Monaco has to be one of the most eagerly awaited independent games in recent memory. In 2010, it won the Seumus McNally Grand Prize and the Excellence in Design award at the Independent Games Festival, and took Destructoid’s PAX Prime Must. Play. Award in 2012. Upon seeing it for the first time in 2011, I was taken aback about how good it was, and how much fun I had playing it with other people. I inquired as to if Pocketwatch Games had a release date for the title, and they demurred, stating that the game would be released when it was ready. Fair enough. Fast forward a year later to 2012, and I had yet another go at the game and found a really great title even further polished, and unbeknownst to me, undergone a complete rewrite. Once again, I inquired as to the eventual release of the game, and my inquiries were rebuffed once more. The year passed, and still no release date. 2013 came and still not a peep, and then all of a sudden, the word came that it was finished and had a release date. And the peasants rejoiced.
People really enjoy crime movies, and especially the sort of the caper variety. I define the caper genre as films similar to the Ocean’s trilogy, or The Italian Job, and possibly even Heat, the sort of motion picture where a group of disparate individuals, each with specialized abilities get together to pull off some sort of heist. This is how the game was originally described to me. It was a game that combined Ocean’s Eleven with Pac-Man. It’s a statement which will induce an involuntary double-take, but it’s also a statement which is, quite pleasantly, wholly correct.
The entire object of Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, is to steal things. The player controls one of eight characters, and generally has to break into a secure location, avoid the guards and various security systems inside, steal the macguffin, and leave the premises. It all sounds quite simple at first, but the title has a certain level of subtlety to it which gives it this charm and adds a large amount of replayability. The first is in the characters. Each has their own special ability. The locksmith can unlock doors and safes much faster than his compatriots, the gentleman can disguise himself whenever he’s hidden, and the mole can tunnel through any wall that stands between him and his objective. In total, there are eight of these characters, each with its own special “hook.” In addition to this, each level may have certain items scattered about, such as a gun with which to kill guards with, or a wrench that will allow the player to instantly complete any action they are working on, to a crossbow which will incapacitate guards silently. All of these items are single use, unless the player collects ten yellow diamonds, which then gives another use.
The single player and multiplayer portions of Monaco are disparate enough that they warrant separate discussions, and it’s interesting how a single independent title can offer such varying types of gameplay. The single player campaign is quite entertaining and manages to introduce the player to the game and its mechanics quite well. There is a storyline that unfolds and the player unlocks additional characters until they have received the full complement of eight to play with. The difficult scales well, and the most enjoyable thing about it is how deliberate the gameplay is. It requires thought and a modicum of planning. A great way to describe it would be stealth action, and it often has the kind of tension that a player would get playing a Splinter Cell game or a Metal Gear Solid title. Upon completion of each level, the player’s time to completion is recorded, with a time penalty added for each diamond left behind, and there is indeed a leaderboard. This leaderboard and time penalty certainly add a good amount of replay value to perfectionists and the competitive.
Multiplayer, however, is a different animal altogether. There is four player simultaneous co-op play, and the experience can mimic that of the single player campaign if there is a good amount of communication and teamwork. Though this can be fun in its own right, the real fun is when things go terribly, terribly wrong. One person can alert a guard and then manage to drag the guard into his or her compadres, who also then start fleeing in separate directions, and quite possibly into other guards can cause a special kind of chaos and mayhem, turning the playing of the level into a shouting match. There is not a small amount of potential for things to turn physically violent. Things are always SOMEONE’S fault, and getting through levels with all of the mayhem will induce either a ton of laughter or end friendships, and this is exactly the sort of fun one wants to have on a game night with three of your friends.
Overall, Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, is indeed the game we have all been waiting so long to play. The single player campaign is fun, and the writing clever. The level design is well done. The multiplayer mode has a lot of fun to it. The music from a Grammy nominated composer is fitting and eclectic. It is hard to imagine a person that would not get at least a moderate amount of enjoyment out of the game. On second thought, it isn’t that hard to imagine. It’s just that their opinions of games are bad and they should feel bad, too.
Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine is currently available on XBox Live and Steam for PC. A Mac version will be coming soon.