Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine
Being the Grand Prize Winner for Excellence and Design in the Independent Games Festival (in this case, 2010) is kind of a big deal. I’ve been following “Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine” ever since and was really intrigued by the idea behind the game. Essentially, you’re a thief who has to find an object of interest inside a building and escape. Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Completing a heist requires a lot of patience and skill, with emphasis on the former. Before we get started with the review, I’d like to thank Andy Schatz from Pocketwatch Games for providing me with a free review copy.
Editor’s Note: Mac will enter the public Beta stage in May, 2013.
The main menu allows you to play the game, view help & options, check out leaderboards & achievements, and exit the game. The options menu lets you adjust your keybinds, change your screen resolution, toggle fullscreen, set the graphics quality, mess with audio volumes, and some other gameplay settings. Navigating these menus didn’t seem to have mouse support, forcing me to make all of my changes with the keyboard. I also couldn’t bind keys to my middle and side mouse buttons. This falls under nitpicking more than it does a complaint, as I didn’t have any issues getting things done with the keyboard.
If I had to sum up this game in a single sentence, I’d describe it as a cross between “Metal Gear Solid”, “Hitman”, “Teleglitch”, and “Gauntlet.” Understand now? I didn’t think so. The gameplay mechanics are diverse, grabbing different elements from said games and putting them all into one big heist simulator. Utilizing stealth and systematically taking out targets reminded me of my “Metal Gear Solid” and “Hitman” days. The line of sight style reminds me of “Teleglitch” in that you can only see what is visible by your character, under normal circumstances. The top-down camera angle and varying playable characters reminds me of “Gauntlet”, all without that annoying voice reminding me that the wizard needs food badly.
When you get to the level select screen, you’ll be able to toggle between offline and online mode by hitting “P” on your keyboard. Offline mode is more of a campaign mode where you’ll progress from level to level, unlocking new characters to use as you go. Levels start out simple and even guide you via tutorials. Playing in offline mode still allows you to play with up to three others locally, if you have controllers handy. Online mode allows you to experience the campaign with up to three others. You can select a mission and wait for your “partners in crime” to join you or head over to the custom game lobby. While at the lobby screen, you can join someone else’s game or make your own, customizing it as private/public and assigning a maximum player limit. You can unlock new side levels by totally clearing out a set number of primary levels (collecting all of the coins in a level).
Whether you’re playing online or offline, you’ll be able to choose your level and character. If you happen to be playing online or locally with others, they’ll be allowed to choose their characters as well. Each character has a unique ability that they can utilize to help them in their heist. Players will be able to choose between the locksmith, the lookout, the pickpocket, the cleaner, the mole, the gentleman, the hacker, and the redhead. It’s important to note that some of these characters won’t be available right away.
Characters will be allowed to equip a single item once they find it in a level, which can include things like smoke grenades, shotguns, and tranquilizer darts. You can earn more of your equipped weapon by collecting gold coins, which are scattered around the level. Collecting ten gold coins nets you one more of the item you’ve chosen, so it’s important to grab them whenever you can. Other power-ups like first aid kits and disguises are scattered throughout the level to aid you in your quest. I personally found the shotgun to be pretty overpowered in the early levels, since its scatter effect can kill more than one guard in one shot. Sneaking is possible, though your movement speed will take a hit as a result.
The in-game interface is easy to understand and is relatively clutter-free. You can bring up or hide the interface as you play, allowing you to see where you stand in regards to challenges, your objective, and how many coins you’ve collected on the various floors in the building. With that said, understanding what you’re seeing in the level can be confusing to a new player. It may take a couple of games to fully grasp the gameplay mechanics and the visual ques that objects or characters in the environment give off. For example, you may not realize until it’s too late that the seagull you spooked or the wall you knocked down made a ton of noise, thereby attracting guards to your location. A ring surrounds your character, indicating his or her current health. The number of uses you have left of your item is displayed just outside the ring.
A typical mission starts you off at the street level, near your getaway vehicle. From there, you’ll have to enter the building and make your way to the object you’re trying to steal without getting caught. Guards, cameras, dogs, and other hazards will be impeding your progress and to make matters worse, you’ll often have to navigate multiple floors. Guards react to your presence in a “Metal Gear Solid-esque” manner in that you’ll see question marks above their heads when they notice something suspicious. Luckily, you’ll be able to collect coins, hack panels, and make use of your character’s chosen item and inherent ability to see you through. If you manage to get to the object that you’re trying to steal or rescue, you’ll need to return the way you came and make it to your getaway vehicle. The first few missions are the exception to the rule, since they are designed to teach the player moreso than challenge them. If your character happens to die when flying solo, you’ll chose another from the remaining pool and attempt to finish the mission. If your character dies in multiplayer, you won’t be able to choose a new one. Your friends can revive you however if they stay near your body for a short amount of time.
The real nuts and bolts of the game is figuring out how you’ll get to your objective and back out safely. Since each character has a special ability, you’ll be able to complete levels in multiple ways. The locksmith can quickly pick locks, which might give you a greater window to break into something without having to subdue a nearby guard. The mole can simply dig through walls, bypassing patrols altogether. The pickpocket comes with a monkey that collects nearby gold with relative ease. The cleaner can put unsuspecting people to sleep by running into them from the side or behind. The lookout would serve as a great support character in a multiplayer setting, allowing him to see guards that aren’t in his line of sight when sneaking. The hacker can hack outlets, making it easy to navigate areas that rely heavily on electronic security. The gentleman makes use of disguises and the redhead uses her looks as a weapon. Players will no doubt find one they like and stick with them, just like I did when I discovered just how powerful the lookout’s ability is.
All of these special abilities, when combined with the chosen item they bring with them, provides players with many different strategic paths to consider as they size up a level. Needless to say, having a friend or two with you to compliment the character you’ve chosen would improve the experience as a whole. One player could serve as the lookout while another hacks or picks locks without worrying about patrols sneaking up behind them. Since there are multiple hazards on any one level, you’ll often be stopping to consider your options. Can you sneak by without being seen, or should you use a precious bullet or tranquilizer dart to take them out? The possibilities are endless. With that said, communication is extremely important when playing with others. I’d go far as to say that this game would be excellent for team-building exercises.
I have no doubt in my mind that this game raises the bar in regards to cooperative gaming, setting itself apart from the rest with unique and diverse gameplay mechanics. “Left 4 Dead” stood tall as my favorite cooperative experience, but now I’m not so certain. It’s rare that I come across a stealth-action game that I like, mainly because I either find them too challenging or simply lacking in the fun department. “Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine” provides the right mix of stealth, challenge, and fun while offering almost unlimited replayability. While the graphics are fairly simplistic, the colors and visuals stood out like eye candy. There is more fun to be had in playing this game with others, but it does well as a single player experience. The price listed on the official site states $15 for one copy and $45 for a four pack, which is fair considering the content that the game offers. It may not be for everyone, especially if you’re the gung-ho type that has zero patience for staying still. Speed running through missions is possible, but you’ll get much more out of this game if you take it slow. The level of difficulty can’t be changed, so those who get stuck will have to really work to move on. I highly recommend this game if you’re into stealth-action games or co-op regularly with friends.
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine” by visiting the following websites:
You can check out video play sessions here: