Monaco has really been around forever. It’s been making the PAX rounds ever since it won the IGF back in 2010, but now it is out, and is very real. It’s a game about heists, it’s a game about humor and charm, but most of all, it’s a game about co-op.
I played Monaco at PAX East 2012, and it’s evolved a lot since then. It just feels like a polished, real product now. The game stars eight different characters, which serve as your multiple character classes. The charm starts with their names, which characterizes them into those different roles that someone has to play in a heist movie: The Lookout, The Locksmith, The Cleaner, et cetera. Each class plays relatively the same, but have different abilities. The Lookout can see any guard at any time, and The Cleaner can chloroform anyone he touches, so long as they’re unaware.
The beauty of having these different classes is how well the work in tandem. The Lookout finds the guards, The Cleaner, well, cleans them. With multiplayer, which I’ll get to in a moment, it really becomes a who’s-who, where people will find roles that they become. For example, I’m the best Cleaner around, so I usually play him.
This game is just overflowing with charm to top it off. From the crazy French that all the NPCs yell out when the see you, to the gorgeous top-down 16-bit artstyle. It looks like a very-blocky, top-down Super Meat Boy, with way more villainous guards. Also, the map conveys ton’s of information to you in a very easy way, like labeling rooms as someone would label the route for a heist: “Piano Room”, “King’s Bedroom”, or “Escape Cars”. To compensate the stealth aspect, characters can only see what’s in their line of sight, so it cuts pillars of vision into the overhead map that you see constantly to show you what your character can see, and if NPCs can see your characters.
The story falls into two campaigns, the first, an easier more approachable story, that tells generally what happened, and introduces the four extra characters over time. The second campaign, told from another character’s perspective, outlines what was actually happening the whole time. Both are quite meaty, with about 20-30 levels between them, and each level can have anywhere from four to six floors.
The real problem is where these levels fall in comparison of single player to multiplayer. In single player, you have four lives and don’t lose any progress over those four, but if you die you have to start over again. The first campaign is doable, if not excruciatingly hard, in single player, but some of the later levels in the second act are downright cruel to those solo players. Multiplayer is much more doable, and though the second act gets a little hectic, it’s definitely a solid challenge that comes off more as fun than cruel.And this game is no joke when it comes to challenge. Pulling off the perfect heist is impossible without the right team, and the right teamwork.
That is where Monaco shines: co-op. Multiplayer is by leagues and bounds, the right way to play this game. Though you may want to play stealthy, multiplayer makes everything possible. Cleaners and Lookouts can work together, Hackers and Locksmiths can rob vaults without being seen; there are plenty of crazy combinations, for each mission. Plus the maps challenge you in insane ways, having several floors of progressively crazier rooms that add new enemies, enemy-types, and gadgets for you to use like C4 and EMP blasts.
It’s one of the best co-op experiences I have ever had, with crazy stories coming out of it. It spawns stories such as, “that time me and The Cleaner barely made it out of that insane casino alive,” and the like.
The game simply struggles with where it needs to balance the ability to even finish a level single player, and to finish it multiplayer. It’s a challenging stealth game single player, but feels like a challenging party game in multiplayer. The benefit is, it’s a fun stealth game, and falls more into line with games like Mark of the Ninja, where it seems to be pushing stealth into a more approachable direction, then its unforgiving counterparts.
I really had a great time with Monaco, but I can see those who either don’t want to play online, or can’t play online really hitting the wall I did before I got the chance to jump into multiplayer. That being said, they shouldn’t because this game is meaty enough to keep it’s fans occupied with plenty of levels and crazy leaderboards for months to come.
This review is based on the PC, Steam version of the game.