Sly Cooper is one of the best-looking games of the year on any system. The almost perfect graphic engine and the unique style of the artwork work together to create a thoroughly impressive visual feast.
The characters are realized in cel-shading, but the developers managed to outshine the quality of last-generation games featuring the same technique, even surpassing the beautiful Jet Set Radio Future for the Xbox. This is achieved in many ways, but what really surprised me was the excellent work done with real-time 3D shadows on the bodies - the first time I got my hands on a playable copy of the game, I found myself approaching the different light sources to see how they affected the tone and the colors of Sly's body. Last but not least, the animations are the best you could ever want in a videogame; Sucker Punch worked hard to animate Sly Cooper and the other creatures of the game, and it's almost impossible to count the different animations used to bring Sly into life. The tail, as I said in my hands-on preview, has an expressiveness on its own; I don't know how many hours the developers passed looking at cats and other animals moving their tails, but the result is an adorable, crazy "tail simulator" that I've never seen in any other game. The facial animations, used during the codec conversation are also perfect, and add a lot to the humanity and the comic side of the dialogues.
Finally, the fully 3D environments made me completely fall in love with this game. They are reminiscent, in some way, of the style used in Jak & Daxter by Naughty Dog, but with the addition of a unique "baroque" touch provided by the crazy distortion of all the architectures, structures, and items, by an impressive research of a unique palette of colors for each level and by a dramatic use of dynamic lighting effects.
Overall, the optimisation done to take full advantage of Playstation 2's unique hardware is impressive. It's worth to mention that loading times are non-existent, reduced to a maximum of one or two seconds before each level. The only limit is represented by occasional slowdowns, even if usually everything runs smoothly at 60fps.
Sly Cooper has a soundtrack with the extremely rare quality of being truly innovative for the genre and catchy at the same time. The themes fit perfectly the style and the colors of the imaginative levels, but this is achieved with a jazz attitude, with rhythms changing dynamically according to the on screen action. The style of the many songs varies a lot from level to level, but occasionally it reminded me of the vague and ironic style of the wonderful soundtrack of the 11th hour, a game that PC players should know well, and that has nothing to do with the Platform genre.
Voice acting is extremely enjoyable; Sly has the badass voice you would expect from a though raccoon with a Solid Snake attitude, Bentley has a nerdy style that constantly made me laugh, Murray sounds like... a lovable, giant, pink hippopotamus with an endless admiration for the heroic raccoon. The witty, humorous or serious when needed dialogues are just brilliant, with ironic references to Metal Gear Solid - in particular to the interminable codec dialogues - that fans of Kojima's game should just love.
Sound effects are great too, cartoonish as they should be. Plenty of "Whoosh" "Ding" "Pow" and stuff like that here, and that's exactly what I wanted to hear.
Despite its good qualities, Sly Cooper is not as long as fans of platform games would expect, with about 10 hours of gameplay time the first time through. Anyhow, if you love platform games, you'll undoubtedly want to replay the game; there are plenty of ways to complete each level, different routes, strategies, and secrets that are difficult to discover the first time you play it. Adding to that, it surprisingly retails for just $39.99. A good value, I'd say.