Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
3 stars = Good
When your family history literally disappears off the page, you go to great lengths to restore that legacy -- even if your lineage is a band of thieves. This sets up the adventures in "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time" (PlayStation 3; E for Everyone), where our hero must travel across time and space to reinstate his family's name when it gets erased from the history books.
"Thieves in Time" plays like a finely tuned stepping-stone game aimed at those not quite ready for more advanced platformers and action games. It is set in five open worlds spanning different eras, from the Ice Age to the Wild West. Adventures await and enemies lurk regardless of the setting, so as a proper thief it's best to stay in the shadows.
This clearly looks to win over younger gamers looking for a step up from basic puzzle games. The dialogue brims with humor and the interactions have enough gags thrown in to engage them more broadly than a children's game would. The main gameplay revolves around collecting (read: stealing) coins, traversing the locations via rooftops and slinking through shadows to avoid detection, yet all in a playful manner -- as opposed to, say, "Assassin's Creed."
Thieves generally tend to avoid duking it out whenever possible, and this rings true with Sly and his companions as well but for reasons other than altruism. The game makes a misstep with the combat system. With the characters a cunning lot that rely on stealth and evasion, it makes sense not to make them too powerful in the fighting department. When you inevitably get drawn into a battle, you'll probably win without much trouble. This shines a light on this lackluster aspect and the repetitive nature of just tapping a few buttons until your enemy submits. Thankfully, the boss battles deliver a more rewarding experience, since they get increasingly difficult.
The game wisely puts you in command of more characters than just Sly himself. Bentley, although in a wheelchair, gets some of the more exciting adventures to engage in (thank goodness for robotic arms and hovercraft capability), while baddies get a brutal punch from Murray or a rogue missile from Carmelita. None of these is terribly complicated in the handling, but each injects some life at the right moments to keep the action from becoming stale.
Not every game has to be "Tomb Raider" or "Splinter Cell" and be rated M to deliver a worthwhile adventure. There is some nobility in deftly providing younger gamers a platform that enables them to grow into more adult fare over time. While easy by comparison, "Thieves in Time" does an admirable job and the franchise remains as solid as ever.