The Sly Cooper series is Sony’s landmark platformer, and one of my personal favorites. And from a quality standpoint, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is probably one of the best platforming games I’ve ever played. It’s beautifully presented, and it features a story that is both enchanting and hilarious, which any player would enjoy whether or not they have experienced previous games in the Sky Cooper series. It is because of this high quality and my personal love for this series that writing this review is almost painful. This is because Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time suffers from so many barriers to accessibility that it looks like most disabled players will never get a chance to play this incredibly well-done game.
To begin with, players with visual disabilities will probably have mixed success with this game. The game’s graphical presentation will both help and hurt players with visual disabilities in different situations. In some levels (especially the prologue and the first campaign) the levels are presented using a darker palette, which may make it harder to progress through these early stages, since it is not as easy to distinguish detail as a lot of disabled players would like. However, the art style also overstates important elements, making them easier to see, and not all levels feature a dark color scheme.
Even in the darker areas of the game, objects Sly can interact with (such as limbs he can jump to or tight ropes he can walk on) are highlighted. But the problem is that in many of these cases, the highlighting is simply a thin blue shimmer around an object, which can be hard to distinguish if the player is not right next to it. Similarly, Sly can pickpocket guards that he sneaks up behind, and treasures are randomly distributed in guards’ pockets, each time a player starts a level. The result is that after picking a guard’s pocket, there will often be a small knickknack that is worth a lot of gold. But the way the game tells you this is by highlighting the guard’s pocket or purse in yellow. In general, this is more visually distinctive than the blue shimmer which can often direct Sly through a particularly difficult series of jumps.
Finally, there are some occasions where white clock text pops up at the bottom of the screen to tell Sly how much time he has left to complete an objective. This text was small and would pose a problem to most visually impaired gamers. Combine all of this with the fact that Thieves in Time is a platformer and that players may have to rely on good depth perception, and it’s easy to see why this may not be the best choice for visually impaired gamers.
Thieves in Time poses the most barriers to players with fine motor disabilities. These were so severe that I had to end my review before I was comfortable, because there were points that I just could not get past. To begin with, the fact that it’s a platformer means that players will have to rely on timing. However, it’s not this that poses the barriers, since this is what should be expected when playing a platforming game. Rather, it’s the other features, such as the absence of any controller customization that make this game inaccessible. The fact that a player cannot even invert the function of the joysticks on the controller means that there is only one way to play. Because of the simple nature of the control scheme, the lack of customization is not as problematic as it could be. But it is merely one aspect of the game that tends towards its broader inaccessibility.
However, the biggest problems that players will run into are in the way Sanzaru Games chose to implement certain features. For example, when playing as Murray, players can expect to run into quick time events where, instead of simply pressing a button, players have to tap it repeatedly in order to move beyond certain gates. And even though these were slow enough to progress past, in my experience it is still a disappointment that they are there at all when they don’t seem to add anything to the game.
The biggest problem by far and the problem which brought a premature end to my play though of the game for this review was the implementation of the Sixaxis gyroscope on the PlayStation controller. During my play through I ran into two extremely difficult mini-games where I had to tilt the controller and hold it in certain positions to do everything from fishing for sushi ingredients to hacking a computer. Controlling the game this way adds nothing to its value and will prove extremely hard for players who don’t have the use of both hands and the ability to tilt and hold the controller in certain directions. The bottom line is that this single design choice implemented on multiple occasions poses too much of a barrier for gamers with fine motor disabilities for Thieves in Time to be considered as even remotely accessible.
Finally, there is a small glimmer of hope for players with auditory disabilities. But it is very small. The game is stealth based, which means that players need to be aware when alerted to Sly’s presence. But there are no non-auditory cues to let the player know when a guard sees them. But because the game is fairly forgiving, this may be easy to compensate for. Similarly, the game does feature comprehensive subtitles for its story-driven cinematics. But the voice overs which explain certain moves and help to accomplish certain tasks do not have subtitles. And while objectives are displayed in text and interactions such as picking a guard’s pocket do pop up sometimes when they are available or when they have just been explained, it’s still no substitute for the auditory cues that Bentley gives in the voice overs throughout each level.
I’m afraid I’ve given the impression that Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a bad game. It is NOT a bad game. It is a good game that is not accessible. And even though I would not recommend it to anyone else, if you are a fan of the Sky Cooper series, it might be worth getting some help to experience this incredibly fun but inaccessible platformer.
Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible
Auditory Rating: Partially Accessible
GameInformer Score: 9.0
The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
– The art style makes important details obvious.
– Interactive items are often highlighted.
– Subtitles are large, color coded, and labeled with the character’s name.
– Some levels have darker color schemes, making it harder to distinguish detail.
– The control scheme is simple.
– There is no controller customization.
– The game employs the use of a gyroscope in the controller, which requires players to tilt the controller or the handheld back and forth to accomplish certain tasks.
– Some elements of the game rely on speed.
– It is unlikely that this game can be played without the use of both hands.
– Subtitles are employed throughout the game’s cinematics.
– Text indicators are used to indicate what actions can be taken when interacting with objects.
– Important objectives and instructions are displayed in text.
– There are no non-auditory cues to indicate when an enemies has discovered the player.
– There are no subtitles for voiceover dialogue during gameplay.
This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.