Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine (PC)

By Walter Hare

Published on Monday, April 29, 2013

Since it won IGF in 2010 Monaco has been a consistent, loud blip on my mental radar, pulsing every few months in the back of my head when new information came out about it. Well, that’s what I thought the beeping was, but it ended up being caused by a tumor shaped like West Virginia pressing on my frontal lobe and causing me to hallucinate. Monaco is pretty great nonetheless.

Monaco is a fairly unique top down stealth game in which you take control of one of eight character classes, each with a unique ability, in order to safely navigate a level, achieving objectives and stealing as many of the precious gold diamonds that represent money as you can.

Monaco 4

What enamors me most about Monaco is that every facet of the game feels like it is designed around the concept of fast-paced stealth, and not a single element goes uninformed by this core idea. Consider for instance the guards and NPC’s. They can only detect you through direct sight and their nearly non-existent sense of hearing, and immediately forget everything that you did once you have evaded the alarm for a sufficient period of time. This encourages players to move quickly around the level, probing weak spots and wasting very little time crouching around corners in a desperate attempt to remain undiscovered.

That isn’t to say that Monaco is easy, and when automated traps and laser defense systems come into play a little finesse starts to go a long way. But it does mean you never have to spend twenty minutes figuring out if a plan is going to work a la Hitman or Thief, and can immediately act on opportunities without fearing long term repercussions and feeling compelled to start over. Since you have a limited line of sight, which is clearly and smoothly communicated, you must be ready to react to the sudden appearance of a guard who you lost track of, paying particular attention to footsteps in the shadows (expressed both with audio and visual aid).

Each stage is covered in a number of unique nodes that can be interacted with differently depending on class. Everyone can pick locks, but the Locksmith gets through them incredibly fast. The hacker has access to special nodes to inject viruses into security systems and pull advanced shenanigans. The pickpocket has a monkey. Need I say more? These nodes are slightly randomized, changing location each time a level is loaded, though never in such a way as to completely screw you over. It’s just enough to keep you moving and adding another angle to make you think quickly

Monaco 3

Even when you have failed your task at being a stealth agent, however, Monaco’s charm scales well to the insane levels of pandemonium that can be reached during a botched job. Getting swamped by guards in every direction as alarms ring and civilians scatter is as terrifying as it is fun, going from Ocean’s Eleven to Mario Crackhead Party instantaneously.

Co-op takes both the satisfaction of a well executed plan and the chaos of a massive fuckup to extraordinary heights. Difficulty scales with the number of players you have in the game, up to four, providing an appropriate challenge as you grow in number. It’s so much more fun to play Monaco with three or four people, especially friends willing to work together, that I would go so far as to not recommend Monaco unless you were willing to play with others. There’s even a basic PvP element in some levels, though it’s something that could use some fleshing out.

Monaco also excels aesthetically. It’s just one of those games that pops as soon as it comes on the screen. The bright, neon glow of the colors and boxy cartoon style look like “Revenge of the Titans” and “Thirty Flights of Loving” had some freaky, hairless baby. While at times there are some readability issues, especially with four people’s vision cones constantly flickering on screen (though you can turn allied vision off and on with the press of a button), the overall cleanliness of the interface is an achievement.

Monaco 1

I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that Monaco is a good game, but the level of success that it reaches in creating a completely new perspective on stealth gameplay is quite astounding.

Monaco is available on Steam and directly through the developer’s website here.

System Requirements:

Minimum:
OS:Windows XP or later
Processor:1.2GHz processor
Graphics:Graphics Card that supports Pixel Shader 2.0 and Vertex Shader 2.0(Vertex Shader Support can be supported with software emulation)
DirectX®:9.0
Hard Drive:450 MB HD space

Recommended:
OS:Windows XP or later
Processor:1.4GHz processor
Graphics:Graphics Card that supports Pixel Shader 3.0 and Vertex Shader 2.0(Vertex Shader Support can be supported with software emulation)
DirectX®:9.0
Hard Drive:450 MB HD space

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