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Submitted by Chris Leyton on October 26 2004 - 14:38

Sly and his motley crew return in a stylish new adventure with some surprises...

Sly, Bentley and Murray are back in an all-new sequel to the hit 2002 platformer, Sly Racoon, which blended instantly loveable characters against a stylish, crime-noir background.

This time around Sly and his â??Racoon Packâ? are called into action when they learn that the robotic remains of Clockwerk â?“ Slyâ??s nemesis and sworn enemy of the Cooper clan â?“ have been evacuated, and are sent on a mission to recover the parts to ensure Clockwerk is never reassembled. The journey takes the Cooper crew across the globe, in a plotline full of deceit, surprises and an enticing love triangle between Sly, the return of Carmelita Fox and her new partner Constable Neyla.

However itâ??s not just a case of a new story and new characters, as Sucker Punch have gone back to the drawing board in an attempt to revitalise the platform mechanics the game is heavily based upon. As a result, both Bentley and Murray now feature as playable characters, each with their own unique skills, strengths and personalities.

Naturally Murray provides the bulk and muscle of the trio, and as such heâ??s free to execute a stomp and throw technique, whereby heâ??ll pound the ground and any moveable objects or fallen opponents will fly into his arms ready for him top use as a projectile weapon. Bentley being the brains behind the operation is a slightly more nimble character, who also has one or two surprises hidden in his shell, namely timed bombs and a tranquilizer crossbow. Finally Sly has been decked out with a couple of new techniques, including the ability to pickpocket guards and a new stealth attack that is crucial to defeating the numerous â??largerâ? opponents the gang will meet throughout the adventure.

No big deal you may be thinking, extra playable characters is a traditional requisite when it comes to platformer sequels, however those clever chaps at Sucker Punch have redesigned the main focus of the game and styled each level around performing various heists. As such each mission is broken down into different stages, with the first seeing Sly and Co carrying out vital reconnaissance objectives such as infiltrating the location and taking photos, or setting up a trap for later on in the mission. Having completed this stage, itâ??s then time to carry out the heists and ultimately lead to an encounter with the â??bossâ? of that particular stage.

Itâ??s a great system that works well within the platform boundaries placed upon the game, and certainly creates a more refreshing experience then other titles weâ??ve seen in the genre recently. The levels are set within open-ended HUB styled environments, whilst the actual progress gives the player some freedom in how they go about completing the various objectives; which again helps the game to rise above the usual tiresome experience levelled at most platformers.

Quite often mission objectives tie-in nicely with one another; for example, on one particular mission early on, Sly has to scramble to the top of a tower whilst Bentley and Murray are assigned the task of hi-jacking a nearby van with a handy hook-shot attached to it, Murray and Bentley must then shoot the hook-shot towards Sly at the top of the tower to allow Sly to slide safely down it before bringing it collapsing towards the ground. These sequences are highly memorable and give the game a sense of purpose, something sadly missing in most platformers.

Thereâ??s a real level of style and execution, not to mention a great deal of thought, gone into the mission structure of Sly 2; as such the game ends up feeling a lot greater then what its platforming origins suggest. Thankfully thereâ??s a lot less emphasis on collecting; if any complaint can be levelled at Super Mario 64 itâ??s the fact that it transformed the platform genre into a collect-em-up, which literally hundreds of others copied in the years afterwards. Whilst there are still things to collect in Sly 2, such as coins to purchase new gadgets, the sole emphasis has been moved squarely away from exploring and collecting.

Having said that, itâ??s not to the point where Sly 2 becomes the latest stealth/adventure title, the game is still very much a platformer in most senses of the word and thankfully some good level designs help to bring out the best to this aspect of the game. All characters can make use of stealth manoeuvres to crouch against walls, although being the true thief out of the bunch, Sly has access to a variety of other moves such as hiding under objects and running along narrow lines.

Looking at other criticism levelled at its predecessor, Sly and the crew will no longer die after taking a single hit. Although this definitely improves upon the frustration factor, it does lessen the overall difficulty of the experience and coupled with the slight stealth mechanics and simplistic enemy/boss encounters, the result is a game that platform fans will find surprisingly easy. Thankfully thereâ??s a considerable amount of hours in the game, whilst the sheer diversity of tasks on offer and the stylish execution, help to create an overall experience thatâ??s hard to beat within the genre.

The original Sly Cooper stood out mainly because of its distinctive use of cell-shaded visuals; certainly this technique has been overused in the past and the majority of games just donâ??t get it right, however those talented guys at Sucker Punch have once again worked their magic. Sly 2 has a definite look of an animated cartoon show through its vibrant and distinctive style; however itâ??s the sheer charisma through strong character designs and wonderful animations that makes the game leap above its competitors â?“ I defy anybody not to have a smile on their face the first time they take control of Murray or watch as Bentley ducks his head within his shell whenever you creep around cautiously.

As with the visuals, special attention has once again been paid to the soundtrack and effects that lurk beneath the adventure. The music ties in with the action brilliantly, witch such neat touches as strings on an instrument being plucked with every footstep you take whilst sneaking. The dynamic music also kicks in whenever the action heats up and fights break out, whilst the overall voice recording is of an exceptionally high standard.

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  • Graphics: 92%
     
  • Sound: 92%
     
  • Gameplay: 81%
     
  • Originality: 82%
     
  • Longevity: 77%
     
Overall Score: 8/10
Much like its predecessor, Sly 2 is a stylish and enjoyable platform romp that will entertain fans of the original and the genre. The new heist gameplay and co-operative sequences stand out in particular, and have been implemented with a level of execution that befits Sucker Punch.

A great game for younger gamers and those who are still young at heart.

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