I recently picked up the Sly Cooper collection out of boredom and an impulse buy on cheap prices. And I was genuinely pleased. Finding this and a copy of Dynasty Warriors Gundam (that shit is HARD to come by) made my month. Good thing too, I didn’t get a damn thing for christmas.

I’ve only played the first game and the thoughts that come to my mind are varied.

1. Is Carmalita’s outfit legal? Who cares!?

2. Do all white people think voodoo is demonic?

3. Why do I have to race for keys?

For the most part, I was a tad terrified when I was tasked with finding 3 keys to advance to the next area, but considering how the format is, it really just feels like I’m completing regular stages where you avoid obstacles and traps while kicking ass. All while being interrupted by that pussy turtle. And I was pleased. “Finally”, I say, “another 3D platformer aside from Ratchet and Clank that feels like the REAL shit!”

It’s not until I get to the first twin stick level where my enthusiasm dropped immediately. Instead of sneaking through areas and past guards, I must instead open up 40 treasure chests while tackling crabs preventing them from taking ONE.

Is it just me or was the 6th generation filled to the brim with 3D platformers that have stupid shit like this? And Sly 1 is loaded with these types of levels. The game puts you in a position where the dynamics of the game are completely changed in favor of “providing new gameplay” all the while causing more of a headache than need be. The one level that pissed me off the most was needing to collect fish to fuel a flamethrower to light 50 torches in 2 minutes. Not only is that illogical, it’s also a very stupid level.

One of the rules of game design that I feel is the most essential for any game is not make a situation where the player finds him or herself asking “why do I have to do this!?“. And no, not even story reasons can justify what people would consider stupid gameplay.

3D platformers seemed to be a cursed genre filled to the brim with stupid gameplay. It didn’t matter if it was Mario or Sonic or whatever, there’s always some stupid shit that gets in. Insomniac was incredibly smart to change the dynamic of Ratchet and Clank from a straight up 3D platformer into a full blown shoot em up to avoid the pitfalls of having to work around a camera. Though I assume this is because of a perception that 3D platformers were a huge pain in the ass to create. There was a Nintendo developer who stopped working on 3D Mario because the games were incredibly tedious to design, and no matter what the camera would always be an issue. But it would also explain why these games have so much bullshit like the racing levels. Seems every 3D platformer is in love with racing games. Racing in Going Commando, loads of racing in Jak 2 (and hell, the whole damn series became some overblown racing series) and quite a few in Sly 1.

This is a point that I try explaining to the Sonic fans and is partially a reason as to why people kept demanding 2D Sonic. 2D Sonic didn’t have bullshit up until Sonic 3 (and more so in Sonic 4 E1). 3D Sonic is bullshit paradise. Course, the response I usually find is “well, at least the games have a variety of gameplay styles” or “well the player shouldn’t get bored so these things are justified”. The thought process is that the game will get old if you’re doing the same thing over and over and over again. This is always the excuse. As if the dynamic of the game MUST be altered throughout the course just so the game cannot get boring. You know why that is? Because developers have made games that damn boring.

The problem I see in all 3 of these franchises (ratchet, Jak, and Sly) is the same problem that ALL games this generation and past have. The more you progress, the general gameplay doesn’t feel different from the last few levels. There is no emergent gameplay present. What happens is that the game is dependent on the bullshit to provide the emergent gameplay. It ultimately fails because the experience isn’t as fun as having the later levels expand on what ever gameplay is already present. Emergent gameplay is expanding on the already existing gameplay that you have now. If all the levels are designed in the same way (Sly has you doing pretty much the same thing in every level), then the game becomes routine. Routine is the boring part that the hardcore keep referring to. And the problem is developers have become so lazy that everything they put you through since the 6th generation is all routine. All the levels are designed the same exact way with very few minor differences. Nothing grabs you by the conkers as you progress.

You see, games prior to the advent of 3D didn’t have this problem. The games were all simple enough that developers could easily expand on the gameplay without putting in bullshit. Why? They knew deep down the games would have enough action to keep people interested. The 2D “platformers” actually had action in them, but also had plenty of stage elements that kept the game fresh as you progressed. Think about Ristar for a moment. How the first level is basic training, the second is swimming, the third is flames with switches and pulleys, all of these elements expand on existing gameplay without taking away the dynamics that people are used to. In Ristar, you might be swimming, but you’re still attacking enemies and avoiding traps in mostly the same way. It’s not until world 4 where you start looking at the bullshit like that damn music box.

To use another example, think Sonic 3 from Angel Island to Hydrocity. Angel Island is basic training, you get familiar with Sonic’s/Tails’s abilities and just blast through the level in it’s spectacle. But in Hydrocity, now you’re underwater and have to traverse to abyss while keeping an ear out for your lungs. Now, you’re underwater and your speed and jump height are affected. Now you have to look out for bubbles. But what you doing to achieve this? The same thing you did in a previous level. Running, jumping, etc. to get to where you’re going. That’s emergent gameplay. Thats how you make the game feel less routine and more desirable to progress through. In Sly Cooper, none of the levels feel different in any way besides a change in setting. They all rinse and repeat the same traps and enemies with no shame. It’s so pitifully easy that I just blaze through the levels without a fuck given. This is why Sly Cooper “needs” bullshit to keep it fresh. There is no emergent gameplay. Sonic 3 didn’t need it (but still had it with drums and traffic lights)

Most of the gamers on the internet have more experience with the 3D games in which they develop the perception that games NEED bullshit just to stay fresh and exciting. If the game itself isn’t exciting, it’s not worth playing in the first place. Most gamers on the internet are also very stubborn people who believe 2D games are primitive and must be forgotten, which exacerbates the problem. If games like Sly Cooper were fun enough without the need of bullshit like chicken hunting for “gumbo”, you’d see less praise for games having a variety of gameplay. Think about it. Most 3D platformers get praise for having a variety of gameplay styles except Sonic. Most 3D platformers have incredibly SHITTY gameplay variety that don’t play well at all, yet they get praised just for being there. Sonic has variety, people demand excluding all that for the Sonic stages. Why is that? Because the Sonic stages are fun enough that the bullshit gets in the way of them. Other 3D platformers don’t have a fun dynamic in which they are DEPENDENT on the bullshit just to keep people from falling asleep. Therefore they get praise regardless of actual quality. I’ve never seen Tekken games praised for Volleyball or Double Dragon minigames, or bowling. Why? Because the main dynamic (the fighting) is (supposedly) fun by it’s own accord.

Sonic fans suggest that an SA3 needs bullshit like treasure hunting and hub worlds with nothing to do besides crappy “missions”. Why? Isn’t the High speed levels fun enough without treasure hunting getting in the way of that? You’re not going to be easily bored from the speed segments (hopefully)  so there isn’t a need for treasure hunting or hub worlds with nothing to do. Unless platformer fans just like looking for shit endlessly for no reason (would explain the undue praise for Jak and Daxter as well as 3D Mario).

It gets boring because the game is designed to be routine while the devs think the bullshit will keep it fresh. But what the bullshit really does is take the load off their shoulders. None of the “bullshit” even feels like the engine and mechanics were designed around them, they’re just there to break the monotony. And they’re not fun in the slightest. Even the bosses are designed with bullshit in mind (they would make the haiti croc boss some silly rhythm game, the stereotypical fucks)

Sly Cooper isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever played (that award still goes to Skyward Sword), but the bullshit keeps it (or at least the first game) from being a fully enjoyable experience. It’s a problem 3D games in general have, and I don’t see this changing in the near future.