Sly 2: Band of Thieves Review
The varied gameplay, well-constructed story, and excellent graphics, sound, and music all come together to form an experience that most anybody would enjoy.
2002's Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was an interesting and fun combination of standard platformer-style gameplay with some light stealth aspects that helped set it apart from the pack. It looked great and played well, but the game was a little on the short and easy side of things, making it ultimately better suited for younger audiences. Now, Sly Cooper and his gang are back in Sly 2: Band of Thieves. The sequel delivers the same style of stealthy action found in the first game, but it wraps all the action up in a much more inventive and lengthier package. The result is a great game that's packed with all the charm of the original but is a lot better overall.
The last time we saw Sly Cooper, he was hot on the hunt for his family's thieving instruction manual, the Thievius Raccoonus, and the evil being that stole it, Clockwerk. The parts that make up Clockwerk's robotic-bird body are in Interpol's hands now, but at the outset of the game, Sly embarks on a mission to steal the parts to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, he's too late. By the time he makes his way to the parts, they've already been stolen and scattered around the world by an international criminal network known as the Klaww Gang. So our sneaky raccoon, along with his faithful companions Bentley and Murray, must steal the parts back from the gang, fight with the gang's various thugs, and stay away from the law, which once again appears in the form of Inspector Carmelita Fox, who's been joined by another female known as Constable Neyla. It's a colorful, well-presented setup that seems like it could have come straight from a high-quality animated movie.
In Sly 2, you'll play as Sly, but you'll also get to control Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo from time to time, since some objectives require their unique abilities. The differences between the three characters are pretty simple, but they're different enough to give each player a unique feel. Sly's the stealth guy, so he's the most agile of the three. Murray--hilariously decked out in a crazy wrestling costume--is your muscle, so his moves are focused on breaking stuff and beating people up. Bentley is the runt of the gang, but he's also smart enough to bring some gadgets along with him. His sleep darts can put guards under for a brief period of time, which is usually more than enough time to run up and use Bentley's other default gadget, a time bomb. You can also purchase new abilities and items for the characters, which can help make things easier, but you can usually get by without any additional help, because the game controls quite well. Each character has two attack moves at his disposal, including a stealth attack that you can only perform if you get behind an unsuspecting guard. In the event that you do get hit, though, you'll just take a little damage. Sly 2 is more forgiving than its predecessor that way, as the first game would put you down after getting hit once (or twice, if you had a special item).
The Clockwerk parts have been broken up and are being used by different Klaww Gang criminals for different purposes. This, in turn, effectively breaks up the game into episodes. Every episode takes place in a fairly large overworld-like hub (in which Sly can be seen stalking along rooftops late at night), but unlike in many platform games that contain hub environments, in Sly 2, some of your objectives will be completed directly in the hub. The objective of each episode is to pull off a grand heist. But you can't simply walk into each episode and then immediately pull off your heist. As with any great heist, there's a lot of setup that needs to take place here, and that's where the game's level structure comes in.
Most platformers just string together levels that don't really mean anything. As a result, you're just sort of platforming for the sake of platforming. Sly makes every objective count. Since you're only in town to pull off one job, everything you do relates to making that job possible. You'll typically start out by infiltrating an area and taking some reconnaissance photos. From that starting point, Bentley--the brains of the operation--maps out several steps. Sometimes you'll have to tail someone. You'll spend a lot of time picking pockets for keys. Some episodes require you to take out alarm boxes ahead of time. The way the game's levels all tie in to the main heist in some way is very cool, and it gives every single objective more meaning than it would have otherwise.