The Sly Trilogy

Nostalgia tends to distort our view of past pleasures, making us remember experiences as being far more enjoyable than they actually were.

The Sly series is a perfect example of this. Despite what your failing memory may be telling you, the first Sly game was awful, the second was good, and the third was great.

At its core, the Sly series is a parkour-driven game of thievery - think Ocean's Eleven meets Assassin's Creed for kids. As Sly Cooper, players can double-jump up to rooftops, gracefully walk tightropes, crawl under tables, and knock out enemies via a two-tap stealth attack.

To avoid becoming bored of a repetitive mechanic that spans three games, there's also the option to play as Murray, the melee-centric hippo who ditches stealth in favour of strength-based attacks, or Bentley, a tech-geek turtle who utilises tranquiliser darts and bombs to knock out enemies.

Snake? Snake?! SNAAAAAAAAKE!!!!!

Now, I hate to be the guy who points this out, but the first iteration of the trilogy - Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus - was a horrible, horrible game.

When it was first released in 2002, Sly 1 was praised because the industry had ridiculously low standards when it comes to games designed for kids. By today's standards, it serves as a reminder of why children's games were once the joke of the industry.

In Sly 1, enemies kill Sly with one hit, which results in being sent back to a checkpoint. If you lose all your lives, you're forced to restart the level from the beginning. Couple this archaic, overused gameplay mechanic with levels designed to make Darks Souls look like Typing With Elmo, and the urge to dash your Vita off the closest wall quickly becomes irresistible.

It's fun to stay at the...?

One level uses the familiar trope of spinning things that you need to avoid. You know the one. It's impossible to judge where a safe spot is between the whirling blades until you spin the camera. But, when you spin the camera, the game resets the camera angle while you're moving, leading to an instant death. A death that's the game's fault, and not yours.

So you play a level, get to a tough bit, then lose all your lives and have to start from the beginning. Then you have to work your way back through the level to once more to get back to the tough bit, all because the game fancied shafting you. Genius.

It's not just spinning blades, mind. Most areas in Sly 1 have something designed to infuriate. Are games for children supposed to be this difficult? I understand the need for risk and reward, but Sly 1 takes it too far.

Cut-scenes look horrific on the Vita's small screen

So, Sly 1 is a bit of a failed experiment: a few good ideas hindered by a lack of logic. But there is an upside: Sly 2: Band of Thieves fixes many of Sly 1's issues.

Levels are designed to be more forgiving - although sometimes bordering on too easy - and sharing the spotlight with Murray and Bentley displaces the sense of repetition when playing solely as Sly.

Sly 2 was an improvement, but it wasn't great. In fact, it wasn't until Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves that the experimental formula for a kid's stealth game was fully realised.

Sly 3 excels at most of what it attempts. Environments are challenging without ever feeling impossible, the stealth sections are broken up further and never feel samey, and bar a few bizarre design choices - and an unenjoyable boat mission - it's entertaining from start to finish.

That boat mission, though...

The Sly Trilogy is an odd choice for a greatest hits-style collection: Sly 1 is awful, Sly 2 is good, and Sly 3 is great. One third in the collection isn't worth your time, but on the other hand, another third is definitely worth your time.

If you're a fan of the Sly series, then The Sly Trilogy is sure to please - it's three different episodes of Sly Cooper's escapades. If, however, you're just after a nostalgia-fuelled trip down memory lane, then this is one trip that might end in a nasty landing.

The Sly Trilogy

One third rubbish and one third brilliance, The Sly Trilogy reminds us why the series is so much fun to play and why we forgot about it in the first place
Wesley Copeland
Wesley Copeland
Wesley Copeland loves video games. Probably more than he should. In fact, while you're reading this, he's probably Googling how to find a specific piece of armour or beat a certain boss. It's a disease.