As is the case with so many indie titles on the market, Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine has been in development for a number of years, and it shows. It’s clear that every single element of the package has been treated with care as Pocketwatch Games attempt to combine frantic moments with player strategy.
Moulding these two elements is no easy task, and the developer has done a terrific job at taking two polar opposites and making them work in tandem. Monaco stands out from the dross and sucks the player in with its fantastic level design and wit. It’s just such a shame that as the game progresses, repetition creeps in and kills any momentum built up over time.
Heists do appear in open-world video games, but mainly they are either a single mission or a side quest option. The genre doesn’t have too many notches on its belt, but Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine jumps right in and makes no apologies for it. The story centres around a group of thieves in the Principality of Monaco as they set out to break into a whole host of establishments and steal riches beyond their wildest imaginations. The narrative develops via little text-based scenes prior to every mission, and Pocketwatch should be applauded for giving these characters personalities in such short and succinct animations.
In each stage, there is a simple goal: obtain the loot and escape with your life. Every level has various elevations for the player to sneak around and avoid the prying eyes of civilians and security guards. Not a simple task, but the top-down view allows for a more forgiving atmosphere than that of a 3D stealth effort. That’s a very important thing to take into account when beginning your robberies – strategy is key and a gung ho approach will rarely pay off. When scurrying around a building of interest, the copious amounts of enforcers will try to stop you in your tracks once you make yourself known to them. If one of your living, breathing obstacles becomes suspicious, a question mark will begin to fill over their head, until it is replaced with a red exclamation mark and, subsequently, gunfire – unless a bush or disguise is near and aids you in your mission to get out of Dodge. These guards have short term memories and can be lost just as easily as they can be attracted to your location. Certain enemies have a very restricted line of sight and, on occasion, they can be passed with relative ease in the opening few levels, although dogs and laser security systems have to be taken into account as the difficulty ramps up.
From the get-go, there are four characters to choose from – a roster which doubles in size over the course of the single player story. The Lookout, The Pickpocket, The Locksmith and The Cleaner all have their own individual abilities which cater for different situations. For example, The Locksmith can crack safes or open doors much quicker than any of the other classes, whilst The Cleaner can knock out unsuspecting enemies. Some players will find themselves gravitating toward particular classes regularly, but sans one or two of the characters on offer, they’re all beneficial to achieve your goal.
On top of your highlighted prizes in each mission, coins are also available and are certainly not some form of throwaway collectable. Their importance becomes clear on the first occasion that you miss some in a level. At the conclusion of every stage, a total score appears on screen – this is your finishing time. For every shiny piece of change that you miss, seconds are added on and your previously proud moment becomes one of embarrassment. Items are also scattered throughout, such as weaponry and healing aids. Every time ten coins are collected, another bullet or bandage is accrued – another great way of informing the player that what at first look like dispensable additions to the gameplay are actually rather important.
On the other hand, their importance is inflated to a degree that makes Monaco become a slog. As well as the main campaign, there is another story that runs parallel with it. To unlock each level within this other narrative the player is required to “clean out” (collect every single coin in a given stage) two separate missions. The first couple of stages won’t prove an issue and players will clean out areas without even noticing it. But the constant repetition in order to collect each coin before death comes a-knockin’ is an arduous task. Act 1 doesn’t ask this of the player, and so Act 2′s insistence to slow progression to a crawl is both annoying and disappointing.
The single-player portion of Monaco does it’s job well, but it truly shines in its co-op multiplayer. Although there is no variance to the levels themselves, screaming bloody murder at a friend who’s putting the whole operation in jeopardy because of one coin that’s in a guard’s cone of vision, makes it all the more fun. With the option to play with three other people online or locally, the risk increases exponentially as your foes have more targets to set their peepers on. But at the same time, when two people are playing as both The Lookout and The Pickpocket, for example, both can avail of the other character’s traits concurrently. When a cleverly devised game plan becomes a comedy of errors, hilarity ensues. As stages become longer in the latter part of Monaco, however, those funnier moments are replaced with frustration due to a heftier time sync – yet that still doesn’t discount the fact that heists are more enjoyable when you’re surrounded by companions.
Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine never looks anything but wonderful. In its restrictive top-down perspective, Pocketwatch Games present a really charming-looking game that saturates the screen with vivacious energy through the use of exciting colouration. Particular areas of the map are shown in a blueprint-like fashion until the player looks in that direction, and their cone of vision illuminates these zones. This is handled extremely well and adds to that heist feeling created through gameplay. On top of the pretty visuals, Grammy nominated Austin Wintory (Journey) is at the audio helm and excels through the use of one instrument: the piano. The music hammers home the slapstick nature of the game as Wintory has the ability to bang out notes at an insurmountable speed, or bring it back to a snail’s pace. It really is excellent craftsmanship.
VERDICT: Simplistic in nature, Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine is an easy game to pick up and a difficult one to put down. In multiplayer, carefully-planned schemes diminishing into shotgun skirmishes are the norm and don’t become a nuisance until the later, more lengthy stages. The downside of revisiting maps cannot be ignored and trudging back over levels numerous times to collect all the coins is a frustration that everyone could do without. However, with its witty presentation and stylistic look, Pocketwatch Games’ heist affair offers up a different kind of video game than the usual bread and butter. Grab a few friends, boot up Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine and experience the mayhem.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.