Will the good always die young? That must've been the million dollar question floating around the Sucker Punch offices when they released their first game, the brilliant Rocket: Robot on Wheels, to a silent, uninterested America. That's probably also the same question going through Sly's brain, who, as you're reading this, is about to be tossed like a blueberry tart into some funky land monster's mouth. "It's was like they always say," Sly notes while in that grip of death, "your life really does flash before your eyes." And in a fade to white, the escapade begins again.
It's just one of many surprising dark turns the series has been taking since the middle of Sly 2, though it always remains charming, buoyant fare. Clockwerk and the Klaww Gang were defeated at the end of part two, but everyone paid their prices for it: their van gets lost to the ocean (serious stuff; it's the most shaggin' of wagons since the Mystery Van) and Bentley, the brainy turtle, is crippled, bound for the wheelchair. Murray, now a disenfranchised hippo, leaves the group. But Sucker Punch's always looking for the punch line: rather than turning him into some angsty loser, Murray comes back reformed as a New Age weirdo with mystic powers. Now that's disturbing.
So Sly vanquished his arch rival for good (kudos to Sucker Punch for knowing when and how to end things). He's got the team back together for another global adventure. He continues to elude Interpol's top klutz, Carmelita Fox, while building on their love/hate relationship. And he just caught wind of the Cooper Vault, a cave filled with his family fortune. Everything considered, he comes out pretty well. Except for the about to die part.
Slick as Thieves
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves details Sly's journey up that point, on the Cooper Vault island where a wicked genius named Dr. M has been trying to break into the vault for years. During the preceding levels, Sly and company have assembled a team of specialists, many from previous Sly games. The short gap between Sly 3 and 2 (barely a year) is a mixed blessing. The obvious: we get more Sly Coopers, which are among the most consistently compelling games ever; the prophecy of games as interactive television is never as close to being realized as they are here. The down side: we get some filler and reused (albeit creatively reused) material.
Attuned to the rules of the game, Sucker Punch knows that on such a perpetual time crunch, it's better to make do with what you have, rather than trying to rework things and shipping it half-finished. In fact, there's actually less than the first two, but they capably play them up as an advantage. The most notable cutting board victim is the clue bottles, which were once scattered about every level, and collecting all of them would give you a bonus ability for Sly.