Monaco: One Vault at a Time
Monaco is an action game that gives you and up to three friends the opportunity to break out of jails and rob banks or rich old men. While the game attempts to give you the feel of a theft film it really hits it’s stride as a fast-paced puzzle game. While stealth exists in the game it’s clearly just a tool you’re supposed to use when breaking open vaults as fast as you can.
The game’s over-arching story isn’t quite as interesting as the dialogue between all the colorful characters. You get one of every stereotypical character of a heist movie but can only use four at any time by playing coop. If you’re playing single player you can only use one character per mission and your decision on who to play is based more on who’s best for that level and less about who you’d really like to play.
The different characters are wonderfully created and also allow for a lot of creativity on every map. If you want to run through the map and put every unsuspecting guard to sleep then you can be the Cleaner and have a few less guards to deal with. If you want to sneak around and rush in and out of vaults then you can play the Lockpick and while your friend is cleaning out the guards you can get the score. There are eight playable characters that each have one magnificent strength although if you’re not playing multiplayer you’re going to need to be more picky about who you take into each mission.
The game’s controls and mechanics are beautifully simple. Your directional controls are the standard W, A, S and D unless you are playing on an Xbox controller. If you walk up to a lock or computer you will begin to unlock or hack it. This applies to any usable object in the game including bushes you can hide in and traps you can disarm. When you pick up an item like a health pack or a shotgun it’s usable with the left-mouse button and the weapons aim with the mouse. It’s clear that the developers took steps to streamline the controls so all the mechanics work with the least buttons possible. It’s a fantastic standard they set and it makes the game feel simple while allowing you a huge variety of options to complete every mission.
The game’s visuals equal the controls in simplicity but not always in a good way. When playing the game for the first few missions you may get confused at what’s going on but that tends to lend to the mastery aspect of the game. It would be nice to assume this is entirely intended by the developers but it feels like there just wasn’t enough time to give any more depth or care to the game’s graphics. As long as you find a reason to enjoy it Monaco’s art shouldn’t bother you too much.
That being said the game uses plenty of squares and geometric figures but it’s definitely not classical pixel art. It definitely wins some points for it’s bold direction and it’s a nice breath of fresh air in an indie market that’s become saturated with retro pixel art. The way the characters animate on the screen definitely feels unique.
Although I haven’t played on a large screen (I’m playing on my PC) I hear that you’re going to need one to play coop on the same rig and I understand why. The game’s camera will keep every local player on the screen so if two players are on either side of a large map you can imagine how much harder it could be to recognize every icon in the level. This is of course something that’s hard to avoid in a game like this so if you’re going to play with friends on a couch make sure your screen is big enough.
The music sounds like it’s right out of a silent film which is a nice take. It was done by Austin Wintory who worked on Journey and it shows. The music will change depending on what you’re doing at the time and it’s a nice addition to an already great-feeling game. Sometimes it can throw you off but usually it’s a nice indicator that you’ve made a huge mistake.
Regardless of what visual setbacks may exists for certain setups the game is definitely a treat. It’s been in development since 2009 and although that seems like a long time it feels like it required a lot of trial, error and even happy-mistakes to become as great as it is now. I suggest picking this game up with a few other friends and running through the campaign in a night or two. Every mission will be better if it was with the same crew you played the last few levels with.
The only mechanic this game is missing is the option to betray your crew which happens in every heist movie but this may occur in the story somewhere.
The game has great pacing and I enjoy the story because I do love my heist movies. The game is worth fifteen of your hard-earned dollars, on Xbox or Steam.
What’s yours is mine.