Sly Raccoon is the oldest game of the bunch, and it shows. Its story of a charming master-thief and his orphanage buddies gathering together the pages of an ancient book sets out the basic framework of gymnastic traversal mixed with rather forgiving stealth, but remains cautious in its world-building, offering a series of relatively linear obstacle courses spread across a range of small hubs, all busily riddled with laser beams, air vents, and collectibles.
The only truly irritating thing about the first game is its fondness for one-hit kills, and that was all gone by the time Band of Thieves was released. A roomier adventure with much more intricate environments, the sequel sent Sly and his friends off on a far greater range of missions in a race to stop Clockwerk, the mechanical villain of the original title, from being reassembled again. Here, the penchant for antic variety that Sly Raccoon hinted at blooms into a game that never wants to dump you into the same novelty twice.
That said, while the vehicle mini-challenges and shooting gallery gimmicks run thick it's particularly imaginative whenever bosses are involved what's really wonderful about Band of Thieves is the effortless way it refines the trickier elements of the context-based platforming controls, and creates a genuinely rich cartoon noir world of rooftops and moonbeams in which to get into scrapes.
Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves cranks up the set-pieces and the variety, but otherwise feels like a refinement of the second game's framework as an expanded cast seeks out a mysterious treasure. It's a rarity along with the Oddworld games in that it has the requisite charm to include a playable character in a wheelchair without the whole thing feeling patronising or forced.
Among Thieves provides a wonderful end to the trilogy, and whether you're sneaking through the sewers of Venice with each movement accompanied by the thwack of a double-bass string, or leaping from one chimney to the next in a perfect display of lithe skill, there's a welcome sense of assurance, and of a developer truly understanding the world it's created.
So what's new? From this perspective, The Sly Trilogy is a bit of a vehicle for Sony's current preoccupations. Beyond the HD refresh, you can play all three games in 3D if you've got the right kind of telly; it's a decent stab at giving the games extra depth without going overboard, although you can't turn on the 3D until the game gets started, which is a bit clunky. Or you can indulge in a handful of Move-enabled mini-games revolving around treasure-snagging, remote-controlled-chopper-racing, and two flavours of target practice. I enjoyed them in a limited kind of way for a half-hour or so, and now I will never, ever play them again.
But ultimately you won't need to worry too much about any of that stuff. Why should you? You've got three of the most endearing platformers ever created to pick over instead, and an unlockable teaser trailer hinting that a fourth instalment is on the way. Sly 4, finally! That's something to think about. However that turns out and I'm guessing DLC, a co-op campaign, and a nice persistent XP system Sucker Punch has already ensured it will have a lot to live up to.