Sly 2: Band of Thieves Update

We get our hands on a demo disc of Sucker Punch's PlayStation 2 platformer.

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While we just saw Sly 2 at E3 last week, we managed to get our hands on a demo disc for the upcoming sequel to 2002's Sly Cooper and the Thievious Racoonus. The good-sized demo allowed us to play around with Sly and his gang, Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo, to get a feel for how the promising sequel is coming together. While still a ways off from release, Sly 2 is looking good thanks to a polished art style, clean graphics, and unique gameplay.

Sly and friends are back to cause even more trouble in Sly 2: Band of Thieves.
Sly and friends are back to cause even more trouble in Sly 2: Band of Thieves.

The multistage demo starts with you slipping on Sly's mask and boots as he sets out to collect parts of the original game's villain Clockwerk from a heavily guarded building. However, as skilled a thief as Sly is, you won't be able to make it through on your own. You'll have to rely on your posse and make sure that they can help you pull off your thievery. At the beginning of the game you'll have to reach a switch that will allow Bentley to use an elevator so he can access a computer terminal and deactivate the security systems that are blocking your way. Bentley's security-hacking has the added benefit of letting Murray make his way into the building to meet Sly. Murray's contribution to the caper is to open a gate and bash open a door for Sly. Once you reach the area where the Clockwerk parts are being kept, you find that they're gone and instead inspector Carmelita Fox is waiting for you, intent on making an arrest. A brief interaction between Sly, Carmelita, and newcomer Constable Neyla offers up a few plot details before Sly tries to slink off unnoticed. Before the level closes, we are shown a brief homage to the original Sly game. We then see Carmelita showing off her famously poor shooting skills while Sly and the crew make their escape in a chase sequence.

A story sequence, done in the same 2D style seen in the original game, fills you in on the events from the first game and Sly's history with Bentley and Murray. The segment serves as a bridge to the next gameplay segment which focuses on Sly following nightclub owner Dimitri, a new foe in the game, as he sticks to the rooftops to avoid the guards roaming the streets. When you complete your task and watch Dimitri enter a mysterious door, the action shifts to Bentley.

The game's presentation and production values have been beefed up since the original Sly Cooper.
The game's presentation and production values have been beefed up since the original Sly Cooper.

Bentley's segment finds you controlling the skittish turtle as he navigates the interior of a disco. His goal? To bomb the four pillars supporting an enormous mirror ball hanging from the ceiling. The task is complicated by the presence of well-armed guards eager to fill Bentley full of holes. While the nervous turtle is understandably a little wary, he is actually well-equipped for the job. Bentley is able to set explosives and use a sleep dart gun to temporarily incapacitate his foes.

After Bentley has destroyed the mirror ball in the disco, you'll take control of Murray. Given the enthusiastic hippo's mental limitations, his task is to destroy alarm horns that are spread throughout the city so that Dimitri isn't alerted when the gang pulls off their heist. The simple task is complicated a bit by the presence of guards patrolling the streets. While the armed guards are a serious threat, the unarmed folk aren't any trouble at all, thanks to Murray who takes care of them with his considerable brawn and his ability to throw objects. However, if you choose to be a lover and not a fighter, it is still possible to avoid most fights by sticking to the rooftops as much as possible. Murray isn't quite as spry or aerodynamic as Sly, so you'll have to be a little more creative about how you get up and across the roofs.

The last bit of the demo focuses on Sly's new pickpocketing skill. You are given the task of infiltrating a theater and snatching key cards from guards in order to access a new area. While it is tricky to pickpocket a moving target, the new move is a nice addition to Sly's thief-centric skill set. The gameplay for all three characters feels like a good balance between the core platforming moves shared by them and their unique abilities.

Murray and Bentley will play an even more prominent role in Sly 2.
Murray and Bentley will play an even more prominent role in Sly 2.

The graphics in the demo were on par with what we saw at E3, and they serve up a good helping of polished, cel-shaded characters and locations. You'll find a lot more to interact with in the levels, either by directly smashing objects or causing them to react to your movement. The levels are also more populated with movement--especially the city levels, which feature cars and patrolling guards that help create the game's atmosphere. One of the bright spots of the original game is the animation, and it's looking equally good in this sequel as everything moves smoothly.

The audio is coming along, the voice is well done, and the sound effects are what you'd expect. Music is more prominent in this installment of the series, and there is a broader variety of music styles on tap as well.

While the good-sized demo of Sly 2 offered just a taste of what to expect from the final game, we like what we see so far. The game is looking good and it certainly plays well. We like the variety in its gameplay and the inventive way you'll switch between the different characters.

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