Together with wired controllers, memory cards and Linux, Sly Cooper was thought lost to the PlayStation's past. Six years on from the raccoon’s last outing and the world seemed to have moved on.
Sucker Punch certainly seemed to, and with the inFamous games the developer has taken the sticky traversal it created last generation and given it a darker, more serious edge, moving away from the matinee charm of Sly to something best digested after the watershed.
That doesn't dim the surprise when, at the announcement of a new Sly game, six years after the raccoon was last sighted, that there’s not a member of the original team in sight. "Now I know what you’re all thinking," says Glen Egan, a man who’s struggling to keep back an enormous grin, "who the hell are you, and where’s Sucker Punch?"
They, it turns out, are Sanzaru games, and that grin's there because Egan's got his hands a franchise that the developer has been coveting for years. The Californian outfit’s hardly a known name - unless you're on first name terms with games such as the Wii’s Ninja Reflex or the PlayStation 2 port of Secret Agent Clank - but it’s one that’s been working towards a full-blown Sly game for some time.
It was while Sanzaru was working on one of Sony's bigger mascots, Clank, that it turned its eyes to another. "With inFamous going on we didn’t think that Sucker Punch would have the time to make another Sly Cooper game," says Egan, "and I really want to play another Sly Cooper game."
He’s not alone in that sentiment, and Sanzaru was in a unique position to capitalise on that desire. Having bought a PlayStation 3 development kit, the studio set about creating a proof of concept, imagining what Sly would look like in the HD age, before pitching it to Sony.
Sony was impressed, but before it would hand over the keys it sent Sanzaru off to study and study hard. The studio was tasked with bringing Sucker Punch’s three Sly Racoon games to the PlayStation 3 in the form of The Sly Trilogy.
Sanzaru's developers were bright, attentive pupils, and that much is clear when first laying eyes on Sly 4, or, to give its name proper, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Sanzaru’s original Sly is just as faithful to the originals as its HD remakes, and for admirers of the PlayStation 2 trilogy that can only be a good thing.
Everything's intact, from the voice talents of Kevin Miller et al blowing some breezy charm over the leading trio of Sly, Murray and Bentley to the bold, thickly inked artwork. It's never looked better, of course, but it's maintained the simplicity of the originals, which is a commendable thing; you can chide Sanzaru for playing it safe, but equally you've got to respect it for acknowledging the brilliance of the first Sly trilogy, and for resisting the urge to tinker too much with Sucker Punch’s charming recipe.