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     " Why Sony didn't hype this like a 'Britney Spears Caught Drunk at Mardis Gras' video is beyond me. "

      Title: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus by Sony

      Format: PS2 Puzzle and Action Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: Unusual to the greater video gaming market, Sony has sprung a series of "Sleeper" titles on us this year that received very little hype and almost no fan fare. High on that list is Sly Cooper, 3D action platform game with a thieving little raccoon as its hero and a noir feel.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: In all the hype for newer and better- the Xbox, the Gamecube, hell even talk of the PS3, we tend to forget exactly how pretty the PS2 can be- and it's nice that games like Sly are willing to remind us. In a trend matching some of Sony's other sleeper hits this year (i.e. Mark of Kri), Sly Cooper is done in a cartoony, Disney-esque animation style that is absolutely fantastic to watch. Bordering on down right epic, the smooth animations and vivid colors of Sly will make it almost as fun to simply watch as a Saturday morning cartoon…and 10 times that great for the one actually playing it. Really the only problem graphically is the occasional framerate slowdown that, unfortunately, plagues the more difficult levels. Still, the rate never drops so low that it's unplayable and occurs infrequently enough that it shouldn't get too much of your goat. 4.5 out of 5

      Playability: While I've never actually been a "fan" of action platformers (like Crash Bandicoot, Mario, or Sonic) I've always found an excuse to pick one up every year or two- there's just something satisfying about running around collecting goodies and exploring light hearted levels. Thus, I expected little more than the typical from Sly and found myself pleasantly surprised by what I got. Granted, at its heart, it is indeed the classic strolling 3D platform game complete with amassing token items, jump and timing puzzles, level learned new attacks, and boss fights- but layered on top of that base (which is a strong base to be sure) is a type of strategy and stealth gaming that really put it head and shoulders above the norm.
          As the name sort of implies in butchered Latin, Sly is a thieving raccoon who is trying to make his way through the levels in classic platform fashion. However, unusual to the genre, he is a thief and wants to rely more on stealth and skill than brute force. Thus you will spend more of your time sneaking around spotlights and avoiding detection than you will mindlessly thrashing baddies and, though the levels are totally linear, will actual have to employ a certain amount of thought and creativity in getting past the various traps and detection systems…kinda like a cross between Metal Gear Solid and Spiro the Dragon. It also employs a simple but remarkably innovative "grab" feature that lets you, with the simple push of a button, latch on to any ladder, pipe, or overhang the level offers up (which is a lot). The result is that, even though the path is straight, there are a ton of ways to get from point A to point B. A nice touch to be sure that rounds out an overall nice quality of gameplay. 4 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: No multiplayer here- but then you've never really expected it in this game type. What is sorely disappointing, however, is how ridiculously short the game is! I hope you don't have more than 6 or 7 hours to kill…because you'll be lucky if this game lasts much longer than that. Of course, replay value is based totally on your interest in playing the same game again (which is never that high for me) and, thus, dinks Sly for it's worst rating at 2 out of 5. Ouch.

      Story/Dramatics: Nowadays platformers usually have a story- something simple and stupid about an evil scientist and some genetically modified fruit…but Sly surprises again with its pleasant, relatively deep (emphasis on the "relatively"), and its tongue and cheek approach to not only its own story line but the homage's they make to other games (including the afore mentioned Metal Gear Solid). The story, simply enough, is that Sly's father has been murdered and a sacred book on the arts of thieving have been stolen. So, it's up to Sly to avenge the death and get the book back. Okay, so it's not original, but it is fun and at times very funny. 3.75 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all, Sly Cooper is a great game and may well be the ultimate sleeper hit of 2002. Why Sony didn't hype this like a "Britney Spears Caught Drunk at Mardis Gras" video is beyond me. It's pretty, smooth, fun to play, and actually offers some innovation on the tired old platform genre.

      The Good: Pretty as all get out, good gameplay, cool new features, fun story.

      The Bad: Some framerate slowdowns and shorter than my attention span.

      The Overall Ugly: Definitely a great game for those who like platformers.

      What it's Worth: Market

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