Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine offers the thrill of the heist

Andy Schatz's IGF award-winning Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine is all about staying in the shadows and avoiding detection. In fact, it's succeeded almost too well, remaining out of the spotlight since it first took the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at IGF 2010. After years of tireless work and dedication, Monaco has finally been released and like a fine French wine, it was worth the wait. Monaco is a game centered around the heist. The idea is to infiltrate various facilities within the famed principality, making sure to avoid detection from guards, alarms, and dogs. After absconding with the area's loot, players must find the best way to escape and return to their getaway vehicle that awaits them at each level's start point. focalbox Monaco's visual aesthetic is one of its most unique features. It's a throwback in every way, presented with a top-down perspective and a graphic style that predates even the 8-bit days. Character models are intentionally designed to be blocky and indistinct, successfully creating a retro atmosphere. This aesthetic is mixed with the modern idea of a limited line of sight. Characters can only see what's in front of them and only have a limited view of what's behind walls, creating a lingering sense of darkness and a greater sense of realism. It's an idea that I fully appreciate, since being able to see an entire map would make the game far too easy, regardless of how many obstacles are thrown my way. Beyond its unique look, Monaco is going to be recognized for its use of other modern mechanics, such as the class system. Much like an Ocean's Eleven film (or Tower Heist, if you want to be a comedian), there's a ragtag group of thieves that all serve a different function. If you're playing single-player, determining which class to select is crucial. While I started off picking the Locksmith for his quick penetration skills, he soon proved to be ill-equipped for certain stages. I'd have to use the Cleaner for heavily-guarded areas, the Pickpocket for high-loot levels (a must, since 10 coins will increase weapon ammo), and the Mole to dig through walls whenever I wanted to. Tackling Monaco solo requires a lot of strategy, since there are no friends to rely on. To offset this lack of teammates, solo players are given a lives system with a dose of perma-death. Getting killed in action means the player must start the level over using a different character. While that may sound tedious, the upside is that any effect the previous character had on the environment will remain in place. For example, there were several areas where I'd lead off with the Mole and dig my way through the stage. If he got caught and killed, I'd go back in with the Cleaner and notice that any of the breaches the Mole created were still in place. This is a cool idea and should change many solo players' approaches to each level. As fun as it is to play Monaco alone, there's nothing like a good multiplayer experience. Multiplayer noticeably alters the Monaco formula, in that fallen players can be revived by teammates and teams must complete their task in a single run. Communication and teamwork is essential, because you never want that one guy running around blindly tripping alarms. There were instances where teams I was on looked like a well-oiled machine. More often than not, things would go to Hades and everyone would just run around like chickens with their heads cut off as the guards yelled at us in French, like something out of The Pink Panther.

Monaco features a colorful cast of characters

Newcomers to the game may find Monaco difficult to get used to, partially because of its visual style. In fact, if Monaco has a failing, it's that sometimes it's hard to make out certain obstacles, because of the overly-simplistic graphics. I tripped several alarms, because I couldn't make out when the laser alarms would appear. Whenever I'd hack into an alarm system, I couldn't tell which systems were shut off and which were still active. It led to me attracting a lot more attention than I should have and quickly sent me scrambling, mostly towards failure. Make no mistake about it, though, failure is actually part of Monaco's appeal. I got caught several times and each time I did, I had more and more fun with it. My teammates and I would get spotted and we'd run off in different directions. Sometimes, a teammate would get killed and I'd have to cleverly find a way to reach his corpse for a quick revival without getting spotted myself. Sometimes I'd get chased right into a bathroom, where I'd hide in a stall until the heat was off. The chases in Monaco can get downright cartoonish and that's a big part of the game's fun and appeal. Even if your team is killed repeatedly, none of it feels repetitive. When Monaco was discussed during this week's Weekend Confirmed, Garnett Lee noted that it was the kind of game that would create stories. I fully agree with this statement, since I already have war stories ready to share at the water cooler and can't help but laugh whenever I recall them. Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine a solid solo experience, but a far better game to share with friends, whether it's local or online. [8]
This Monaco review was based on a PC version of the game provided by the developer. The game is available now on the game's official website and will be available on Xbox 360 in a few weeks.