Sly Cooper Is Pulling A Fast One Again

Oh, video games! Oh, steady wedge between generations, myself representing parents and my 14-year-old representing millions of kids who spend their lives glued to controllers with their focus ensnared by the chaos on the big screen just a few feet in front of their chairs.

What ensnares these kids? Action, animation, humor, puzzles, fun, repetitive, upbeat melodies, random explosions, suggestive clothing clinging to fantasy figures — pumped guys and top-heavy girls — epic battles, clever plot turns. Well, minus a few redeeming features (like dialogue, emotional value and nourishing story lines) isn’t this exactly what captures the imagination of adults, too?

We each have our favs, as you might say (had my sister grabbed a copyright on that word in 1971, she’d be rich now). My kid is drawn to zombie attacks and what looks like inter-planetary skirmishes, while I prefer the hypnotic effects of Pong and Asteroids. (Yes, this reveals a lot: I hate progress most of the time.) Some people still revel in the days of Donkey Kong and Mario Bro’s. and some have gone to extremes for their love of a game or it’s characters.

But there is one game over which we heartily agree and have discussed in depth during many a bedtime tuck-in time (it used to be tuck-in, now it’s our nightly ritual catch up conversation time). That game series is Sly Cooper, named after the would-be good guy Sly Cooper, who is a spry, ever-slippery raccoon billed as the ultimate thief, but one who faces moral dilemmas with smirking aplomb. He is basically too busy using his masterful thieving skills to right wrongs to get on with the family business of thievery, which dates back to cavemen times in the Cooper family, so plotted out in one game scenario.

The big news? In 2016, Sly Cooper will be released as feature film, with the same voices over, sound affects and music set in 3-D like city landscape. This news has, naturally, rejuvenated the father-son affection for the game.

Essentially, Sly Cooper is a young, dashing Robin Hood type focused on the honor of himself and his cohorts, who is forgivable because the story clearly spells out his goodness and because each theft requires several puzzles to be solved and a few creative, high-tech battles to be fought. This means, by the time he actually gets around to stealing anything he and his team have once again proved themselves loyal to cause and colleagues, which justifies whatever robbery needs to be pulled.

I know – this Disney-like game pegs me. The characters are Claes Oldenburg-esque which is to say round and soft-looking. But I’ve always been a sucker for cute, even in cartoon form.

And I’m disgusted and even bored by the truly violent games and here I am stuck on this endearing raccoon and his team, who should be introduced now: Bentley, a wheel-chair bound turtle with a frog-in-his-throat voice, who is the brains of the operation and Murray, who is the muscle – and also a violet-colored follow-along hippopotamus with a gee-whiz, let’s knock heads outlook on life. What better friends could you ask for if you’re out to restore your family’s besmirched honor?

What’s fun about this game, which Wikipedia tells me was originally developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America?

The answer is: Lots. It’s faced paced, but it’s chalk full of puzzles. Each robbery includes many preliminary steps (usually to find clues) and each new step presents itself as a puzzle to be solved and a new skill to be learned. Yes, the puzzles are simple and the skills involve thumb adapting to a new choreography on the controller, but what the hey? This is a game, right?

There’s a flirtatious love interest with Inspector Carmelita Fox, which couldn’t be more superfluous, but helps set up the relationship with Sly and his gang and the authorities, who require, in turns, dodging or bonking on the heads. There’s also humor set up by Sly’s mischievous optimism, Bentley’s dedicated here-we-go-again resignation and Murray’s “let’s eat and then hit somebody,” core purpose in life.

A game needs catchy music and that takes us, alas, to the point that nobody really writes symphonic scores for video games. That isn’t the issue, per se, but the music in the game world could use some improvement instead of jingle-oriented, drippy melodies that are repeated endlessly until they disappear into the ethereal landscape.

Video game music sounds like it’s composed on a Wurlitzer organ by someone with one hand tied behind their back, but a catchy effective melody is a catchy effective melody that sets the pace of the game. You can find many unique instruments used in video game music at places like Songbird Ocarinas if you want to try your hand at making some music similar to that in the World of Zelda or maybe for a brand new game App YOU are creating.

A movie about this dashing, confident thief and his devoted gang have my attention, but it is a huge leap from the big screen and the controller at home to the venue of movie theaters with the enormous competition out there for our entertainment dollars. The producers may feel comforted by the incredible success of Frozen, released in 2013, which became the highest grossing animated film of all time, taking in $1.1 billion dollars, topping Toy Story 3, which grossed $1 billion and The Lion King, which earned $987 million.

For Sly Cooper to pull off a theft of that size would be quite the coup, but trailers are already making the rounds, although they don’t reveal much except the style appears to be spot on for fans of the game. There are, one would think, many of those, after all the game survived four incarnations. And, yes, I know two people who have already pledged to check it out as a celebration of devotion to an ever-confident, masked scamp.

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