Image from Flickr User: James Paterson

Newcomer Alert: The Completion of Sly 2: Band of Thieves

I am now officially halfway through the Sly Cooper series!  I recently completed Sly 2: Band of Thieves and have gotten 100% both in the game itself and in collecting all of its lovely trophies.  If only these were real trophies, I’d have quite the collection by now.  Since my last update, I completed both episodes in the very spooky Prague, after which I headed to the chilly wilderness of Canada to stop the fiendish buffalo Jean Bison (I never get bored of saying his name) from chopping down the forests.  Last of all, I completed the final chapter on the parrot Arpeggio’s blimp and defeated the final boss.  Done and done.  I had a really great time playing this game, and I was so happy to find that it was much longer than the original, which ended just when I was really getting into it.  And now that I’ve seen everything there is to see in Sly 2, it is time for my most positive and most negative thoughts about the game.

Once again, I must say this game is so much better than the first one.  The original game was good, but it feels like they took a rough gem and polished it into something beautiful.  I believe all of my main complaints about the original have been fixed in this one.  Your characters now have health, so you no longer die after one hit.  You no longer have to worry about lives.  The game is also much less linear.  And running into lasers and spotlights now has immediate consequences.  In the first game, running through these traps will only set off an alarm.  This alarm would do nothing but make noise.  It wouldn’t even attract enemies.  Then, you could simply silence it with a good whack.  And for a game that was supposed to be all about stealth, what was the point if clomping around carelessly worked just as well as being sneaky?  In this game, running through lasers gives you quite a burn, and you will be shot at if you step into any spotlights.  In short, if you want to get through this game, learn to be light on your feet or suffer the consequences.

In fact, the stealth aspect of this game was so much more refined than the first.  In addition to the improvements I just mentioned, there are so many more features to make this a truly stealth-centered game.  You can crawl under tables and other objects to avoid notice.  You can sneak up behind enemies and steal money and items from them, and if they don’t see you, you can take them out without any resistance.  But only if they don’t see you, and this can still alert other guards in the area to your presence if you’re not careful, so taking out enemies takes a bit of stategy.  You can also purchase new moves or get new skills from safes, such as an alarm clock that will distract enemies.  In the original game, the stealth aspect almost felt like an afterthought, but now it is central to the gameplay, and let me tell you, when you get good at it, moving about unseen can be super satisfying.

I did find the addition of Bentley and Murray as playable characters to be pretty cool, though I stand by my belief that they don’t have as much purpose as Sly does.  He has the vast majority of moves in the game, and sometimes getting around as those two can be rather bothersome when they lack the ability to climb and walk on ropes and other abilities that their raccoon companion excels at.  The locations were clearly designed with Sly in mind, though allowing you to control all the characters definitely makes them feel a lot more like a team than they did in the first game.  The game also had a pretty satisfying difficulty level, and I believe the characters and dialogue was much improved over the first game, as well.  I also like that Murray has more of a role.  They didn’t really do much with him in the first game, but making him a playable character and making some changes to his personality has made him a much more likable character as opposed to one I usually forgot about.

Of course, even the best games are not without their flaws, and I have two main complaints before I get into my final thoughts.  One: is it just me, or is the circle button not always very responsive?  The circle button is vital to this game, as it allows Sly to do all kinds of stealth moves.  It causes him to crawl under tables, pickpocket guards, walk on tightropes, and so on, but there were many times I failed missions or fell off of high up platforms and was forced to climb all the way back up because the button wouldn’t do anything.  (Or it would cause him to target and grab onto something below far what I was really aiming for.)  This became especially frustrating in episode 7, where you must take radio transmitters from the mouths of six sleeping bears.  If you step on the thin ice in their cave, they’ll wake up.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I kept having to repeat the level because Sly wouldn’t grab this one hook.  Every time I jumped for it, I’d press the circle button, and he’d just fall to the ice below.  And you do not want six angry bears after you.  It’s bad enough being chased by one.

I don’t know, maybe the simple act of pressing a button is just too much for me.  Maybe it’s the game.  All I know was this caused me a lot of aggravation.  My final complaint was the missions where you must walk around in an explosive barrel.  Once again, the danger is very real here, as any single attack from an enemy will cause poor Sly to explode.  So if an enemy approaches, you mustn’t move, or else you’ll be attacked.  Well, the problem is, if you aren’t far enough to the side, enemies will walk up to you and proceed to stand there.  Countless times, I would be stuck because an enemy would plant themselves beside me and refuse to walk around me.  After a lot of patience, they’d usually walk by eventually, but sometimes they wouldn’t, and I’d have to inch by one step at a time every time they somewhat faced away from me.  This became impossible once I got caught in the flashlights of two guards at once.  Sigh.  This is going to be a long wait….

Of course, every game has its frustrating moments, and fortunately in this game’s case, the good far outweighs the bad.  Before this post ends, I also have some positive or amusing experiences to share with you all.  First off, let’s take a moment to talk about the bears again.  These ursine brutes really freaked me out, as much as it baffled me that they appear to be like regular bears, while every other animal in the game is bipedal and wears clothes.  Very confusing.  (It’s like having a pet bird or hamster in Animal Crossing.  What separates the animals that can speak from the ones I keep in a cage in my house?  Heck, why can Goofy talk and Pluto can’t, when they’re both dogs?  Anthropomorphic animals is a baffling conundrum when you really get to thinking about it.  So you probably shouldn’t.)

Ahem, back to the main point.  The bears in this game are frightening.  My initial sighting took place in the first episode of Canada, and something inside me warned me to stay very clear of the beast.  I didn’t heed this warning for very long, however, as I entered the bear’s cave shortly after in search of clue bottles.  I found some, along with a second bear that quickly spotted me in its territory, during which I learned that bears in this game have red eyes!  This time, that little voice inside me was screaming on the outside.  Why I have categorized this near death experience as a positive aspect of the game, however, I’m not certain.  I guess I just enjoy being terrified.  It’s also fun watching the bears attack other enemies.  It’s good to know they don’t only hate me.

There is also a mission where Murray must carry two bear cubs to this hand cart (don’t ask, it was Bentley’s idea, not mine).  But the mission tells me to “kinap” them.  That’s right, “kinap”.  Um, was there really no one at Sucker Punch that noticed this?

Lastly, I have to say that this game has some pretty awesome level designs.  I was really impressed with the locations in this game, and I had a lot of fun exploring these huge, often confusing, places.  My favorite level was the first Prague episode.  I thought this one was really cool and atmospheric.  I mentioned this place already in my previous post about this game, but my opinion still stands.  And I just love creepy places.  My second favorite episode was actually the first Canada episode.  I thought this level was really unique.  Unlike most locations in this game, this one had very little in the way of buildings.  Mainly, you just got to enjoy the great outdoors, and when I originally began exploring this location, it just felt so big and open, I really felt like I was way out in the wilderness.  I also had fun riding on the trains.  Choo choo!

All in all, Sly 2 is an awesome game, and I was amazed at how Sucker Punch was able to take the ideas from the first game and make it into something so much better.  And though I’m sad to be finished, I am quite excited to check out the third game, the initial thoughts of which I should be sharing soon.  (I even ordered the fourth game, so I’m all set to get caught up on this series.)  I only wonder, since this game was so good, will the others be able to compete?  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see….

Thieves That Duck

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