Sly 2: Band of Thieves (Remaster) Review

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The world was introduced to a unique brand of stealth platforming with the release of Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. I enjoy the game but I do think it’s way too easy and the stealth is a bit weak. It feels more like a traditional platformer than a stealth game. Regardless, if you enjoy 3D platformers, Sly Cooper proves to be a good time. I have heard the sequel improves things so I have been looking forward to playing it. Developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Sly 2: Band of Thieves was released for PlayStation 2 in September, 2004. This along with the first and third game were remastered and all three were released together in The Sly Collection for PlayStation 3 in 2011. For this review, I played the remaster.

Set after the events of the first game, the Cooper Gang plans to steal the Clockwerk parts and destroy them to end his threat forever but discover they’ve gone missing and Inspector Carmelita Fox and her new partner, Constable Neyla, are hot on their tail. They learn the parts were taken by a group of criminals known as The Klaww Gang so they travel to different locations around the world with the goal of locating the members and stealing the parts from them. Sly 2 plays out in episodes and uses a variation of cel-shading making for another cartoony presentation with characters that are often stereotypical and wacky. I do like how Bentley and Murray are more involved in the gang’s activities and the dialogue between the characters is often humorous. Ultimately, I enjoy the plot more than that of the first game because it feels more like a caper tale overall which fits the gameplay’s bigger focus on stealth.

Right off the bat, I want to say Sly 2 is one of the greatest sequels I’ve ever played and it has become one of my favorite platformers from the sixth-generation era. It rectifies the issues I had with the first game, it’s significantly longer, and it features a better balance of stealth and platforming. Whenever I play a game for a review, I take notes and for Sly 2, I created a list of new features and what I perceived as all positive changes compared to the previous game so I’ll just list some of them off. You can play as Bentley and Murray who are much more involved in events, the locations are more open-ended, enemies pose more of a threat, the life system is gone, lucky charms are replaced with an actual health system, coins act as a form of currency that can be spent on gadgets and new moves, and stealth plays a bigger role.

Sly 2 feels like a platforming stealth adventure. The gameplay loop goes like this; you travel to a location, do some recon, complete a series jobs which basically prep you for a big heist, and then pull off the heist, some of which culminate in a boss battle. Most locations feature a big operation like a heist or prison break and will require each member of the Cooper Gang to work together. Each location is basically a small open world and you’re free to roam about them and pickpocket enemies for coins and loot, steal treasure, and/or just explore. Clue Bottles make a return and there are thirty to find and collect in each location and once all are found, you can open the vault which is typically found in one of the location’s levels or areas an rewards Sly with a new technique or move.

Most of the mechanics from the first game make a return. Enemies can drop coins and health and they don’t go down as easily anymore. As long as he’s not spotted, Sly can perform a sneak slam attack to instantly defeat enemies otherwise, he’ll have to smack them around with his cane, use gadgets or run away. Bentley and Murray play differently. They have their own move sets and gadgets but I, personally, feel Sly is the most enjoyable character to play as because he can climb around and pull off moves the other’s can’t. Bentley can drop bombs and is equipped with a crossbow that can fire sleep darts and Murray is basically the character designed for fighting.

Scattered around each location is treasure that can be stolen and returned to the hideout to be sold on ThiefNet. Some of the treasure is booby-trapped which means you have to take it to the hideout within a time limit. Other than that, you can accumulate coins and pickpocket enemies to retrieve loot that can also be sold on ThiefNet. ThiefNet is where you can sell loot and buy new moves and gadgets and each character has their own unique items. Some gadgets and moves need to be assigned to certain buttons but others are automatically activated like silent obliteration which is basically an upgrade to the sneak slam attack. It just doesn’t make noise.

I will say the gameplay still leans more towards the easy side but I would definitely say it’s more challenging than the first game. I also want to mention this remaster is another easy game to Platinum on PS3. While the locations or worlds are open-ended, the levels or areas within each location are more linear. The developers clearly put a bigger focus on stealth here which will be evident right from the get-go. Enemies don’t go down so easily and can call for reinforcements so it’s often wise to quietly take them down or just evade them altogether. Some jobs will require you not to get spotted and the more open-ended locations give you plenty of freedom and options when it comes to getting around and reaching destinations. Sly can climb and jump around just like he could before. He can also crawl under things to evade foes and use gadgets and utilize noise to distract foes. Unless the objective requires you not to harm enemies or get spotted, you’ll always have the choice to evade or engage foes and depending on what types of enemies are present and how many, it’s sometimes better to evade them if possible. I would say Sly 2 basically defines what a stealth platformer should be.

Enemies can be found patrolling the streets and rooftops. If you take them down, new enemies will spawn so there will always be enemies present wherever you go in each location which also means plenty of pockets to pick. The game does take you to numerous locations around the world including Cairo, Paris, India, Prague, and Canada. You’ll infiltrate a nightclub and palace, sneak around an airship, and participate in Lumber Jack Games in Canada. The environments are diverse and many of them come with boss battles which I would argue are more challenging than the bosses in the first game. They’re not extremely difficult but they aren’t pushovers, either.

Minigames make a return because they seem to be a staple in the 3D platformer genre. I do like that most of the minigames here actually make sense compared to some of those in the first game like random races for example. In Sly 2, the minigames are always associated with a job you’re doing to prep for a heist or whatever the big operation is or are even part of the big operation. There’s always a context established. You’ll hack things which are basically dual-stick shooter minigames, you’ll get to man turrets and shoot at things, pilot RC choppers and drop bombs, and drive a tank and engage other tanks. I typically don’t care for minigames in platformers but I will admit, most of the ones here are enjoyable and never became super tedious or frustrating. In fact, a lot of them are action packed. The only one I really didn’t care for is the dancing which is just a rhythm minigame and a lot like actual dancing, I don’t find it enjoyable.

I think what really makes Sly 2 work and work so well is basically the gameplay transformation from the first game to this. It went from a linear platformer with some stealth elements to a more open-ended and stealth focused experience. A lot of things like how you’re going to evade enemies is still often obvious, especially in the numerous levels which are more linear, but the jobs or objectives you’re given really drive home that stealth feeling and mixed in is a healthy dose of platforming. All the jobs you must complete are basically prep for the big heist and then Bentley will put together a plan. You’ll take recon photos, follow NPCs, bug a target’s office, disable alarms, steal keys, and break into places among other things. A lot of it is typical thief-like stuff and it all works really well for the style of gameplay on offer. You can sneak around in the shadows, quietly creep and jump around, sticking to the rooftops is often safer than running around on the ground, and the locations are actually fun to explore. I really enjoyed looking for pockets to pick and treasure steal.

The visual presentation is definitely on par with that of the previous remastered game. I enjoy the cartoony look and feel. The presentation is colorful, the environments are visually diverse, and the only thing I would say is an eyesore is the noticeable pop-in. Unfortunately, some of the audio in this remaster is problematic. Whenever a character speaks during a cut scene, their first word sounds like it has to fade in every single time. Although, I have read this might be a problem exclusive to the digital version which is the version I played. I’ve also read about music looping when character dialogue is delayed but I can’t say I noticed that. The soundtrack, itself, is wonderful with a lot of fitting tunes that help drive home the atmosphere and tone and on top of that, are quite catchy. On the technical side, I did notice the frame rate dip here and there but it wasn’t often. Other than that, I did not encounter any major problems.

I had an absolute blast with Sly 2. I was so impressed with all the changes and new features that I was immediately hooked and was kept engaged throughout the entire experience. I really love this shit. This is basically exactly what I wanted out of this series. I actually felt like a thief and the stealth, while still basic, works really well. Much like the first game, the platforming works great but because of the more open-ended nature of the environments, I found it to be more enjoyable here. The game gives you reasons to explore, the locations are actually fun to explore, and while the gameplay still leans towards the easy side, it’s just challenging enough that completing objectives and successfully doing stealthy shit is satisfying and fun. Sly 2 is definitely an accessible game that I feel can be enjoyed by a wide audience and I can’t think of anything about it that really brings it down. I don’t even mind the length which I’ve heard drew some criticism. It is significantly longer than the first game and I enjoyed every minute of it. I can only hope the developers expand on this formula in future games. I have yet to play the sequels but I am looking forward to them.

I would absolutely recommend Sly 2: Band of Thieves. It not only rectifies the issues I had with the first game but also goes above and beyond. It’s an amazing sequel. To me, Sly 2 is a great example of what a stealth platformer should be. It’s got a great balance of stealth and platforming, it’s accessible, it’s fun, and there’s plenty here to keep players occupied for a while. Definitely check it out.

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