Sly 2: Band of Thieves is the sequel to the very popular Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoconus game. Many people consider the original to be the best platform game available on the Playstation 2, surpassing even the Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank games. I tend to be on the opposite side and consider Ratchet and Clank to be the best out of the three, but I really liked the original Sly Cooper game. The biggest knock against the original was that it was done way too soon. Sucker Punch obviously listened to the masses, because Sly 2: Band of Thieves is a far longer game than the original could dream of being.

This time around you not only play as Sly Cooper, the expert thief, but you also play as his friends Murray (or “The Murray” as he likes to be called”, a big pink hippo, and Bentley, the genius turtle. Sly, Murray and Bentley all grew up in the same orphanage. Sly was sent to the orphanage after his parents were killed by Clockwerk, a bird that decided to become all metal and immortal. Clockwerk’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Cooper clan, a family of thieves. In the first game he tried to end Sly’s career, but Sly got the best of him and Clockwerk’s parts were disassembled. At the beginning of Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Sly is trying to break in and take all of Clockwerk’s parts in order to keep them safe. Of course, the parts have been stolen and the police think it is all Sly’s doing, so starts the game.

Much like the original game, this game has been made via cel shading technology. The graphics are quite good, although not at quite the level of Jak nor Ratchet in my opinion. Yes, this game is treated as a more comic book-like setting and the graphics are certainly excellent, but there are some problems that keep it from getting a super high score.

The first and most pronounced problem is the camera. The camera likes to freely float around Sly, Murray or Bentley. You have control of it with the right analog stick, but why the heck didn’t they put a centering button into the game. There were a myriad of times where I would have liked to snap to behind the current hero because it would have given me a better view of all the baddies and the environment. The camera creates a bunch of problems, especially during the quicker jobs that are in some of the episodes in this game.

The other problem is not as pronounced, but you may notice it. There is both a bit of slowdown and a bit of blur when playing the game. The slowdown often happens when you are playing Sly and you’re trying to get somewhere quickly. The game will chug along for just a few moments, but I happened to notice it. The game gets a bit of blurring when you are playing Murray. Since he is the biggest playable character in the game it is nor a surprise that the area around him would blur versus the same area with Sly and Bentley in it.

These are only problems though, although the camera will give you fits of rage here and there. The camera problems are in all platform games pretty much, although I think Sucker Punch could have alleviated them with a simple centering button. Overall though the graphics both in the game and the comic book style of the cutscenes between missions/jobs are top notch.

The biggest plus in this section are the voice actors. Sly, Murray, Bentley and the rest of the characters have excellent voices behind them. The excellence just comes out with the in-between mission comic book cutscenes and Bentley explaining exactly what the plan is for each person at that specific point in the mission. Sly can be very sarcastic, Murray acts as if he is a superhero who calls himself “The Murray” and Bentley sounds like your next door genius with glasses and all.

The sounds are also top notch. Everything has a nice sound added to it, including Sly, Murray and Bentley’s weapons. The sounds of things breaking sound like they would in the real world pretty much.

The music is almost non-existent except in the cutscenes and some places here and there or maybe it was so subdued that I never really heard it as I was playing. The one cool thing I did notice is when one of the characters is sliding along on a wall you hear a nice little “sneak up” instrumental track. The funniest one is when Sly jumps into a barrel of TNT and walks around in it. It looks a lot like Wily E. Coyote and the instrumental music that is playing sounds like it came from the old Road Runner shorts.

The control is a tad bit loose for my liking, but the control is overall top notch. The beauty in this game is the platform jumping. As Sly you can jump onto lines by jumping with the X button and then hitting the circle button for Sly to land right on the thin line or even the tip of a spire. As long as you are in range of the object the circle button will usually land you right where you want to go. The problem in Sly’s case is that his controls are pretty tight, but once you are noticed and can’t run away because there are lots of enemies after you things get a little hairy. In many cases you’ll be hitting the Square and Triangle button for Sly’s two swings trying to beat them. You could try the charging move by holding down Square, but you may be asking for trouble there.

With Murray and Bentley you are left with extremes. Murray’s control is nice and tight and he’s the brawler of the group, so he can usually lay waste to a normal enemy in two punches. Bentley’s controls on the other hand are very loose. In most cases you are trying to put an enemy to sleep with his tranquilizer arrows from his crossbow. This means you have to go into the binocucom mode and aim. Whether you choose to invert the directions or not won’t matter because it takes split-second timing in order to aim and get a shot off in close quarters. By the time you fire the enemy may have already fired at you. This is not to say Bentley’s sections are wasted because of the control, but the control could have been a bit tightened for him.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves is simply a well put together adventure game. Gone are the one-hit deaths of the original and in its place are life bars and the ability to play as both Murray (brawn) and Bentley (brains) along with Sly.

The game is split between eight episodes. Each episode has a myriad of jobs for each playable character, although the majority of the work is left to Sly of course. The overall game can last over 20 hours depending on how good you are. This is a far cry from the short original and should keep people enthralled to the end.

Each episode is based in a part of the world. Sly, Murray and Bentley set up shop in a headquarters. The first mission usually revolves around Sly doing some reconnaissance so Bentley can plan the rest of the missions in order to get to the final mission of actually heisting the Clockwerk part(s) located within that level. It’s hilarious to hear Bentley set up these missions after Sly has done the reconnaissance shots. You are treated to a cutscene where Bentley is running a slide projector explaining exactly what each member needs in order to set up the last big heist at the end of the level.

From the headquarters you have some options. You can choose any of the characters or you can check out Thiefnet, the thief version of eBay. As you collect coins and Sly steals high-priced objects scattered around the levels you can buy power-ups for each of the characters. These power-ups can be tied to the L1, L2 and R2 keys (R1 is for running) via the menu. The upgrades include more powerful moves for Murray, more sneaky maneuvers/weapons for Sly and scientific advances for Bentley. There is one upgrade per episode although the upgrades stay on Thiefnet no matter what episode you are on. There is another batch of upgrades for Sly if you happen to get all 30 messages that are scattered around the levels. You can also go back and pick up the rest of the messages if you like later on.

Once you choose your character you go out into the level. By click on the left analog stick you are shown colors and points for current possible missions within the level. Blue ones are for Sly, pink ones are for Murray and Green ones are for Bentley. This means you have to use those characters in order to complete that mission. By going into the binocucom you can also see text about what each mission is. You can then go into the menu area and look at the missions and see information about them. It’s all very well put together.

You will find that Sly’s missions often are vertical or sneaky in nature. Sly is the only character capable of going to the highest of places in a level while Murray and Bentley are mostly relegated toward small jumps and the main ground. Murray’s missions are often physical in nature and it’s really awesome when Murray gets to face bosses in this game. Murray is in a whole other league of power versus Sly or Bentley when facing off against a boss. Bentley’s missions are mostly demolition based and computer based. He has a brilliant mission in one of the episodes that has him hacking into computers. You go into a sub-game that is like Asteroids and Robotron combined. You fly around a little ship trying to get to the end locking mechanism while firing the way you point the right analog stick.

Things all come together at the end with the big heist. In many cases all 3 characters are used at different points during the final mission, but in many cases Murray and Bentley set up for Sly taking care of the boss while they collect the Clockwerk part.

During all this time you have Detective Carmelita on the chase of the Cooper gang, although she unwillingly becomes part of Sly’s plans. It is obvious Sly is still smitten by her and he gets some timely chances at payback on the poor Detective. The story is very fleshed out with double-crosses, bosses that actually have great backstories and voices, and the teamwork of the Cooper gang.

This game is simply fun to play and I just couldn’t put the controller down in order to play other games. This game sucks you in and doesn’t let go.

This game is quite a bit longer than the first game, which was the biggest complaint of the first game. Sucker Punch has delivered a massive adventure game with a slick cohesion of 3 playable characters. Yes, Sly is the main character, but Murray and Bentley don’t feel like added characters just for the sake of adding them. Instead they actually matter to the story, especially Bentley who basically goes through hell and back throughout the game. Just wait until you get to Episode 4 to see what I’m talking about.

This game is long and I’d say it is on par with the length of Kingdom Hearts. The game is not RPG long, but it is pretty long for an adventure game.

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