powerful yet cumbersome.
Special effects have also taken on a cartoon look and feel, which work well with the style of the environments and character designs.
Although sound doesnt make a game, it adds to the atmosphere. Games are often destroyed with poor, invasive music. Sly 2s music is moody, interesting and overall fantastic. Never overwhelming the action, the music blends in so perfectly with the gameplay and environment that it feels as one. Each area has its own, unique music that couldnt possibly suit it any better. Voice acting is also of a high standard, with each character offers its own, unique and interesting styled voice that blends with the voices of other characters perfectly.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves takes some old, used ideas and has restyled and added some unique features to produce an interesting and enjoyable experience. Those who are not fans of the genre are likely to get bored with this title rather quickly, whilst those interested in the genre are likely to find a lot to enjoy. The refreshing cel-shaded graphics adds to the unique, interesting gameplay, something games appear to be lacking as of late. Sly 2 is a refreshing, solid game which is worth a look.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.