Few titles can borrow thematically from classic games and film yet feel utterly original. Within the first few minutes of playing Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, echoes of Pac Man, Ocean’s Eleven, Gauntlet, Metal Gear, Clue, and Wizards of Wor--to name just a few influences--will rattle through your consciousness. The entire package, however, is as fresh and fun as any of the long list of stellar independent games we’ve seen within the past year or so, with the added bonus of being a delight in a single-player or multi-player fashion.
The core of Monaco is a heist story featuring a host of 8-bit art style characters with their own specialty. Each level unfolds as a quest to capture a key item or escape to a getaway vehicle, all presented in a top-down perspective on maps clearly made with a fine eye for detail. Levels are rife with myriad obstacles and items; security cameras can be temporarily disabled by hackable computer terminals, disguises can be accessed for brief forays in the open, while vents, closets, and bathrooms can be used to hide from prying eyes. These are but a few of the dozens of objects that can be used to accomplish your mission, and it's this variety that keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting throughout Monaco.
Loot permeates each area as well, providing not just satisfaction for completionists but access to additional gadgets for the mission and the ability to unlock stories from other campaigns. Monaco is one of the few games that stealth feels natural and not punitive; but, when all else fails you have the option to use weaponry. Enemies are everywhere, whether in the form of security guards that will happily gun you down or attack dogs that pounce when they pick up your scent. When you feel the need to resort to gunplay, it’s most often as a last resort when you’re surrounded. Monaco realizes its strength is in its stealth gameplay, though, and ammunition is scarce as a result. Quite often, your best chance of success is based upon hiding in the bushes, a bathroom, or a vent and waiting for your enemies to give up and walk in a different direction.
Even more variety is introduced to the game through the eight different character types you can choose from. Each class has its own unique skill--the Locksmith opens doors and safes quickly, the Pickpocket has a pet monkey (!) that helps garner loot faster, and so on. Some levels lend themselves to particular characters better than others, but each can get the job done with a skilled and patient hand, and you'll appreciate running through levels with different characters.
There are two campaigns, each with a different take on the overarching story. A big part of Monaco’s appeal is the replayability of the levels once you learn the layout and the types of enemies you’ll face. In addition, trying out different characters and pathways to success--and climbing up leaderboards while you’re at it--gives it wider appeal; it’s not just a race to the finish.
Monaco pulls off a difficult feat beautifully--namely, it’s a lot of fun playing on your own as well as with friends. The single-player mode can definitely be tough, because you can’t be revived by a compatriot nor can you benefit from someone pulling off cool tricks like turning off the power on one end of the map the moment before you burst into a room and eliminate a bunch of enemies. On the other hand, when playing on your own and get killed, you simply pick a different character and jump right back at the same spot.
It’s clear that Monaco is a labor of love, from the meticulously detailed levels to the quirky art style and devilishly complex experience. Clearly, it’s possible to be inspired by many unrelated influences that yield an original, delightful, and frenetic outcome; Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine is living proof.
This review was conducted using the PC version of the game.