Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time includes playable Salim in ancient Arabia

Sly Cooper's journeys in time will include a stop off in ancient Arabia where players will take on the role of Salim Al Kupar, a playable Cooper ancestor unveiled during Gamescom this week.

Salim, a retired thief decked out in billowing green pants, a big white mustache and beard and a massive turban, brings with him the ability to quickly to spiral up ropes and columns using his Cobra Climb, a flying carpet he can use to drift down from jumps and a whirlwind attack.

The level in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time that we were shown during the demo takes place about halfway through the game, said Frank Simon, senior managing producer at Sony Computer Entertainment of America. Simon said they wanted to show us this particular level because it highlights Salim's unique platforming abilities and the sheer verticality of some of the game's sections. As Salim progressed through the level, starting out in sewers swarming in giant scorpions, we could catch glimpses of the increasingly long drop beneath him. A radar in the lower right corner of the screen showed Salim's position as well as where nearby enemies were located. That's to help players better orient themselves in the larger levels of Thieves in Time, Simon said.

Thieves in Time, he explained, is designed to be a hub and spoke game, with each hub world two, three sometimes four times the size of the original Sly Cooper game.

"The game is really big," he said. "We've cut out a whole level and maybe 20 to 25 levels, and that's just what we left out."

The fastest play-through a game tester has managed so far is about 12 hours, Simon said.

Back in the demo, Salim has managed to make his way up to the top of the towering level; to one side is a room filled with gorilla guards. Salim can decide to go into the room to try and take the guards out and grab a collectible mask, but it's not a requirement.

As he continues to work his way up through the level, Salim is confronted with increasingly complex challenges. The roles he uses to move up start to disintegrate, the platforms are now the slowly retreating tongues of massive bronze snakes.

When Salim finally nears the end of the level he is confronted with a device that needs to be hacked.

Simon says the game will have a number of hacking mini games, including one called System Cracker and the one we're about to see, Spark Runner.

Spark Runner uses the Playstation 3's motion sensing Sixaxis controller to have players maneuver a ball-shaped spark through a series of circuits. It's Sly Cooper's take on the old-school table top balance the ball games, Simon says. Except this puzzle is mammoth, stretching across a number of circuit boards loaded with dangers, pinball-like bumpers and wrong turns. It's also timed – run out of time and you have to start over.

The fastest play-through a game tester has managed so far is about 12 hours.

Simon wrapped up our demo by discussing Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time cross-play between the PS3 and Vita. Because the game is part of the deal that gives you the Vita title for free if you purchase the PS3 version, the team felt they had to take advantage of cross-play, Simon said.

So they've included a number of neat little support features for Vita players to use. One has a Vita player using the device as an X-Ray to search for collectibles. Once the Vita player finds a treasure, they can tap on it and it sends a ping to the PS3 player's screen. Players can also use the Vita to snap pictures of valuable art objects in the game by simply pointing at the television screen and taking a picture. Once captured, the player can sell that artwork for money in the game.

While Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was initially due out in 2012, Sony said at the show it wouldn't be hitting now until February, 2013. Sony officials told Polygon that it's to give the game a bit more space, releasing it during a less crowded time of the year.

Simon told Polygon: "The game is ready to go, but it makes sense to give it more breathing space," he said. "We just completed our last focus sessions, which is a complete play from beginning to end. The development team is kicking ass."

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