You keep a lookout for me, okay?
The 2010 Independent Games Festival featured many impressive titles, among them Super Meat Boy and Limbo. But neither of those eventual best-sellers that everyone has heard of won the grand prize. Instead, the little known Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine did.
Even if you’ve heard of Monaco, there’s a good chance you’ve forgotten about it. It was a game that had a development cycle as long as Final Fantasy XIII's, after all. Nonetheless, it’s finally here for gamers with its classic gameplay in-hand and bank vault full of loot to steal with friends. Was the wait worth it?
In Monaco, you play from a top-down view where you’re in charge of completing elaborate heists that require thought and precision. Don’t let the 2D imagery fool you—each of the game’s rooms are highly functional. Walls can be used to protect you from the peripheral vision of guards, and there are tons of interactive objects including hackable computers, bushes to hide in, and alarms to disable. Learning how to take advantage of the environment is the key to making it in and out with as much finesse as possible. You do want to look like a pro, don’t you?
Seldom will you make it to the goal and back without opposition; that is, unless you study the layout like a trained spy, configuring your plan of action before risking your virtual bank robber’s life. The great thing is you can do that; you can choose to be a master planner who strives for perfection in order to become a dominant figure on the game’s leaderboards. But sometimes it’s the unpredictability that creates the most entertainment. Entering a room and realizing a guard has heard you is incredibly tense. The chase that ensues is one that you won’t forget the next time you load up a level.
The world of Monaco is reminiscent of classic titles from the '90s, from the game’s simple mechanics to its minimalistic visuals. The game’s bright palette and polished presentation make it a delight to break into buildings without invitation and steal their most valuable assets. Interactions could be thrown onto a classic NES controller with directional aiming and a button to use equipment as the only required inputs. The entire experience never ventures into the realm of complexity; that is, unless you consider technique.
Employed are eight character classes, with only three unlocked from the get-go. Each has a distinct advantage in dealing with the game’s increasingly challenging goals. For example, The Locksmith can unlock doors and other objects faster than the rest, while The Cleaner can knock out unsuspecting enemies. Understanding your strengths and knowing when to use them is exactly what you need to survive the game’s later missions.
As you might suspect, the class dynamic plays wonderfully when more than one player is involved. The classes complement each other extremely well and are a major reason the game is absolutely thrilling to play with friends. Truthfully, to fully experience Monaco you need people to play with, and the closer to three the better. Playing alone can be frustrating due to the game’s level design that’s seemingly stuck in the mode of assuming multiple classes are present. Better yet, you need friends to play with. Playing online using matchmaking is good, but if the people you’re playing with aren’t communicating, then it’s not so good.
Those out there who are inclined to take on the challenges or simply enjoy playing with friends have plenty to dig into with Monaco. There are leaderboards full of different lists of people who are excellent at stealing loot. Additionally, there are a variety of missions that are only unlocked by collecting all coins on the standard levels, and doing so is no easy task.
There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from sneaking through an entire building of guards and making it out with a bag full of loot. It’s one that video games don’t take advantage of often enough. Monaco takes that and makes it an exciting and challenging affair to enjoy with friends. Just make sure you don’t sign up for the job if you plan to play alone.