You’re a criminal, about to break into a bank and rob from their vault. You need a set of people with special skills to pull this heist off so you rope your friends; the locksmith, the pickpocket and the mole. It’s going to go well, the mole digs his way in to the vault so you don’t need to go through the level. But then he keeps going. The locksmith is running around setting off alarms and the pickpocket is trying to open every safe while the police are punching him slowly to death. This is Monaco.
Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine has been a video game darling in production for the last few years and certainly earns a lot of its indie game credentials. It’s beautiful in a unique yet semi-retro way. It has an interesting soundtrack and some fantastic ideas which work about 90% of the time. At the surface, it’s a twin stick shooter by way of Payday: The Heist. You have 1-4 players running around a black and grey map of a building, lighting up a bright, vivid level as they go, but only as far as their field of vision allows. Icons like safes, wall sockets, computers and first aid kits are highlighted on the map and if you’re the lookout then enemies pop up as red blips moving around.
Each level is short, but there are many of them in The Locksmith’s Story (normal mode) and The Pickpocket’s Story (a hard mode retelling of the events). As you go through the levels more items and classes are unlocked. You start with the locksmith who is the master of unlocking, the pickpocket with his trained monkey to steal coins, the lookout who marks where enemies are and the cleaner who quietly knocks out enemies. Later on classes like The Mole add variation with his ability to knock through almost any wall, or the Gentleman who is disguised for a few seconds if spotted by enemies. The items range from the noisy but effective shotgun to plasters to revive allies, wrenches to complete actions and smoke bombs to provide momentary cover. With several different maps and events to deal with, each level feels like it provides a unique challenge to your team. In one level you’re trying to get inside The Gentleman’s trap-filled boat while dodging guard dogs. In another you’re rescuing The Hacker from his secure room in a hospital while the criminally insane rattle around in cages.
The look and sound of Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine is key to the gameplay. The fog of war will block the majority of a level at a time, even after you’ve explored it. As you walk along, you might get a sudden glimpse through a window and a guard’s has a moment where he thinks he can see you. The characters all have their distinctive look and movements, even in their idle positions. Anything you need is highlighted which is a saving grace when four players are on opposite ends of the map, forcing it to zoom out. While the retro aesthetic may be grating to some people, the use of it is interesting enough to blot out any such problems for long. The maps are thought out enough that the toilets are usable, shower curtains can be hidden behind and they do a good effort of showing little pieces of what’s at the edges of the level. You can see the rain falling in the opening level, or the lower levels of the Gentleman’s house through the upstairs windows. It may look like blueprints in the fog of war, but the levels are engrossing to run around in and interact with.
As a single player game, you’re able to take your time, case the joint and find effective ways to complete the map. Like Metal Gear Solid and other stealth games, it’s satisfying to get through each area, work out guard patterns and find the perfect hiding places. As a multiplayer game it’s a whole different monster. Sure, an organised group can probably best a level as quietly and efficiently as single player, but with offline play and friends like yours, you know what it’s going to be like. Someone’s going to play hero, someone’s going to run back for the last coins while the police are searching for you. Just like a heist movie, are you sure you can trust the people on your team?
Both of these methods of playing are fun, although multiplayer Monaco has had me angrier with my best friends than any other game not called New Super Mario Bros U. But in a good way. Even after the game you’re chatting about how that heist went down, what went wrong and how better to plan the next one. Maybe if the mole keeps up his weird wall-digging fixation to break through to the hall outside the safe, but this time the cleaner’s going to sort out the guards on the computers, hack the machines and the other two can pick the safe and loot everything while everyone else is already by the getaway car holding the door open. Brilliant, now you’re thinking like a true thief.
Game reviewed on Xbox 360; purchased by D+PAD Magazine.