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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2)





By Michael Palisano

The cult classic Sly Cooper won praise when it came out several years ago, and at long last, fans of the series can celebrate the long-awaited sequel, Sly 2: Band of Thieves which has recently stolen onto the PS2. This title features the same mix of platforming and stealth gameplay as the first game, but adds some new elements and abilities to keep things fresh. The game's slick, intuitive controls. Developers Sucker Punch have again created an elaborate cel-shaded world with larger levels and more detailed graphics to create one of the best looking platform titles to date. Sly 2's graphics and gameplay are slick, is there enough for Sly Cooper to steal gamers' hearts again? Join us as we sneak inside and have a look.

Sly Cooper's first adventure won over many gamers with it's clever blend of stealth techniques, cel shaded graphics and traditional platform action. It was a unique experience and offered one of the more memorable gaming experiences on the console with some truly cool characters and innovative level designs. The developers at Sucker Punch have once again set their inimitable master thief Sly Cooper free in a second, well-deserved shot at the big score. The great thing is that the sequel stays true to the first game. Sly 2: Band of Thieves features everything gamers loved about the first game, along with numerous enhancements and changes that should make things even more exciting. This time, Sly is aiming for his biggest heist to date, with a bigger challenge and more involved story that rivals the tightly wound plots of the best caper films. He'll face many of his old foes including the diabolical Clockwerk, who's had it out for Sly's family for many years. After supposedly defeating Clockwerk in the first game, pieces of him have suddenly reappeared throughout the world. It's up to Sly and his allies to find these pieces before his old foe is put back together, and disaster strikes the world. However, the police are still pursuing him and he'll also have to face off with another new group of underworld bad guys.

Additionally, Sly will have to figure out challenging puzzles, defeat harder enemies, and traverse larger, more elaborate levels in order to beat Clockwerk's henchmen. Helping him along will be the new co-operative gameplay modes and more varied missions that make Sly 2: Band of Thieves a deeper, more challenging experience. Sly 2 shouldn't intimidate new players, since the game's intuitive controls and tight gameplay should be instantly accessible. Sly 2 should be instantly familiar to fans of the original, with similar controls, feel and structure. While the first game was a solo job, Sly now has the aid of his two sidekicks, the nerdy turtle Murray who is brilliant hacker, and the demolition expert Bentley, an elephant who uses his size and strength effectively. These characters play a much more important and integral part of the gameplay this time around. For example, you can call on Murray to use his hacking skills to unlock a door, disable motion sensors, or, break a safe code. Sly's buddy Bentley can also be enlisted to bust up objects or smash through doors. The use of these two characters to supplement Sly's skills enhances the strategy in Sly 2's gameplay and makes you feel like you're in the middle of a team, instead of a solo operative. This is a huge change from the first game, and makes the sequel feel much more alive and unpredictable. This could have been problematic in the hands of lesser developers, but Sly 2's play-balance remains well-tuned and accessible. These new cooperative elements make things more interesting instead of adding needless complexity to the gameplay.

Sly 2's missions are just as inventive and challenging as the first game, giving players more tasks and types of tasks to complete. For example, you'll have to take a painting to a hideout and switch it without taking damage. This is a lot harder than it sounds and gives the gameplay a smart sophistication that other stealth titles (even those not featuring furry animals) wish they had. During each mission, Sly has to complete all the objectives without getting caught or taking too much damage. Sly can use his special goggles to view the action and locate mission areas, and can also climb over walls and more. If an area is crawling with guards, Sly can keep out of sight by climbing over roof-tops and along wires, while adjusting the camera to keep the shady character within range. This sounds complicated, but the smooth, intuitive controls give Sly a remarkable dexterity and flexibility to complete his missions. The intuitive controls are easy to understand, and many of the more complicated techniques explained to you along the way. Players familiar with the series should be able to jump right in, since the controls remain almost identical, with some new abilities and extra gadgets that keep things interesting. Sly 2's gameplay unfolds at an excellent pace, with new abilities and gadgets gradually revealing themselves as you progress further into the game.

While the majority of the gameplay involves standard running and jumping platform moves, numerous areas and puzzles will also require you to use Sly's stealth abilities. This tempo between action and strategy was excellent in the first game, and there's little reason to expect any different this time around. Some of these techniques include shimmying under doors, walking across wires, climbing up walls, jumping from place to place and more. The high number of moves definitely adds to the game's overall enjoyment. Sly will also have a number of gadgets and weapons at his disposal, including guns and hooks. The key to successful missions is to get through each area without alerting guards. Staying out of sight is very important, as well as avoiding spotlights and staying out of the way of motion sensors and potentially fatal laser beams. You can do this in many areas, but there are many sections where you can't avoid enemies. When combat is unavoidable, you'll find Sly's combat skills will come in quite handy at dispatching foes. If you take damage, you can also find health powerupds scattered throughout each level to help rejuvenate yourself.

Sly Cooper's unique toon-shaded look returns for the sequel, creating a colorfully rendered universe unlike most other platform titles on the market. Each element of the game uses this interesting technique to great effect throughout. Brilliant light sourcing and a smooth camera system that is surprisingly intuitive enhance the game's visual impact. The character designs are cool and each movement feels natural and smooth. Sly 2 takes place primarily at night or in dark areas, and this definitely gives it a unique look that emphasizes the cat-and-mouse plot. At first glance, Sly 2's visuals appear slightly smoother and more detailed this time. The refined animations are also noticeably smoother. Players will also find larger levels that have more secret areas and passages. The game's design is enhanced by the cinematic approach with excellent cut-scenes and extensive dialogue that move the plot forward quickly and effectively. Sly 2's voice-overs are also superb, with excellent actors used to giving each character a unique personality. An excellent soundtrack filled with subtle jazz-infused tracks is the finishing touch that gives Sly Cooper a surprisingly sophisticated feel for a platform game. The beautiful production values are nearly as slick as Sly himself, giving it strong potential to be one of most visually arresting PS2 platformers to date.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves offers everything the original game, but adds more elaborate puzzles, deeper action, larger levels and some non-linear elements. Developers Sucker Punch have tweaked the formula by letting the sidekicks play a more active role in the game, making for a deeper, more immersive experience. The larger levels offer more varied missions and puzzles which adds to the game's depth and challenge. However, the basic appeal remains and Sly 2's excellent mix of stealth and traditional platforming is excellent. From a visual standpoint, the series' unique cartoon shaded look, jazzy music and plot create a unique world. The storyline picks up right where the first game left off without missing a beat. It's rare these days to find a game as polished and enjoyable as Sly 2: Band of Theives, but this outstanding sequel is just as good as the first title - with some new elements and play mechanics that offer a nice change of pace for the series. Sly 2's polished platforming action will appeal to hardcore fans of the original game but there's enough appealing that it should steal the hearts of newbies as well.

Grade: B+

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