While most of the world spent last week freaking out about Black Ops, Sony quietly dropped one of the year’s best deals in our laps and failed to tell a single soul. The Sly Collection, an HD upgrade of three amazing PS2 platformers, was released with practically zero fanfare yet all three titles remain some of the strongest run-and-jumpers of the past decade. For $40 you get Sly Cooper, Band of Thieves and Honor Among Thieves, each magnificently remastered in 720p, and totaling something like 30 hours of consistently solid gameplay. All for $20 less than a typical new game.
Above: As his name implies, Sly is a master thief all about stealth
What made the Sly series so fun? Sneaking. Stealing. Dashing across tightropes as security cameras blanket the area. A healthy camaraderie among its ever-growing cast of anthropomorphized animals. While Ratchet was busy blasting things head on and Jak descended into angst overdose, Sly kept his Clooney-like cool while arranging elaborate heists with Bentley (a genius turtle) and Murray (a hulking hippo with a heart of gold), while the disturbingly sexy Carmelita Fox tries to lock ‘em up for good.
Once you get past each game’s tutorial-heavy beginning, they gradually unfold in a way that combines the best parts of Prince of Persia (acrobatic leaps from one handhold to the next) and Uncharted (fast action scenes broken up by ledge-climbing and snappy banter), punctuated by unique boss battles that play with typical platformer conventions. We’re definitely not saying Sly is on the same action level as Uncharted, but for what is ostensibly an easy kids’ game, Sly sneaks in its fair share of intense set pieces.
Above: Sly 3 introduces (not sneaky) planes, several new playable characters and more
Even though each game’s structure is essentially the same – complete a series of goals in each themed world – the complexity of the levels grows with each sequel. As a compiled trilogy, they work exceptionally well and change things up enough that you don’t mind when they dip into typical “collect X things to progress” pitfalls. For the most part, missions are constantly throwing you into new situations, like a Robotron/Geometry Wars-style shooter, an offroad race and, as seen above, a World War I-esque flight level. It does sometimes seem scattershot and too broad, but surprisingly none of these minigame missions feel like detestable padding.
As far as the Collection goes, there are some oddities that managed to slip through. For example, if you want to stop playing one Sly and fire up another, you must exit the entire disc, all the way back to the XMB, and re-load the game. Why can’t we just go to the Sly Collection title screen? And while 99% of the game is brilliantly up-ressed to 720p, there are certain movie clips that are in their original (i.e. blurry as hell) PS2 format. What happened there?
On the next page we’ll run through each game on the disc, just in case you’re wondering how each stacks up.