Review: Sly 2: Band of Thieves (Playstation 2)

In this review, we sneak through the game Sly 2: Band of Thieves. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2004. It is the sequel to the game Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus which we also reviewed. that game got a great score, so we thought we’d continue the series with this game.

The game takes place after the events of the first game. Sly already defeated Clockwerk, however, his parts remain in-tact even separated. He sneaks into a museum to retrieve the parts of his nemesis only to find out that they have been stolen. The police officer from the first game, Carmelita, spots him in the same room. Accompanied by Neyla, her new partner, Carmelita accuses Sly of stealing the already stolen parts. Neyla lets slip that the theft may have been the work of the Claww gang instead of Sly. Unconvinced, Carmelita insists it was Sly who stole the parts. However, Sly makes his escape so he can investigate who the Claww gang members are and steal the various body parts back.

There are some basic elements of play that carry over from the previous game. For instance, the clue and safe system makes its return. However, unlike the previous game, these clues are only found in a general lobby area. While that may make this game sound much more trivial on that front, the “lobby” areas are greatly expanded. Each lobby area has 30 clues to find. The safe, meanwhile, is tucked away in a level somewhere.

The good news here is the fact that the clues have a distinct clinking sound whenever a character is near them. This makes scanning for clues much easier, however, searching for these clues can still be a daunting task. One method I personally employed is simply exploring the area at the very beginning. Picking up at least 10 clues, or more ideally, 15 to 20 clues works incredibly well. This is because as you move throughout the level, other clues will simply appear by the very nature of your movements anyway. I usually wind up with a vast majority, if not, all the clues by the time I’m getting close to completing the entire episode.

Since the safe is located in one of the levels, the worst case scenario is you having to remember where the safe is so you can get back there once you have all the clues. Each safe contains a special move for your use.

Like the previous game, you’ll have two tiers of levels before reaching the finale of the episode. However, the levels in the respective tiers can be handled in any order. Once you complete every tier, you’ll take on the final heist. Unlike the previous game, the final heist effectively has its own tier of levels instead of one larger challenge.

If you recall from the previous game, you’ll be given the chance to take on levels from other characters. These limited levels at least gave the player a chance to play another one of the characters. In this game, all three characters: Sly, Bentley, and Murray can be played. In fact, playing each character in each main episode is ultimately a requirement. As the intros suggest, Sly is the master thief, Bentley is the brains, and Murray is the brawn. Their respective strengths and weaknesses to reflect this.

While Sly has his general set of moves from the previous game, the other characters now have their own respective moves. Bentley melee attack is both short range and extremely weak. However, since intelligence is his strength, Bentley has the ability to use a dart gun to put enemies to sleep from a distance. After that, Bentley is able to walk up to the enemy, drop a mine, and kill off the enemy.

Meanwhile, Murray has extremely effective melee attacks. His movements may be a bit more on the limited side and is unable to really target enemies from a distance. Still, his brawn is certainly capable of getting the job done.

A new feature in this game is the Thiefnet system. While in the safehouse, you can purchase items with the coins you collect. These items are gradually unlocked with each episode, so there is always room for collecting more coins throughout the game. For those who may recall, collecting 100 coins in the previous game earned either an increase in health or a free life. The health system in this game is greatly changed.

The health system is now a large gauge. Different characters take on differing amounts of damage as they explore. However, it is far from the one, two, or three hit kill system from the previous game. Occasionally, enemies will drop red crosses which will not only replenish your health, but special ability meter as well.

The free life system, meanwhile, has been completely eliminated. If you die, you respawn at the previous checkpoint in a given mission. So, the only real penalty for dying is losing time in your game.

A large number of items you can buy on Thiefnet can be activated through the select menu. You can equip up to three items on each character. Some upgrades are automatic and do not require any special item power. Other items are activated through the assigned button. Most of these items spend some of your special attack meter. For instance, using an alarm clock to distract enemies can be very useful, however, you need to watch your power meter because you don’t have unlimited alarm clocks as Sly.

Another new feature is the use of markers. If you bring up your game status through L3 or use your binoculars, you’ll be able to see where either your next mission start location or next objective is. For mission starts, you’ll also get a colour coding of which character you need to be playing as to enter that respective mission. Blue is Sly, green is Bentley, and purple is Murray. Considering how large these levels now are, this is extremely useful and practically an essential feature for your overall success.

Another new feature is the loot system. There are two kinds of loot: rare loot and common loot. Common loot can be found with Sly pick-pocketing enemies. If an enemy shows a sparkle from his pocket, that indicates that potential loot can be had. Every enemy has coins, but you need to steal every coin first before you get to the loot. Get busted getting to the loot and you’ll need to run and hide before you can try again. Killing the guard in question won’t allow you to get the common loot. In fact, you generally earn more coins through pick-pocketing on average than just killing the guard. Also, some missions require retrieving keys through pick-pocketing. These guards will have a blue sparkle instead of a gold sparkle in that case.

The other loot is called rare loot. Throughout the lobby area, you’ll notice pedestals with sparkling loot. If you are not on a “job”, you can approach this item and use the action button. Be warned that some rare loot items are booby trapped. As such, you’ll have a limited amount of time to reach the safe house before the loot falls off your back. Additionally, if you take damage while carrying any rare loot, you’ll lose that item.

Back at the safe house, you can sell all the loot you find for more coins. The common loot can fetch for a few dozen to a hundred or so coins. While not much, it’s better than nothing. Meanwhile, the rare loot can easily be sold for hundreds of coins. This often bumps you up enough for you to afford the items found on thiefnet.

If you are unable to buy every upgrade in an episode and move to the next, the available power ups for sale will follow you into the next episode. So, any backtracking you do will likely be for you to collect any clues or rare loot you may have missed in the previous run.

At the end of a number of the episodes, you’ll be given the chance to take on a Claww gang member. Usually, you chase the Claww gang member through two episodes before a final showdown. Who you play to take on the Claww gang member is pre-determined. However, since a Clockwerk part is often at stake, you’re going to be taking each of the members on one at a time.

In total, there are 9 episodes if you count the intro level. How long this game takes depends a lot on how you find yourself playing. If you are simply focused on completing objectives and skip the extra objectives, this game is pretty reasonable in length. However, if you are at least trying to find all the clues in each episode, this game can take a fair bit of time to complete. This game does have a fairly open concept for different types of play, so how you want to play is up to you. Know, however, that there are at least one or two thiefnet items you’ll need to purchase somewhere along the way, so don’t skip out entirely on collecting coins or you’ll find yourself potentially grinding for coins at some point.

For me, I thought the re-imagining of the lobby area was quite clever. In games like Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, Donkey Kong 64, and Super Mario 64, lobby areas are little more than a means to go from level to level without having to thumb through a menu system. This game manages to take the lobby area to a whole new level by making it one huge level in and of itself. While still a means to go from level to level, there is a lot to do just in the lobby area. So, this gets a thumbs up from me.

The axing of the free life system is definitely a different thing for me from an adventure game perspective. In this game, however, I didn’t really mind not seeing it here as it really didn’t take a whole lot away from the game itself. The backtracking is certainly punishment enough for losing all of your health.

One complaint I had about the previous game is the level simplicity. I think that this game manages to solve this problem. While some areas may be somewhat simplistic in nature, the huge complex lobby areas more than makes up for the difference in my view.

The inclusion of a health bar system also helps this game out with another complaint I have. that complaint being that play is a bit on the simplistic side of things. With the loot system, Thiefnet, and health bar, there is a nice added level of complexity and exploration that gives this game that nice level of complexity without being overly daunting.

Additionally, it is nice to see that nice tight level of writing which gives this game that spark of personality. It adds to the overall gameplay and the game benefits as a whole from it. The occasional moments of humour and an overall sense that this game is headed in any meaningful direction is a nice sight to see.

The minigames do make a return. These mini-games do break up the game somewhat and prevent play from being a long repetitive hike. The hacker levels have been compared to Galaga, but I found the comparison only works with the RC helicopter level in Canada. The hacker levels resemble Robotron 2084 because of the duel control stick (one for firing, the other for movement), atmosphere, and general gameplay. In fact, I’m glad I have experience in both games because they did help out quite a bit in those minigames.

Having said all that, I won’t say that this game is a flawless one. By the end of the game, the formula for levels does get a bit on the repetitive side. While this feeling of repetitive gameplay is largley only felt by the end of the game, that repetition is still noteworthy.

Another complaint I have for this is a repeat from the previous game: difficulty spikes. Some people apparently reviewed this game and complained that it is too easy. I’m quite surprised by this criticism because I found that places like the Dimitri fight, Rajan fight, and even one of the RC helicopter mini-games (train level) to be irritatingly difficult. In fact, these areas stand out as being difficult because the game’s difficulty often drops back down a fair bit afterwards. The good news is the spikes are more tame than the previous game. Still, I found them to be a bit annoying anyway.

A final complaint I have with this game is that the game seems to assume you know the game quite well. Lucky for me, I played the previous game, so I had plenty of knowledge to work from. However, this game seems to assume you played the previous game from time to time. On top of it all, whenever you unlock a special move from a safe, the brief explanations are completely removed. It is replaced by an exclamation of the move name you acquired. So, a bit less helpful than before in my view.

Generally speaking, I found this game to be a very solid play. There is room for different styles of play, the minigames break things up, there is a nice added level of complexity both to level design and item pickups (not to mention an actual health system!). The difficulty spikes are still present, but a bit more smoothed out than the previous game. Also, the game is a bit more vague on the various special moves you can acquire than I like to see. Still, smaller complaints this time around, so a solid game here.

Graphically speaking, this game carries on with what made the original Sly game so good. The animation sequences and modelling of characters all work quite well. It also builds up on it by adding some nice special effects. This is largely thanks to particle effects that have been improved on from the previous game. In addition, the overall quantity of what is found in the various environments is pretty impressive. So, I will call this effort a great one.

The audio is pretty decent. The music offers some good environment overall. Additionally, the sound effects and voice acting is pretty decent. So, a reasonably good effort here.

Overall, this is definitely a great game. While it has its flaws with difficulty spikes, vagueness of features, and a bit of repetition by the end, it still has a lot going for it. The complexity is finally up to par with what I expect to see in an adventure game. The open nature of the game allows for a number of different styles of play. Also, the natural progression of having all three characters more playable works quite well. The graphics are great as they build on what the previous game got right. The audio is pretty decent with the music and voice acting. So, an overall great game in my view.

Furthest point in game: Bought a large chunk of powerups on thiefnet. Got every clue and cracked every safe. Also, beat the game.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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