Smarts & Suspense: A Review Of Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine

banner purpleWhen you first start Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, it seems like a lot to take in. You’re placed in a top-down, blueprint-style view of a building and given an objective – not much else. Everything is dark except for your line of sight. You stumble around corners avoiding guards and floor traps, and if you get caught, absolute pandemonium ensues.

And such is Monaco, a hilarious mix of smarts and suspense. It looks like Clue, plays like Operation, and every game feels like the infamous Leeroy Jenkins raid.

The point of Monaco is simple: steal stuff. You get to pick characters from a specialized team of professionals (think Oceans Eleven), and then plan a robbery. Each level has a variety of traps and locked doors which require careful navigation to get past, and of course, there are also armed guards you’ll need to contend with. It’s a wonderful Ockham’s Razor of gameplay: you’re given a simple goal and a limited set of resources to get there.

Most people who pick up Monaco will be doing so for the co-op component, where you and (up to) three other players select your crew of misanthropes. Then it’s up to you to carefully plan your heist, leaving nothing to chance – that is of course until chance (or a moron) intervenes.

There are dozens of variables at any given moment in the game, and communication is key; I might even go so far as to say you need to know who you’re playing with. It’s never anything less than ridiculous, edge-of-your-seat fun, but games can get uncontrollable very quickly. If your play style is “smash and grab,” well… let me just say that doesn’t seem to be in this game’s vocabulary.

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From the mechanics to the presentation, the co-op campaign is practically flawless. But in particular, the feeling of the gameplay is absolute perfection. Going into a location and forming a plan, only to have it wither away in front of you as the game devolves into a frenzied dash for the exit – it’s exactly what you want a game with the conceit of Monaco to feel like.

As I said, things can get chaotic at times. But I think this level of pandemonium – seeing a heist take a nosedive into madness – is part of the game’s humor.

If Monaco was really making an attempt at being serious, it would end the heist when someone got caught. While I’m sure a fair percentage of players are going to get throw-your-controller angry, I hope that a far greater number will be able to laugh at the ensuing chaos (because you’re going to see it a lot).

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Most games that feature an extraordinarily well-polished multiplayer component typically have single-player campaigns that are downright embarrassing. They rarely capture the same feeling of the multiplayer games, and often play as if they were an afterthought. But Monaco? Not only is the single-player portion of the game just as inventive and fun, but it could be argued that it’s where players will find the most replay value.

As you progress through each location, it will become very apparent where certain members of the team would be more advantageous. For instance, you might see a receptacle that The Hacker can exploit, or find a wall that The Mole could easily burrow through. Some players will only find frustration in this (“Oh, if I was only playing as The Gentleman!”), but it’s equally serendipitous and helps invigorate subsequent playthroughs.

The rush of adrenaline found in the co-op mode is also present in the solo campaign, and in fact, that’s where the frenzied getaways feel most achievable. With only yourself to worry about, streamlining your getaway route sometimes proves to be more enjoyable that the theft itself.

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Monaco does a great job of introducing you to the basics, but once you pass the first handful of locations things can get brutal. Since there is no option to alter the difficulty level, one can only assume it was a design decision; developer Andy Schatz and company (Pocketwatch Games) seem to have intentionally made a game difficult to master.

There are some minor gripes, so most won’t find it to be a perfect experience. When you’re in a level, it can be hard to tell where your objectives are, and if you understand what’s happening with the trophies straight out of the gate then you’re faring better than I did. An option to zoom out would have been immensely helpful, too.

But what Monaco unequivocally nails is a feeling. Maybe most games aren’t even trying to achieve the same degree of tension, but the fact that Pocketwatch Games has been able to capture it at all is remarkable. It’s lightning in a bottle that you can play. From the moment a heist starts, there’s a certain je ne sais quois – a certain “holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit” – that, again, is difficult to articulate. But that’s a good thing. It’s a compliment of high order, and it’s why Monaco deserves your time.

Pixels or Death gives Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine a 4.5 out of 5