Sly Cooper is a filthy rotten thief. Not a sunken-eyed lowlife nicking crisps from the corner shop or a witless delinquent pocketing CDs in HMV, but a floppy-capped, stripey jumper-wearing rogue with a swag sack slung over his shoulder and a wiley grin on his face. Then there's Bentley, his wily tortoise accomplice who serves as the brains of the operation. He's a lover, not a fighter, so he renders his foes unconscious with a well-placed tranquilliser dart. Finally, we have Murray. He's a hulking pink hippo who's partial to crushing things under his almighty Earth-straddling bulk. Need something breaking or lifting? He's your man. Together, they form the Band of Thieves, and their exploits are charted throughout this luscious sequel to the equally-decent 2002 original which we awarded a keen 80%
It's evident from the moment that Sly 2 first springs into life that the production values are very high. The wonderfully stylized cel-shaded visuals, having pilfered more than a few ideas from Gamecube's Wind Waker, have improved tenfold over the original. The environments range from shadowy Parisian boulevards and garish nightclubs to ancient Indian temples and dusty streets teeming with traffic. Spectacularly, perching on rooftops lets you see for miles, the draw distance is remarkable, and the frame rate rarely wavers. It's a definite feast for the eyes.
Now, the most important thing to consider when reviewing a platform game is the collision detection. If you're falling through platforms or merging into scenery, there's little point. The very nature of the genre demands solid-as-a-block level design, and herein lies Sly's problem. The levels are beautiful and are packed with things to do, but controlling Sly feels mysteriously cumbrous, and as a result the rest of the game suffers. For the most part it works fine, but occasionally you'll stutter at the edge of a precipice or topple awkwardly into a group of enemies through no fault of your own.
The GTA-influenced mission structure is an interesting change of pace for a platformer and you can perform tasks and missions in any order in the free-roaming environment. The game is generally heaps of fun, the voice acting is splendid and the '60s heist movie-style soundtrack gives the game a touch of class. Excellent platforming for those awaiting Jak 3 or for anyone who wants a change from the norm.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves is out now for the PS2