Admittedly, I never played Sly Cooper: Thievius Raccoonus and I haven't invested too much time into the current platformer craze. When I started playing Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves, however, I realized exactly what I've been missing out on. Sly 2 is, simply stated, awesome. From the first moment I started playing I was impressed with the presentation, and within an hour and a half, the story from the original installment was explained well enough to warrant not playing it.
That's not to say I felt as though I wasn't missing out on much. This game is so beautiful and the graphics so, for the lack of a better word, perfectly animated, I simply don't know how the original got by me in the first place. The premise is simple; the mechanical bird Clockwerk was the villain destroyed (as far as I can infer from Band of Thieves) in the first game and you now need to collect all of the Clockwerk pieces to ensure that he is not resurrected, but the Klaww gang isn't going to let you accomplish this task so easily. The way the story is told is so perfect and storybook like that it has you on the edge of your seat wanting to keep playing more and more just to find out what plan Bentley will come up with next. Each of the 8 episodes is told in 3 stages: the first part contains preplanning involving recon photos and some minor nuances which turn into large components later on, the second part is pretty much the precursor to the eventual heist, and the final part finally has Bentley unveil his heist to steal the current episode's Clockwerk part and it's the player's job to perform said heist. To compare to a party, the first part of the episode would be buying the food and decorations, the second part would be setting it up, and the third part would be the actual party.
You will take control of Bentley, Sly, and Murray in completing these tasks, each with character specific abilities. Murray is the slow, brute, ninja suit wearing hippo part of the group, Bentley the brains with some fun little 2D "hacking" missions, and Sly the covert fox who...climbs a lot of things. The way you play with each respective character is dynamic as you progress and start purchasing new abilities, often giving you reason to never revert back to the former approach again. To suit their respective playing styles, each character often performs missions that involve machines ranging from tanks (Murray) to remote helicopters (Bentley) to the personal favorite barrel of TNT to hide in when enemies approach (Sly). Not all of these missions can be fun, however, which is where the game's only real fault comes into play. Some of the seemingly hundreds of missions are banal and tedious, often taking 20+ minutes to do 4 minutes of work as a result of dying and/or failing and they just aren't fun. If you can get past these few missions that will undoubtedly have you kicking your controller, then I see no reason for one to not love this game.
The game play is based largely around stealth, as one would expect from a game with the name Sly in its title. Sneak behind enemies or walk tightropes above them, but always try and avoid direct battle with them because fight one, and you'll suddenly have 5 more on you. When not on a mission, it's fun to just go crazy and kill a few hundred enemies with Murray, but while on a mission having so many enemies after you can get quite tiresome and often lead to failure. Each character has their own unique weapon of choice, which keeps things fresh as you are assigned character specific missions. I've been told that in the original Sly, you were only allotted one hit before death along with the enemies, which screams out at me \"Cooper with the Golden Gun." Fortunately I missed out on that aspect and in Sly 2, both enemies and friends alike sport stylish health bars.
The story isn't groundbreaking, but when told so well with such fine attention to detail, so much humor, and such pretty visuals combined with amazing voice work that comes together so well all in one great fluid package, one can't help but fall in love. And there are ducks, which should make Sly 2 a classic in anyone's book. I went through the game without noticing a single technical fault with the exception of the camera getting stuck in random places, but simply moving the joystick a little cured that. Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves is put together with such great detail and fluidity that it would be a crime to not at least give it a try, whether you're new to the series or back for the second time.