Game: Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
Platform: Sony PlayStation 2
Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: EU: 11/18/05, NA: 09/26/05
Genre: 3-D platformer
ESRB: E 10+
Players: 2

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was a good game. It was a bit short for my taste and those damnable master thief sprints made me want to tear my hair out, but the main adventure was fun, and I enjoyed the light-hearted story. Sly 2: Band of Thieves improved over its predecessor by making Bentley (a turtle, the brains) and Murray (a hippo, the brawn) playable characters with distinct styles. The second game was also longer which I appreciated greatly. If I'm going to drop $30.00 USD on a game, I'd prefer to not be done with it in a week. The development team at Sucker Punch took note of the second game's reception and decided that if three playable characters are better than one, then eight would be even better than three. Combine an excess of characters with a shorter adventure and you get a game that can't seem to decide what it wants to be. Where the side missions (non-thieving, that is) in Sly 2 were enjoyable, they remained side missions. After all, these games are supposed to be about thieving. The third feels more like a collection of minigames with some thieving thrown in for good measure. The overall experience is a good one, but Sly 2 is definitely the better game.

WARNING: This writeup contains minor spoilers for Sly 3 and ending spoilers for Sly 2. If you don't want to know who the additional playable characters are or how the second game ends, skip this section.

Characters: Sly, Bentley, "The Murray," and Carmelita all return from the previous two games in the series. Sly is fluid and sneaky, as any good thief should be. As in the last game, he has access to areas that the other characters don't because he is able to climb up pipes, walk on wires, and paraglide from rooftop to rooftop. Murray, after a sabbatical in the Australian outback, brings his fists of flame to the team dynamic. He's a great tank, and he and Bentley are able to steal from baddies now as well (as opposed to the second game where only Sly could pick pockets. Murray is also the source of some of the funniest dialog in the game. These two, in particular, made me laugh out loud: "I stand tall, like a freakin' totem pole of strongism!" and "I get to row a boat? Nautical!" Suffice it to say, as soon as I find some screen captures, I see at least one Murray LiveJournal icon in my future. When last we saw Bentley, he was badly injured. As it turns out, he has been paralyzed from the waist down, but being the master engineer that he is, he has outfitted a wheelchair with more gadgets than really ought to be able to fit. He can jump higher that Sly now thanks to a rocket pack with afterburner, and his sleep darts and bombs make a comeback. Bentley is still a ranged fighter, and he is far and away my favorite character to control.

As is usually the case, Carmelita is tailing the Cooper gang on their adventures around the world. This time, however, she's a playable character. Controlling her takes a little getting used to, but if you've any good at FPS games, you won't have any problems. She's got the same shock pistol as in the previous two games, and it's great to finally be serving shocks instead of receiving them. There are two brand new allies this time around: The Guru, who speaks in gibberish and can control the minds of guards, and Penelope, a rabbit who manages to surpass Bentley's skills in RC car and helicopter operation. Also joining the team are two familiar faces: The Panda King from Sly 1, your fireworks expert, and Dimitri from Sly 2, your frog man and bling consultant extraordinaire.

Supporting characters and bosses are a mix of old and new as well. In the South Pacific, you'll meet Dr. M, a baboon with a power plug attached to his head. I'm not sure what his deal is, but that plug can't be comfortable. In Italy, you'll meet Octavio, a lion obsessed with the opera. The Baron, the first human seen in the game's universe, hails from Holland, where he holds an annual biplane combat contest that Muggshott from Sly 1 is taking part in. General Tsao, a chicken, is terrorizing China, and Captain McFwee, a piratical parrot can be found in the ocean surrounding Bloodbath Bay.

Gameplay: Technically, Sly 3 is a platformer, but there's so much else to do that classification is difficult. There is computer hacking, RC cars, singing, sword fighting, dogfighting, naval combat, SCUBA diving, and boat rowing in addition to the platforming. To call this game a simple platformer is a bit of an understatement. For the most part, each play type controls well. I had difficulty controlling Dimitri underwater, and the naval combat felt clumsy, but that may just be me not liking the bits I was bad at. Sadly, what the game needs more of is platforming. There are so many side missions that the platforming often gets forgotten. I don't think I used but half of the moves I purchased because there just wasn't enough time to play with them.

There are two big gameplay differences between Sly's second and third installments. Missions are, like in the first installment, replayable, which is nice if you're into that, and the clue bottles from parts one and two are absent. I loved tracking down the clue bottles. It was a great way to extend gameplay without forcing the player to go on a fetch quest (Wind Waker, I'm looking at you and your stupid mandatory Triforce hunt). It gave me a reason to explore the different areas and become familiar with them. Sadly, there was no such draw for me this time around.

Graphics and Sound: Sly 3 looks to have been made with the Sly 2 engine. This isn't a bad thing -- Sly 2 was a beautiful PS2 game, but I would have expected at least a slight upgrade from one installment to the next. The cel shaded cartoon look works very well for this game. Voice work, again, is of very high quality. The only minus in this category is Carmelita's voice talent has been changed again. Why, oh why can't they get the woman from the first game to voice her again? She's a fun character, and the first voice fit her perfectly.

Multiplayer, Replayability, and 3-D Glasses: There are three multiplayer stages that you can tackle with a friend, but I only really like one of them. Biplane battle and naval battle aren't worth your time. I didn't like naval combat the first time around, and aerial combat is a lot more fun when it's you versus 30 winged opponents than when it's a one on one fight because the arena is just too large for two combatants. You'll spend more time looking for one another than fighting. Two player hacking, on the other hand, is great. First, it's cooperative. Second, I really enjoy the hacking minigame missions, and they're simple to figure out. The left stick moves your avatar, and the right stick aims and fires your gun. That's it. You're officially read to hack. To tackle these challenges with a friend is a lot of fun. Sly 3 comes with 3-D glasses. Just leave them in the manual. They're completely not worth it, and you'll look like an idiot while you wear them. I guarantee that if anybody sees you wearing them, they will make fun of you. Also, they are completely optional, and they add nothing to the game anyway.

As with most other games, the story mode offers little in the way of immediate replayability. There is however, the ability to go back and play your favorite missions. When you tire of that, there are additional challenges that can be completed in each chapter. Usually, these are something along the lines of "complete this mission under a time limit" or "complete this mission with half your normal allotment of health." Your motivation for completing these challenges is unlocking bonus movies and artwork. For the most part, these missions are enjoyable, but some of the time limits are just a bit too strict.

Fun Factor: If you enjoyed the previous games in this series, you can't go wrong to pick up Sly 3. If you like 3-D platformers and haven't played any of this series, give it a shot. It's a lot of fun, but if you're only going to play one of the three games, pick up Sly 2. It's longer, tighter, and just more fun. 7.5/10

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus | Sly 2: Band of Thieves | Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

Source: - release dates

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