Lego orcs and a thieving raccoon: the gaming weekend
Sly Cooper might be as recognisable to video game players as Mario or Master Chief but he's a longtime Sony chap who has a place in my heart thanks to his PlayStation 2 days. He's a master thief extraordinaire and he's returning in a new adventure on the PlayStation 3, Sly Raccoon: Thieves in Time (PlayStation 3/PS Vita).
For those of you not familiar with Sly Cooper, he's one of the world's greatest thieves, who comes from a long line of master thieves who pass down their tricks and skills from generation to generation through a precious tome called the Thievius Raccoonus. His two best friends are Murray, the pink hippo, and Bentley, a wheelchair-using turtle. He's starred in three PlayStation 2 games from Sucker Punch Productions (who are now concentrating on the inFamous series) but new developer Sanzaru are taking care of Sly's latest outing.
In Thieves in Time the pages of the Thievus Raccoonus are disappearing and it's up to Sly, Murray and Bentley to track the pages down and save the Raccoon family from extinction. As the title of the game suggests, the trio travel back in time to track down the missing pages.
I've been playing a bit of the game on a debug unit lately and it's great fun: it really captures the feel of those past Sly Racccon games. The opening mission is set in Paris, where it seems the trio's van is able to travel back in time thanks to a dagger Sly pinched from the Paris Museum, but the things really open up in the first real level of the game, set in feudal Japan where Sly has to hunt down and free his ancestor, Rioichi who is being held captive.
Part of the charm of the Sly Cooper games is Sly's athleticism: his ability to jump lithely from building to building, rooftop to rooftop - and that's back here, as is his trademark cane with the hook. He can also pickpocket enemies, tiptoeing behind them and plucking coins, keys and other items from the back pockets of unsuspecting foes. He's also the master of disguise and during this level he can don a suit of Japanese armour to trick guards.
As in the previous Sly Raccoon games, you'll play some missions as Sly, some as Bentley and some as Murray. Where Sly is the silent master of stealth, Bentley is the brains, able to hack computer systems, and Murray is the brawn, who uses his size to his advantage.
Sly Raccoon: Thieves in Time is shaping up to be another masterful adventure with this much-loved PlayStation character. It's out early next year some time.
Over the weekend, I also played some Lego Lord of the Rings (various formats) - yes, the Lego juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down - the latest in the Lego series (and the second one this year: the other was Lego Batman 2) and this one plays out in Peter Jackson's version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
And it's damn good, too, even if the opening moments are a little confusing after you're thrown into a massive battle without really knowing what to do.
The opening missions of the game see you controlling a variety of characters, including Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn and Frodo, but there are literally dozens of characters to unlock as you make your way through.
While all the Lego staples are here - smash everything you can to collect the Lego studs, find hidden collectibles and swap between characters to solve simple puzzles - this one does a few things differently from the previous ones: ror starters, the audio dialogue is straight from the movies - it's not actors reading the dialogue, it's the actual audio from the movies so it adds that air of authenticity.
Another new features is that NPCs will give you quests to do for them, often rewarding you with new items. And as with previous Lego games, it's really almost three games in one: the first where you complete the story, the second where you can play it again with all the characters you've unlocked, and the third time when you just explore the open world.
So, how was your gaming weekend?
Tomorrow I'm heading to Sydney to chat to developers working on Crysis 3, SimCity and Fuse (from developer Insomniac), so if you've got any burning questions, post them here and if I get the chance I'll ask them.
Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.