Sly Cooper and his gang have returned to give us another round of platforming adventure. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves offers the signature Sly-style of the last two games and adds new gameplay elements, with a mix of successes and failures. In the end it provides an entertaining experience for players of all ages with its engaging storyline and platforming action.
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves opens to a fractured Cooper Gang. At the end of Sly 2: Band of Thieves Bentley, the tech-savvy turtle, was horribly injured and is now confined to a wheelchair ? a rocket powered, bomb-throwing wheelchair. Never minding how cool the wheelchair is, Murray, the big hippo and source of the gang?s brute strength, has blamed himself for Bentley?s injuries. He has since left the gang and taken up a spiritual journey, which has led him to take a vow of non-violence. But the gang is going to need the old Murray back if they?re going to pull off the Cooper Gang?s biggest heist ever. It is said that the Cooper family vault is filled with loot from generations of Cooper thieves, but to breach the tight security around the vault the gang is going to need some extra help.
In a natural progression from the last two Sly games, the focus is on recruiting an entire cast of playable characters, each with their own unique set of skills. Interestingly, Sly will not only have to recruit newfound friends, but old enemies as well. The dynamic cast of characters plays well into the storyline, never leaving any of the characters with token roles. Even so, Sly, Murray, and Bentley are still the main characters. They receive the most playtime, and are the only ones for whom special abilities and equipment can be bought.
At its heart Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is a fine tuned action-platformer, which stumbles from time to time. The controls will be straight forward for long time fans. But for newcomers, and those of us that have gotten rusty over the last year, the Hazard Room is available as a tutorial level with new lessons opening up when new moves are learned. The controls a different for each character, but are never too hard to get the hang of. Sneaking, jumping, and bashing your way through levels quickly becomes second nature.
Attacking the wide range of jobs in each region also becomes second nature, perhaps too much so. One of the game?s biggest stumbling blocks is how unwaveringly clear-cut it is. Very few of the challenges in the game are actually challenging. The platforming and various mini-games, including interactive conversations that have no wrong answers, often feel too easy. Even though some of the jobs may take a couple tries to get right, the path to your goals is always lit by bright shiny this way signs, if not just told to you by one of the other characters. Some players may end up feeling jilted by the spoon-feeding that is an annoying feature of most of the numerous jobs throughout the game.
Each level of the gang?s globetrotting adventure takes place in a different country. Besides the usual platforming, every level has multiple mini-games. Whether circumventing building security with an r/c car or dog fighting in biplanes, the various mini-games never create a break in the action. While the mini-games are fun, especially when played with a friend in two-player mode, they are still too straightforward to offer a real challenge.
The bright, Saturday morning cartoon environments help keep Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves from becoming too serious. The amount of levity is in fact one of the game?s greatest strengths. Most of the time playing is exactly how it should be, just plain fun. The cartoon-like cel-shaded characters and enemies really give the game a style of its own, and the banter between characters is always light hearted.
The characters and environments do not sport the most realistic or flashy graphics, but they do complement the game?s cartoon style very well. The graphics are a little rough around the edges, and sometimes lead to bad depth perception and missed platforms. Luckily this does not happen very often. What unfortunately does happen much more than necessary are frame rate problems. A moment of clunky frame rate can really throw a wrench in delicate pick pocketing, and make you lose your heading during fast paced action.
During some sections of the game players will have to option to switch into 3D. That?s right, 3D like those blue and red 3D glasses, a pair of which, uncomfortably shaped like Sly?s mask, are provided with the game. This is by far the most useless feature of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves; thank god it?s optional. Rather than making anything actually 3D, the mode feels very much like an afterthought. I will be honest and say that it actually makes Sly and a few other elements of the environment really standout, but it does not make them 3D, these elements stand out only because the mode drops the rest of the beautifully colored environment down to a veritable grayscale. The few parts of the game where players get this option are just as passable in the normal mode.
Regardless of the ridiculous 3D mode, the third installment in the Sly series offers players an enjoyable action-platformer with an entertaining and humorous story. Fans of the Sly Cooper universe should not pass this one up, and neither should hardcore platformer fans. But those looking for a challenge are better off looking elsewhere. While not for everyone, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves deserves its place among the truly fun platformers.