The Paris prologue, a strictly linear sequence that feels like too many other generic platform games that have been released during Sly's hiatus, gets “Thieves in Time” off to a sluggish start. But once Sly and his pals — Bentley, the techie turtle, and Murray, the two-fisted hippo — start traveling back through time, the action gets much livelier.
Each stop in the time machine introduces a series of challenges that borrow elements from, seemingly, the entire history of video games. There are shooting galleries, stealth sequences, mine-cart races, rhythm games — and, of course, the core of the funny-animal genre: running, jumping and climbing across 3-D worlds.
That's a lot to cram into one game, and some missions work better than others. I found Murray's slugfests tedious but enjoyed the two-dimensional shoot-'em-ups that Bentley uses to hack into enemy computers.
But “Thieves in Time” soars when it allows the nimble Sly to do what he does best: skittering up drainpipes, scampering across power lines, bouncing across rooftops. You should take breaks from its main missions to search for the treasures scattered throughout its well-designed, semi-open worlds.
The journey takes the gang to the Wild West, feudal Japan and beyond, all the way back to the Ice Age. Sly's ancestors, like gunslinger Tennessee Cooper, ninja Rioichi Cooper and the prehistoric “Bob” Cooper, are charming, though a few of the villains veer dangerously close to offensive ethnic stereotypes.
Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of four.