GAME REVIEW: Monaco

Monaco LogoMonaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, from Pocketwatch Games and published by Merge Games, is a top down heist simulator with a unique aesthetic that makes it stand out from the usual world of dreary shooters and muddy landscaped RPGs. Set in the city of Monaco, the goal of each mission is to steal something that furthers your aims, whilst filling your pockets with gold along the way. Early missions include prison-breaks, prison rescues and even stealing a Yacht.

To achieve your task, you are able to recruit a variety of specialists to aid you in your endeavours. Four are available from the off but others have to be unlocked by playing through the story. Each specialist has their own special ability which can be drawn on to fit a particular need in a particular job. The locksmith picks locks faster than the others can, the pickpocket has a pet monkey that helps him gather gold from larger distances, the lookout can see where all the guards are as long as in stealth mode and the cleaner can knock out guards. As you play through the storyline, you can unlock a further four specialists: the gentleman, the hacker, the redhead and the mole. I won’t tell you their special skills but the names should give you a good nudge in the right direction.

 Monaco screenshot-hacking_securitech

 

The visuals of Monaco are certainly striking. I can’t remember seeing that many neon colours since my first viewing of Tron, and even that didn’t have the rainbow hues contained in Monaco. As you move around the level, your line of sight is a cone cutting through the selective darkness, only the basic outlines of walls and obstacles hinted at by the dotted lines on a dark blueprint that covers the shadows. The graphical style somehow manages to impart information in a simple way, and for that the game creators are to be commended, although it can become less clear playing in co-op, as multiple cones of sight soon confuse things. The music score is likewise clever, the tinkling of the piano making you feel like you are watching a black and white soundless film with a real musician playing the piano furiously off-stage somewhere. The pace of the music ramps up when you are spotted or an alarm is triggered, and is an effective background for the action to play out against.

Monaco is at its best played in co-op with a few friends (it supports up to 4). Each friend can adopt a specialist and lend their collective skills to the group effort. This is also where it falls down a little, as depending on the specialist chosen, you might find yourself surplus to requirements. As an example, everyone can pick locks. Everyone. So if you are playing as the locksmith and aren’t leading the charge, your specialist skill becomes almost useless as you come last to each freshly opened door. If anything, you feel like a liability, as more people playing increases the chances of costly mistakes tripping alarms. How costly is it though? Not very as it turns out. The guards have only basic AI that means they are happy to chase you around and around in circles and not follow you up ladders or to different floors. The number of times a mission has gone to pot and I have just run run run and still achieved what I needed to…well I’ve lost track of how many times I did that. It is nice in some ways as it negates the ease with which things can go wrong, but on the other hand, it feels like you can simply run through the game like a manic magpie, stealing as you go.

Monaco screenshot-spotted_by_security

 

I will admit that I wasn’t very good at the game, and I can see that a coordinated group of friends, or even a better solo player, will probably come to enjoy the intricacies of the game over time. The specialists do give scope for changing how you approach the levels, and there are certainly a lot of levels, taking you through the various stories of each specialist. I also found it fun in quick blasts, each level lasting maybe a few minutes. I could not see me sitting down to play for extended periods of time, as there just wasn’t quite enough variety for me. Yes you might be stealing something different each time, in a slightly different blocky house/prison/bank, but even taking the greatest of care to play slowly and carefully, most levels seem to have one area where you will trigger the alarm, whatever you do.

I did like Monaco, but it just seems to fall short in a few ways that make me sad at the opportunities it misses.

The collectors edition contains : The full drm-free version of the game for PC/Mac, Original Soundtrack, 2 Steam Keys, 8 Trading Cards, Autograph card and a Poster. It is available from the Mergegames Store and most other large game retailers.

Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Casey Douglass

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