Quick Look: Monaco

Brad and Jeff finally get a chance to get their sneak on as Monaco comes out of hiding.

Vinny Caravella on Google+
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Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine Review

4
  • PC

Monaco makes for a more compelling multiplayer romp than a single-player adventure, but its charms shine through any way you choose to play it.

The trouble with stealth games, for me anyway, is all that stealthiness. Which isn't to say that stealth in games can't be an enjoyable factor, but too often the stealth genre deals in such rigid requirements of absolute precision in movement and execution that it kills a lot of the fun for players who aren't invested in becoming the most skilled thieves, ninjas, or special operatives out there. Sometimes, you don't necessarily want to lose every single time a guard spots you. Sometimes, you just want a little more chaos in your stealth gameplay, you know?

Some games transcend the simple shorthand of a "BLANK meets BLANK" description. The "Pac-Man meets Hitman" description I've often heard for Monaco fits the game to a T.

If you share my sensibilities, there's a good chance you'll enjoy Pocketwatch Games' Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine quite a bit. In development for something like four years now, Monaco has evolved from its early showings as an intriguing indie curiosity into a full-fledged adventure, replete with numerous characters, skills, and challenging stages to master. It's especially strong in cooperative multiplayer, where up to four players can plan, execute, and in some cases, frantically try to salvage elaborate heists that often have a tendency to go haywire, albeit often in the most enjoyable ways possible.

There are eight characters to choose from in Monaco. Four--the Locksmith, the Cleaner, the Lookout, and the Pickpocket--are available right at the beginning of the game. Over time, you'll also unlock the Mole, the Gentleman, the Redhead, and the Hacker. Each of these characters has a unique skill that makes them vital for specific tasks throughout the story. The Locksmith, for instance, can push through locked doors twice as quickly as any other character; the Hacker can disable security systems by uploading viruses through any power outlet; the Gentleman can disguise himself for a set amount of time; and the Cleaner can chloroform any in-game enemy he manages to sneak up on.

If you're playing alone, you can just pick from any one of these characters once they're unlocked. Every stage in Monaco can be beaten with any character, but some levels are definitely designed with certain abilities in mind, and some characters are just balanced better than others. The Mole, for instance, can dig through walls, and especially in the first half of the game, is exceptionally useful. Conversely, the Pickpocket, despite having a monkey that collects coins for him, is regrettably pretty useless in most key situations.

The primary goals of Monaco's many unsavory characters evolve over time, but objectively speaking, pretty much everything revolves around you getting into a heavily guarded/booby trapped area, stealing something, and getting back out. Cops, civilians, guard dogs, cameras, laser barriers, computer-locked doors, and just about every other manner of security must be navigated successfully in order to survive a mission. In addition to your primary goal, you'll also be trying to collect the many coins that have been scattered throughout each stage, all while generally trying to avoid detection.

The thing is, you won't avoid detection forever. While it's distinctly possible that some obsessive players may be able to sneak through whole levels of Monaco without ever spooking a guard or being spotted on a camera, you really don't have to do this to succeed. When playing solo, getting detected really only means that you need to bolt to a nearby hiding spot, either in another room, or in an air duct, or even inside a nearby shrub. Enemies aren't terribly thorough in their searches, so if you're far enough out of their sight line and aren't making noise, they'll usually just wander off, and you're good to go.

One of the trickier parts of Monaco pertains to the game's visual perspective. You can only see areas in your character's field of view. Everything else is blocked.

Multiplayer requires a bit more strategy, given that you could have up to four people all wandering around different areas of the environment. It pays to have a plan, which is to say that it pays to spend time learning the layouts of the different stages, and have certain characters attack certain areas for maximum coin collection and minimum collateral damage. That, of course, doesn't always go according to plan. In most games, seeing your best laid plans go to pot is usually a source of frustration. However, at least in the early goings, Monaco's levels are generally bite-sized enough to avoid forcing players to restart large chunks of content, while also providing just enough challenge to ensure that when things do go wrong, they go hilariously wrong. Later on, as the levels become more intricate and frankly just a lot longer, those failures do become a bit less amusing.

Obviously a disastrous outcome isn't the point of playing Monaco, but that the disastrous outcomes are, in their own way, often so very entertaining is a testament to how fun the game can be in multiplayer. Pulling off a well-constructed heist, filled with coordinated distractions and intricately executed strategy is awesome, but even having it all fall apart on you, with guards and sirens and dogs all converging on everybody, is weirdly fun too. Of course you never want to be the guy who ruined everything, but there are, thankfully, just enough ways to get yourself out of a jam in Monaco to prevent you from ever feeling like you've hopelessly destroyed everyone's chances just by screwing up once or twice.

It helps that Monaco is a pretty simple game, mechanically. You can use a controller on the PC version if you like, but the default controls really only require movement via the WASD keys, holding the right mouse button down to sneak quietly, and using the left mouse button to use weapons and other items that pop up from time to time. These can range from simple guns to EMPs that knock out all the electronics in a nearby area. For every ten coins you pick up, you earn another use of the item you're currently equipped with, which can be very handy when you just need to get one guard out of your way to get to the next area.

There are quite a few chapters to play through in Monaco, though you can't unlock the second volley of levels--which are essentially remixed versions of previous levels designed with more challenge, and an alternate story path, in mind--until you've "cleaned out" enough stages on the first. Cleaning out requires collecting all the coins in a given stage, which, especially in the later stages, is easier said than done. The earlier stages are easier to pull this off in, and in fact, I managed to clean out a few levels without really even trying too terribly hard. But those aren't the norm, and in most cases, you'll have to painstakingly scour levels to find all those coins.

Multiplayer is the way to play Monaco. Single-player can be played more methodically, but it lacks the riotous fun of a well-played (or sometimes badly played) multiplayer match.

The story is cutely written, meting out pieces of info that simultaneously flesh out the stories of the game's characters, and pay homage to a few of the all-time crime movie classics. Still, the atmosphere of this game isn't really what sells it. The piano-heavy soundtrack by Austin Wintory does a nice job of capturing the sort of jaunty, old-timey soundtracks of classic silent film, but the game's visual palette sometimes has a hard time differentiating certain environments and settings. It's a good looking game with some nice pixel art, but there are definitely moments where all the little icons, characters, and pieces of scenery turn into something of an indistinct blur.

While I admittedly became less enamored with Monaco as it ramped up its difficulty and turned some of its later missions into tedious exercises in trial-and-error, the vast majority of Monaco's content is simply a delight to play, especially when enjoyed alongside a rogue's gallery of your most deviously skilled friends. It may not best serve the solitary brand of player, but for a cooperative group of would-be thieves, Monaco can be terrific fun.

Alex Navarro on Google+
55 Comments
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Posted by CoolYetiDance

This game seems really cool co-op!

Edited by Atwa

Monaco GP

Posted by SgtSphynx

Alex reviewed a good game?!

Edited by Bollard

I saw this popping up in a few places today. If I can find people to play it with, maybe I'll give it a go.

Posted by csl316

I'm interested.

Edited by Animasta

but I wanna keep my stuff :(

Posted by VarrosAnon

I'm starting to wonder why this game had a single player at all instead of just being a multiplayer only title - just about every review I've seen detracts score for having a bad single player module, and it seems like the entire appeal comes from the MP anyways.

Alex reviewed a good game?!

Guacamelee was a good game. /colbert

Posted by PollySMPS

As someone with some pretty bad vision issues, with all the video I've seen of this game, I really have no idea what is ever going on. Co-op on some of the later larger areas zoom out to some pretty crazy degrees making it seem even worse.

That said, I love the concept and may give it a go someday, but the price is a tad too steep for me to take a gamble on it at the moment.

Edited by SgtSphynx

@varrosanon said:

Guacamelee was a good game. /colbert

That was his review, wasn't it.

Edited by Mitch0712

Played 2 hrs today; its great!

Posted by DharmaBum

Shame about the XBLA delay. Looking forward to this.

Edited by Sin4profit

I think they could have fixed the single player by creating a system where you use your 3 lives to call in your other supply of characters, either at the same time or let me return to the level enter/exit and select a different character mid game.

Posted by Ravelle

Bought it and will play some tomorrow with my brother, can't wait. :D

Posted by Ghostiet

As someone with some pretty bad vision issues, with all the video I've seen of this game, I really have no idea what is ever going on. Co-op on some of the later larger areas zoom out to some pretty crazy degrees making it seem even worse.

I feel you, but in actual gameplay it's actually very clear and natural to play.

Posted by singing_pigs

Played this game a bunch when it was in beta, and it is SO, SO GOOD. One of the best multiplayer experiences around, no question.

I disagree about the Pickpocket though. He was my go-to character, as I could get a massive stockpile of items/ammo pretty quickly. Granted, I think I was the only one of my friends who liked him, but I thought he was great.

Posted by fiberpay

As someone with some pretty bad vision issues, with all the video I've seen of this game, I really have no idea what is ever going on. Co-op on some of the later larger areas zoom out to some pretty crazy degrees making it seem even worse.

That said, I love the concept and may give it a go someday, but the price is a tad too steep for me to take a gamble on it at the moment.

+1. I don't have vision issues and this game looks way to busy for me. I don't know if its the art style or what.

Posted by whatisdelicious

@fiberpay: That's what I've thought, looking at it, but I bet it's different when you're playing it. You'll only be focused on one area instead of trying to take in the whole image.

Edited by marbleCmoney

Sounds cool. I may have to check this one out.

Posted by Undeadpool

I've always wanted a game where you plan and execute a heist. I can't believe there aren't more of them...

Posted by AuthenticM

Alex reviewing a good game ?

Edited by beard_of_zeus

Sounds neato. I'll probably pick up the delayed XBLA version when it comes out.

Posted by project343

What a lovely game. Played quite a bit of throughout the day. It feels like a weird hybrid stealth game that is designed to have you get caught.

Edited by JayEH

Looks interesting, will probably download the trial version on XBLA when its out.

Posted by wewantsthering

I'm going to try it out four-play-local this weekend! :-)

Posted by audioBusting

The Pickpocket is really useful for getting gear ammo, especially when the civilians have coins! Unpicked coins are +10 seconds each, so he's good for speed-runs too.

Posted by Humanity

@ghostiet said:

@pollysmps said:

As someone with some pretty bad vision issues, with all the video I've seen of this game, I really have no idea what is ever going on. Co-op on some of the later larger areas zoom out to some pretty crazy degrees making it seem even worse.

I feel you, but in actual gameplay it's actually very clear and natural to play.

I actually think at times it's a bit too colorful and too far out. I wish there was a way to change the camera zoom levels cause at the moment it's just a tad too far out for me. Still, super fun game, even if every area looks like a night club!

Edited by ectoplasma

Alex is always so verbose and I'm terrible at skimming.

Edited by HS_Alpha_Wolf

Wait a second, Alex got to review this AND Guacamelee, while Brad got handed Dead Island: Riptide? What the fuck is going on? Glad to see you get to play some decent games for work for a change Alex, and as always, your review was a good read regardless of the quality of the game.

Edited by JesterPC238

I hate to sound reductive, but this game is like Metal Gear mashed up with Hotline Miami. Absolutely awesome, played with a few friends for hours last night. It can be a little hard to follow, especially if you don't play the same character each leve because your color is determined by your character. I also thought the single player was totally servicable, it's just more Metal Gear than Hotline Miami, with the multiplayer swinging the other way.

Edited by FiendishDude

Really interested to try this game. Just gotta get my friends to stop being cheap and pick up a copy with me. :P

Edited by DeadDorf

4-player QL with Alex?

Posted by The_Drizzle

Does the game only support local co-op?

Posted by Mumrik

My theory is that so many reviewers hate stealth games because they take patience, and many of these guys want to rush through games to have an opinion or get the review/preview out the door.

Posted by peritus
Edited by Ravelle

I've always wanted a game where you plan and execute a heist. I can't believe there aren't more of them...

There's the Heist, but that's a shooter and not so great.

Posted by pinner458

@the_drizzle: Well it was delayed for 360 so its only on Steam atm and I doubt there is local co-op on a pc. In summary if PC gets online co-op I'm sure 360 will too.

Posted by falling_fast

what skill does the Redhead get?

Posted by CaptRocketblaze

Nice to see Alex get to give a positive score once in awhile.

Posted by Th3irdEye

My screen shots from the beta are totally used in this story. Pretty neat.

Edited by tehsorrow

@mumrik: I'd tend to agree, I mean it's just part of the job but it seems to breed this notion that because they don't have time for it, no one does. It seems strange that even with every single new stealth game out there having so many crutches that I have to spend the first hour of the game going through and toggling off "highlight everything you need" and "toggle giant blinking arrow" just to get a meaningful experience, we still have people saying it's too hard and punishing. I forsee this ending with a change like Assassins Creed did for platforming where you hold down a single button and just move as the game plays out all the stealth animations and takedowns for you.

Edited by ateatree

Having just played this with three co-op buds, I am sincerely hoping this gets played on UnproFriday tomorrow. No one will have any idea what's going on, and it will be glorious. (It does appear to be playable via local co-op, to answer that question. You seem to be able to just hook up four controllers and go for it.)

Posted by Y2Ken

I've been hearing a lot about this recently, it looks really neat. Might have to go check it out for myself.

Posted by chiablo

The art style is really shitty, and I had to turn the music off about four missions in. But the gameplay is really good. I just wish I had friends to play it with.

Posted by Mumrik

I forsee this ending with a change like Assassins Creed did for platforming where you hold down a single button and just move as the game plays out all the stealth animations and takedowns for you.

That's basically what Splinter Cell: Conviction was to me.

Edited by ThatOneDudeNick

wtf am I 'posta do with all these words? Quick look this shit.

Edited by Soniking

<p>I don't thing he ever really talks about some of the more gamier aspects of Monaco. Try to read this without thinking of the game or seeing the pictures and I have no idea what this game is still.</p>

Posted by Ghostiet

what skill does the Redhead get?

She can charm a single alerted guard/civilian to stop him from pursuing/attacking/alerting others and make him open doors for you.

Posted by PhilipDuck

Four stars, awesome! A guy from my university course helped design this game, happy it's been reviewed well :)

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