spacetrucking's The Sly Collection (PlayStation 3) review

Nostalgia or not, Sly is a lot of fun

When it was originally released on the PS2, the Sly series served as an interesting alternative to combat-heavy platformers like Ratchet and Jak. Its adorable presentation, smart level design and approachable stealth mechanics help set it apart all those years ago and these seemingly ageless qualities still make it a discrete entity. The re-mastered HD graphics and a collection of Move mini-games sweeten the deal, but the biggest reason this collection is still worth your attention is because there just aren't any other platformers like it on the PS3.

Sly's Own Niche

Sucker Punch have their own distinctive take on the stealth & platforming genres.Sly instantly sticks to ropes, poles or ledges when you press "O" in air. Combined with the razor sharp controls, this drastically simplifies the platforming. If you're searching for a particularly difficult platforming experience, look elsewhere.

Instead of challenging players to land daunting jumps, the gameplay focuses on mindful puzzle solving and good judgement of enemy movement patterns. Using the environment to sneak around guards and taking them out silently provides the challenge and satisfaction here. Don't get me wrong, Sly still has enough tricks to keep his own in a straight fight but the pay-off isn't as big. Guards often carry gems, special keys and other valuables that can only be pickpocketed while in stealth and this encourages you to be, you know...stealthy. It avoids the common pitfalls of the traditional trial and error approach in espionage games, while still making the stealth meaningful.

The Sly gang are a fun bunch to hang out with.

All this sneaking around is accentuated by some crafty level design. The environments are lush with things you can grab on to and use as alternate paths for your thievery. While the first Sly is somewhat linear and limited in scope, it's packed with a multitude of great ideas that are expanded on later in the series. The level design really starts to shine in the second game where the linear stages are replaced by nebulous hub towns that are free to be explored completely from the get-go.

The mission structure makes you explore every nook and cranny as you setup elaborate heists.You often have to engage in reconnaissance work or collect equipment to help you break in. These varied challenges force you to tackle the same areas in interesting new ways that make the traversal feel more meaningful. It's not quite Metroidvania but there is enough variation in the back-and-forth exploration to keep you on your toes. These elaborate setups also make the actual grand heist that much more satisfying.

Sly 3 also has local co-op mini-games

The third game adds many action-adventure elements and a huge cast of playable characters on top of this open-world structure. It's still got plenty of stealth sections but each character has their own distinctive play-style and it ends up diluting the gameplay a little. However, this character overload also turned Sly 3's storyline into a favorite of mine. The whole game feels like a recruitment drive from Ocean's Eleven (or for that matter, pretty much every heist movie ever made). If you don't build up to it by playing the other two first, it might feel a bit overwhelming.

Outside platforming and the simple 2-button combat, the series also features more mini-games than I can recall. Sly 3 alone has seven or so kind of mini-games that range from duel joystick shooters to kart racing to shooting galleries. All of them are executed well enough to distract you from the jumping & climbing routine. There are also a plethora of collectibles and upgrades you can unlock which are probably going to drive the completionists crazy. Sly 1 even has some unlockable developer videos but hundred percenting (can I use it as a verb ?) games just isn't my thing. However, if you're a trophy hunter, then you'll be happy to know that this collection will probably be the three easiest platinums you'll ever unlock.

Collection Updates

The Sly series has always been noted for its impressive presentation and beautiful artwork. Sanzaru updated the game to support widescreen and the HD re-mastering gives the cel-shaded graphics a sharp look. It doesn't look quite as good as the new Ratchet but the visuals hold up pretty well on their own, largely due to the adorable aesthetics. The frame rate issues from the PS2 version are gone.

I really like the way the game moves and how it sounds. The animations and facial expressions remind me of the charming Hannah-Barbera cartoons. Sly even makes a comical toe-tapping sound while sneaking around in the dark and the game has onomatopoeia for good measure. Expect to see a lot of "THAWK!", "KAPOW!" and "BAM!". It's a nice reminder of times when character action games weren't brimming with testosterone.

Sly 3's 3D feature has also been updated for HD-TVs but unfortunately I don't have 3D enabled TV so I couldn't try it.

Sly 3: PS2 Vs. PS3 Shot

The Move control support is limited to just four mini-games that you'll probably get over in fifteen minutes. It's three shooting gallery games and an on-rails obstacle course where you guide a helicopter through some hoops. It's a minor distraction at best and not something that will make you invest in Move. I actually went in expecting the main games to support the Move controller. I was also hoping they would fix some of the minor camera issues in Sly 2 but no such luck there either. Consider these two a missed opportunity for Sony. I guess I'd have to wait for PlayStation Move Heroes for something that stands up to Mario Galaxy.

Recommendation

Due to the relative dearth of good platformers on the PS3, the Sly collection still manages to feel fresh and relevant. The thing that surprised me the most is just how much the series evolved over the years, from a linear platformer to an open-world action adventure game. It makes each Sly game feel like a unique entry in the series. In retrospect, it's easy to see how Sucker Punch ended up making an excellent open-world superhero game. Anyway, enough tangents - if you have never tried these games before, this is an excellent chance to fix that. If you already own these on the PS2, then you should definitely consider reacquainting yourself with this roguish raccoon. The experience is sure to whet your appetite for the upcoming Sly 4.

19 Comments
Posted by Yummylee

Really well done review! I've never played the original Sly games, though learning more about it here has definitely got me lookin' to give it a purchase.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Neat. I'd pick this up if it weren't for the pile of new games I have waiting for me when I return from college. And Blops. Pretty much addicted to Blops. 

Posted by MightyDuck

Awesome review!  I've never played any of the Sly Cooper's, but I might have to pick this up.

Posted by cstrang

Great review.  I may have to pick this up.  I only briefly played the Sly games when they originally came out.
 
...Also, it's "whet", not "wet", one's appetite.  Sorry, it's a pet peeve of mine.

Posted by stauf7

Great review! I'm now even more tempted to pick up this collection.. once I get through at least some of my pile of shame.

Posted by Jazz

Great review, nice layout. 
I'm waiting for my copy to turn up next week...it would be nice if someone took the 'theft' gameplay an ran with it. Planning realistic heists would be pretty cool.

Posted by Pink_o_mat

Great review!
You sold me on this game!

Posted by zymase

Excellent review.  This game is still at the top of my wanted list.

Posted by JacDG

I was a huge fan of the original games, some of my favorites on the PS2, and along with Ratchet and Clank it made the platforming genre my favorite. Sadly nowadays, good platformers are rare to find, and since I'm not a Little Big Planet fan, it's even more difficult, so I can't wait to get this collection and experience a great platformer, mixed with the nostalgic kick it should give me. Awesome review dude, and I totally agree, even though I haven't played the remasted version.

Posted by StillVictor

Good job with the review. I'm going to get this game now.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

I loved the Sly trilogy on the PS2, but I was hesitant to pick this up because of some musings about audio issues. Specifically, for a couple of the boss battles that depend on listening to the rhythm of the music, apparently the sound was messed up in some way. Can you speak to that at all?

Edited by Spacetrucking
@beard_of_zeus said:

" I loved the Sly trilogy on the PS2, but I was hesitant to pick this up because of some musings about audio issues. Specifically, for a couple of the boss battles that depend on listening to the rhythm of the music, apparently the sound was messed up in some way. Can you speak to that at all? "

I didn't notice any audio issues. All the rhythm based games also have on-screen prompts (like any quick time event) so listening to the sound cues is optional anyway. The only rhythm game that gave me trouble was the fight with Mz. Ruby in Sly 1 - the fight is hard because it's long and taxing. Sly dies if you miss a single beat. Also, the button prompts fly directly at you and the game's depth perception makes it hard to judge. I eventually got used to it after 5 mins and beat her. 
 
Hope that helps!
Posted by Piranesi

As with a good few people, the Sly games seemed to pass me by at the time - the PS2 was hardly short of platformers. Definitely want to pick this up now.
Posted by beard_of_zeus
@Killjoi said:
" @beard_of_zeus said:

" I loved the Sly trilogy on the PS2, but I was hesitant to pick this up because of some musings about audio issues. Specifically, for a couple of the boss battles that depend on listening to the rhythm of the music, apparently the sound was messed up in some way. Can you speak to that at all? "

I didn't notice any audio issues. All the rhythm based games also have on-screen prompts (like any quick time event) so listening to the sound cues is optional anyway. The only rhythm game that gave me trouble was the fight with Mz. Ruby in Sly 1 - the fight is hard because it's long and taxing. Sly dies if you miss a single beat. Also, the button prompts fly directly at you and the game's depth perception makes it hard to judge. I eventually got used to it after 5 mins and beat her.  Hope that helps! "
Yeah, The Mz. Ruby fight was the main one I was talking about. Apparently the audio is supposed to be a little off-sync with the button prompts, messing up a lot of folks.
Edited by Spacetrucking
@beard_of_zeus said:

" @Killjoi said:

" @beard_of_zeus said:

" I loved the Sly trilogy on the PS2, but I was hesitant to pick this up because of some musings about audio issues. Specifically, for a couple of the boss battles that depend on listening to the rhythm of the music, apparently the sound was messed up in some way. Can you speak to that at all? "

I didn't notice any audio issues. All the rhythm based games also have on-screen prompts (like any quick time event) so listening to the sound cues is optional anyway. The only rhythm game that gave me trouble was the fight with Mz. Ruby in Sly 1 - the fight is hard because it's long and taxing. Sly dies if you miss a single beat. Also, the button prompts fly directly at you and the game's depth perception makes it hard to judge. I eventually got used to it after 5 mins and beat her.  Hope that helps! "
Yeah, The Mz. Ruby fight was the main one I was talking about. Apparently the audio is supposed to be a little off-sync with the button prompts, messing up a lot of folks. "
Ah, I never relied on audio cues for that fight so I guess I was immune to the off-sync. Even then it was a mildly frustrating boss fight lasting 5-10 mins in a 30+ hour experience spanning across three games. It could've been implemented better but personally, it didn't spoil the rest of the games for me.  
 
Hopefully Sanzaru will patch it for the audiophiles.
Posted by Bloodgraiv3

Some of my most favorite games of all time, wonderful review. 
Posted by Jikla
@Killjoi said:
" @beard_of_zeus said:

" @Killjoi said:

" @beard_of_zeus said:

" I loved the Sly trilogy on the PS2, but I was hesitant to pick this up because of some musings about audio issues. Specifically, for a couple of the boss battles that depend on listening to the rhythm of the music, apparently the sound was messed up in some way. Can you speak to that at all? "

I didn't notice any audio issues. All the rhythm based games also have on-screen prompts (like any quick time event) so listening to the sound cues is optional anyway. The only rhythm game that gave me trouble was the fight with Mz. Ruby in Sly 1 - the fight is hard because it's long and taxing. Sly dies if you miss a single beat. Also, the button prompts fly directly at you and the game's depth perception makes it hard to judge. I eventually got used to it after 5 mins and beat her.  Hope that helps! "
Yeah, The Mz. Ruby fight was the main one I was talking about. Apparently the audio is supposed to be a little off-sync with the button prompts, messing up a lot of folks. "
Ah, I never relied on audio cues for that fight so I guess I was immune to the off-sync. Even then it was a mildly frustrating boss fight lasting 5-10 mins in a 30+ hour experience spanning across three games. It could've been implemented better but personally, it didn't spoil the rest of the games for me.   Hopefully Sanzaru will patch it for the audiophiles. "

You can spam the buttons she throws at you. For example if she shoots 4 O and 3 X at you, just spam O till you have dodged 4 times. Then Spam X 3 times. Took me a few tries to figure out, but after I found out about this I beat her in the first try with button spamming.
Posted by blueman90
@MooseyMcMan said:
"Neat. I'd pick this up if it weren't for the pile of new games I have waiting for me when I return from college. And Blops. Pretty much addicted to Blops.  "

Blops ARE good!
Posted by Dudacles

Very good review!

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