SLY 2: BAND OF THIEVES; developed by Sucker Punch Productions; produced by Sony Computer Entertainment America; PlayStation 2; rated E for "Everyone"; $49.99.
If I were coming up with a set of superheroes, I doubt I'd think of a fast, light-fingered and thoroughly sneaky raccoon, or his two also-cartoon pals from childhood — one's a turtle, and it's not entirely clear what the other is, although he's big and pink and kind of goofy, but he's pretty much indestructible.
Fortunately, developers Sucker Punch Productions and producer Sony Computer Entertainment America have completely different ideas on the topic and the result is a video game for PlayStation 2 that requires a variety of skills and a great deal of patience but yields more than a little entertainment.
In this sequel, our thieving raccoon, Sly Cooper, and his friends Bentley (the turtle) and Murray (the pink mystery) are trying to retrieve parts of a device that the evil Klaww gang also wants. To do that, they have to undertake a variety of challenges, from stealing voices to hacking into various computers by winning some oldish, arcade-style games. And along the way there are some plain old fights as well.
A couple of years ago, Sly thought he'd defeated the evil Clockwerk, but the creature (a birdlike beast) replaced his own body parts one at a time with devices. The resulting robot was broken apart, the creature rendered worthless as long as the parts are not reassembled. It's Sly's current goal to steal all the parts from their various new homes and destroy them so that the creature can never again come back to life to do nefarious things.
Sly's old foe, that foxy (literally, if a cartoon can be literal) law enforcement officer, Carmelita, is back. So are a couple of new enemies — Constable Neyla, who at first convinces Sly she's a friend, and the Contessa, a wonderfully unattractive prison warden, who stands two stories high when she's riding her giant spider.
Those who were fans of the original Sly Cooper game will find that much of what they liked the first time around is still here. But there are some additional challenges and enough interesting new characters to keep it from feeling too same-old, same-old.
The adventure takes Sly's trio to a variety of different settings, including Monaco, India and Canada, the settings colorfully drawn to evoke the atmosphere of the locales.
Foes along the way include a lizard forger, a spice-making tiger, an underdeveloped bird named Arpeggio and other unusual and interesting beasties.
The controls for this game are very easy to learn, so the game was as much fun for my 6-year-old daughter as it was for my 40-something husband. But it takes a certain amount of dexterity and multitasking to really do well on Sly's adventure. You have to be able, for instance, to jump spiked logs and keep track of swinging blades at the same time. Or follow certain dance steps by using the triangle, square, circle and x keys. And there are a pretty hairy group of guards along the way, determined to smash our happy little trio before they can throw a wrench in the Klaww gang's plan for world domination, so it's best to stay on your toes.
The sound on this game is mostly background noise, but when you're trying to get away from unseen enemies or locate valuable objects, it's helpful. The dialogue, though sparing, is both humorous and helpful in moving the journey along.
The settings are somewhat dark for my preference, leaving me with the feeling that I've been in a dark room just a little too long. But the graphics are detailed and clever and not nearly as cartoonish as one would expect.
The real selling point, though, is that even great gamers will get hours of enjoyment out of this crazy adventure. And that's the point of buying a game to begin with, isn't it?