Several things have changed for Sly Cooper in recent years -- he's dropped the tricky-pronouncing manual from the title (remember the Thievius Raccoonus?), incorporated a few more characters into the lineup, and now, in the third game, he's gone 3D...sort of. These small changes have either slightly accentuated or not affected the gameplay at all, and the resulting game is bigger, longer, and Slyer than the previous two in the franchise. Although Sly 3 still suffers from a relative ease that has always plagued the series, the gameplay is varied and clever enough to keep a player of any skill level's attention.
The events of the game begin right where Sly 2: Band of Thieves left off. Although it helps to be familiar with the previous two games in the series, you can still pick up Sly 3 and jump right into gameplay -- just don't expect to get all the inside jokes.
The game's levels occur in vastly different regions of the world, from the snowy mountains of China to the depths of pirate territory on the high seas. The point of each level is to aid and then recruit a new player for massive vault heist, like an anthropomorphic Ocean's Eleven, or something. Like Sly 2, the levels here consist of massive hubs, which not only facilitate getting between different objectives, but also often house the objectives themselves. This setup makes the game flow smoothly from objective to objective, and you'll find that every objective on the level contributes to your overall goal. Upon finishing an objective, you may return to the safe house, which serves two purposes. The first is to purchase gadgets and upgrades via the handy "Thiefnet" with the coins that you've been collecting around town, which can be found in barrels and from dead enemies. But the best way to get money quickly is to pickpocket guards who are still alive by sneaking up behind them and relieving them of their wallets.
Of course, you don't need to upgrade your attacks, especially if you prefer to focus on the stealth aspect of the game. However, from time to time, certain upgrades will be mandatory in order to progress through the main storyline, so it's best to collect money whenever you can. The other reason for the safe house is to switch between the three main characters. On all of the levels, the characters have different roles, so you'll need to use each of them and their unique abilities to complete the whole game.
The gameplay is more like Sly 2 in that it seems to be made entirely of minigames. These vary from an opera-singing contest, which plays like your standard rhythm game; a pirate-insult-joke face-off, Monkey Island-style; airplane dogfights; and countless others. Although some of the sequences repeat themselves, the game does an excellent job of keeping everything fresh by throwing in every minigame you could possibly conceive of, and more. In some respects, the gameplay switches too frequently to give you any sense of settling down and getting into the groove. On the other hand, the objectives are so well-tied-together and so involved in the detailed storyline that you'll likely be enthralled with the whole endeavour.
One of the game's greatest accomplishments is the sense of character that you get from the three leads, the new additions to the team, and the various enemies you encounter. Each personality influences the story and the way in which the character interacts with others. The downside to this is that there is a tremendous amount of exposition and dialogue, which can go on longer than the gameplay itself
The major change that was made to Sly 3 in order to differentiate it from the previous games was the introduction of 3D. With each retail copy of the game comes a pair of 3D glasses inside the manual, which you can cut out and use whenever the game calls for it. The 3D sequences in the standard playthrough are few and far between, and each time you encounter a 3D level, the glasses are vaguely incorporated into the story. For example, in one instance, you're heading into a dark cave and are told that you can use optical enhancers to see more clearly (even the characters inside the game can be seen wearing them). However, it's entirely optional, because before each sequence you're prompted with an option to play in 3D or not. Should you choose to use the 3D, you'll find there's not much to it, and it's really more of a hassle than an added bonus. Most of the 3D occurs when an object that you're walking past comes up in the foreground of the screen, and it seems to pop out toward you a little bit. This doesn't really help the gameplay much, and isn't even neat enough to be worth the hassle of the inevitable 3D-goggle headache. Thankfully, this plays a much less significant role in the game than would be expected, and could (and should) be bypassed completely. Otherwise, the graphics are as good as they've always been. The original Sly Cooper was one of the first games to lead the cel-shading charge, and the series is still one of the best at it. We did notice the occasional drop in frame rate from time to time, but for the most part, the game is smooth and pretty.
Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves continues the series' trend by providing more content and more players to work with. Although the 3D gimmick was a bust, the gameplay is good in spite of it, and you should enjoy the variety of scenarios in the game's many missions. If you like platform games, you can't go wrong by checking out Sly 3.
Keep up to date with the latest games news, reviews and features by signing up to CNET.com.au's free Games Spotlight weekly newsletter. Sign up now!