If you took all your James Bond books and your Ocean’s Eleven DVDs, and you blended them all together, you’d make a mess and would probably need to buy a new food processor. Somehow though, Pocketwatch Games has managed to do just that, and have come up with a fantastic little stealth puzzler that is in equal parts charmingly simple and devilishly entertaining.
As it’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in ol’ Blighty, this sounds like the perfect time for me to tell you my Opinions on a great little title that’s managed to steal my heart, called Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine.
The comparison to bad heist movies and such is very easily made here. Monaco pulls out all the stops to fill itself with old clichés and cheesy atmosphere, and it works brilliantly. The missions vary with their presentation and objectives, but generally fall into three few simple categories; there are escape missions, tasking you to get from one side of a level to another; there are heist missions where you need to steal a certain amount of coins or specific items; and then there are rescue missions, in which you find and unlock another playable character. You can take any character into a mission once they have been unlocked, and each has a specialised toolset pulled from a number of cliché bank robber roles. The Locksmith, for example, picks locked doors and safes faster than other characters. The Hacker can control cameras and turn off lasers for longer. The Redhead can lure guards and civilians towards her, rather than having them run for the alarms. All of this is tied together with a quirky little story that is well written, even if it is usually just an excuse to move to the next map, and a piano-heavy soundtrack that suits the game to perfection.
Levels are presented as black and white blueprints, showing where all the buildings are, with the locations of their doors, cameras and loot highlighted for the players to note easily. You can imagine the characters going over these maps in detail before starting each mission. Once the level has started, however, anything in your line of sight is transformed into its ‘real-life’ dimensions, presented as a brightly-coloured 8-bit world. Rooms go from being simple boxes to real places with furniture and lights, and guards. The use of colour and line of sight mean that Monaco can be quite hard to get your head around through screenshots, or even videos, but when you play, it all works smoothly and intuitively, making it a joy. Knowing exactly what you can see (or more importantly, what the guards can see) is vital to getting through levels.
As a single-player game, Monaco plays as a stealth-puzzler, with you learning patrols, assessing the situation in each room, trying to go about your crimes undetected. If you’re caught or set off an alarm you didn’t spot, it’s simple enough for your to restart the level and try again if you’re playing by yourself. But to play this game alone would be denying yourself one of the best co-operative multiplayer experiences I have seen in a long time. While technically the aim when you play cooperatively is also to get through the levels undetected, I feel it’s much more satisfying to have a plan go wrong with friends than to pull off the perfect heist alone.
And oh, will it go wrong.
Co-op can be enjoyed with up to four players, each controlling a different character. Communication is crucial, as you can only see what is within your line of sight, and relying on each other’s skills is important to getting through the levels. If your Lookout (who knows the location of guards even if she can’t see them) isn’t relaying crucial knowledge to the team, then chances are you’ll stumble into a room full of angry police. This isn’t a problem though, as chances are, someone will set off a pressure plate or bump into a guard dog. And instead of it devolving into the usual “Dammit, now we all need to start over again!” it instead turns into a comical moment, with everyone scattering like mice trying to find the best hiding place. The game never punishes you too hard for screwing up, and neither will your team-mates. Extra challenges can be unlocked after ‘cleaning out’ the easier ones, robbing the place blind. These levels are just replicas of the story missions, but with extra guards and traps, perfect for testing your cat-burglar abilities.
Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine is a beautifully presented tribute to the genre of it’s themes, and a fantastically crafted indie game that everyone can enjoy. I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants a game to play with friends or strangers. I should also mention that it is also local co-op friendly, meaning that your crew of thieves can all experience the fun on one screen, assuming you have enough controllers/keyboards to share. With its bright colours and easily accessible gameplay, there’s a real treasure to be found here.
Though it’s probably stolen….