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Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine

There’s something oddly satisfying about heist movies. It’s strange because ordinary, well-adjusted people would condone breaking the law in such a violent manner, however, heist movies are not solely about stealing a ton of money and retiring in the Caymans. They’re about a small group of specialists using their wits and skills to cheat a monolithic but dumb system. To succeed, they must have a flawless plan and cooperate perfectly. Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine taps into that need for cooperation with an intriguing blend of Left 4 Dead and Ocean’s Eleven.

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“Unfortunately, if you’re playing singleplayer – which is not advised – it feels a bit disappointing that the plot doesn’t go deeper, especially when the foundation for it has been laid.”It’s a top-down stealth game taking place in – you guessed it – Monaco, where a group of criminals break out of prison, and must find a way to get out of the country. The plot is secondary to gameplay, but does well to tie the different missions together. It’s told in an interesting way, though, as the different characters involved in the heists have very different interpretations of what happened. This means you have to revisit the same locations a few times, but the environment changes – often radically. Unfortunately, if you’re playing singleplayer – which is not advised – it feels a bit disappointing that the plot doesn’t go deeper, especially when the foundation for it has been laid.

Most of Pocketwatch Games’ focus has been on crafting a solid co-op experience, and for the most part it succeeds. When you start a mission, you choose a character that has a special ability. The Pickpocket, for instance, has a pet monkey that picks up gold coins for him, making it faster and easier to sweep rooms. The goal of each mission is to steal some object or find a specific character, and escape before you’re caught – picking up as many goal coins in the process as possible. In your path stand scores of armed guards and civilians who are extremely eager to stop you.

“This should be played with three friends and voice chat so you can bark orders at each other, and do a proper assessment of why a heist failed so you can improve your technique for next time.”The fact that there’s a timer makes it more intense, as ideally you have to plan every step of the heist if you want to compete in the online leaderboard. It forces players to play as if they were carrying out an actual heist. Of course, that doesn’t always work out. Particularly in online games, where it’s often a massive free-for-all with people running madly around the maps doing whatever they feel like. The solution to this is simply to figure out how each character in the game works, and play according to their ability. It doesn’t improve everyone else’s “performance”, but it’s easier than trying to meticulously plan every move. Ideally, though, this should be played with three friends and voice chat so you can bark orders at each other, and do a proper assessment of why a heist failed so you can improve your technique for next time.

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Another issue is that some of the characters seem like they’re vital to a heist, while others are redundant. The Cleaner, for example, who’s armed with chloroform can immobilize guards and civilians alike, making him always useful, while The Redhead, who seduces guards, doesn’t really have the same impact. It’s possible that this issue disappears the more you play and get used to different roles, but at the time of writing the character roles feel a bit unbalanced.

“Because of the top-down perspective, it can often be difficult to see whether you are able to walk through a particular area or you’ll be blocked, which is somewhat annoying when you’re being chased down by guards.”Although having a solid plan is generally needed if you want to pull off a successful heist, it is by no means a slow game. In fact, it’s comparable to Hotline: Miami, as slow build-up periods are usually punctuated by a mad scramble as someone alerts the guards or steps into the sight of the numerous security cameras. It makes the gameplay feel balanced because of the mix of chaotic fast-paced peaks and stealthy slow-paced troughs. Where Hotline: Miami was a sort of action puzzle, Monaco is a stealth puzzle as there’s an optimal solution to every mission, a right combination of characters and actions if you wish to compete in the online leaderboards. Trying to find that solution is much more difficult than in Hotline though, as the levels are way bigger, but they also feel too cluttered. Because of the top-down perspective, it can often be difficult to see whether you are able to walk through a particular area or you’ll be blocked, which is somewhat annoying when you’re being chased down by guards.

It would have benefitted from having some form of tactical phase. Nothing too fancy, such as a Rainbow Six-style tactical overlay, but merely a simple overview of what you were heading into, with a few details on the resistance you’d encounter, and where the goal was located. Visually, the levels are set up as if the characters are walking around on a blueprint, so this could have been integrated in a tactical phase. Of course, one major difference between this and Rainbow Six is in the pace, and adding a tactical visual overlay might have slowed the game down.

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Silent movies era style piano tunes accompany each heist, which seems like an accidental anachronism at first as the game takes place in the modern day. These farcical tunes server a good purpose, however, keeping you aware of the guards’ current alert status, becoming increasingly frantic as players are discovered, fitting in with what’s happening in the heist. This is no innovation in sound design, but it’s well-made and fits in with the theme. The developer could have gone for an orchestral score, or made some fancy electronic mix, but Pocketwatch have opted to keep things simple. It feels right. It’s a nostalgic return to the heist movies of the 40s and 50s, where bank robbers – on screen, at least – were clever, noble people.

Some stealth games end up solely being about moving from one shadow to another, but Monaco has a good balance between fast paced action and careful planning. That’s what makes it successful in the end, despite its – at times – confusing and cluttered visuals.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2013.

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