Monaco Steals Hearts and Minds

For those of you out there already aware of Monaco and its rave reviews, this will be very familiar.  If you haven’t yet read those reviews, they’re right.  At least, the ones that refer to Monaco as delightful and occasionally vindictive are.  It’s a wonderful heist game that — as you keep taking — just keeps on giving.  I haven’t yet finished the game, and I anticipate many more hours with it.

A quick rundown of the game: you (and whomever else you’re playing with) are (a) crook(s) running through levels trying to reach (and then steal) your objective.  Then, of course, you have to escape again.  Your objective is generally found behind multiple layers of security, often covered by cameras, laser tripwire alarms, guard patrols, thief-sniffing dogs, and inconveniently placed civilians.  You can take whatever route to your objective you like, even just running and plowing through people if you so choose.  But while charging in frantically sometimes works in the earlier levels, the difficulty level increases dramatically as you progress.

You can also attempt the far more difficult task of cleaning out each level by stealing all of the goodies that you can lay your filthy paws on; for every two levels you clean out, another alternate level becomes available.  Alternate levels are nearly always much much harder than the originals, crawling with guards and covered in devilishly overlapping security devices.

Each level is introduced through a conversation between the different members of the criminal crew, either discussing their plans or trying to work out solutions to their current problems.  The alternate levels are presented as a different memory of the events told in the original version of the level, as told by the pickpocket to a police inspector.  The inspector even brings up the issue of discrepancies between the pickpocket’s tale and the story told by the locksmith (the main storyline), only to be dismissed.  I love this use of an unreliable narrator, and I’m excited to see where it leads.  I’d especially love to see whether other games adopt it in their narrative as well.

But speaking of the locksmith and pickpocket… On each play-through of a level you can pick your character from a number of different available options, each of whom has a special ability that will aid you and your friends in your larceny.  Their abilities are all sufficiently different as to feel appropriately unique, and I find each of them so much fun to play with that I always want them all.

Let me reiterate: I want to be ALL THE CRIMINALS.  I keep seeing moments where an action of mine as one character would work perfectly with another’s abilities (even, perhaps especially, when the other isn’t on my team at the moment).  I have yet to play a character that I didn’t enjoy, and I always want all of them on my team all at the same time.  Better yet, each level feels very different depending on whom you have on your team.  I fully expect to replay levels with different characters just to see how they’ll play out.

All of which brings me to my last point.  Monaco offers awesome multiplayer, with brilliant schemes and hilarious mistakes.  You’ll probably want to be talking to your heist-mates, and the game includes a built-in voice chat option for just that reason.  You can also use text of course, and so long as you aren’t currently being chased you should be able to take the time to type.  In my mind, the best option is to grab your friends and settle in for an exciting evening of thievery.  You will try to make good choices; your successes will be rewarding, and your failures will be hilarious and exciting.

Monaco is an excellent game.  I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Buy Monaco from Pocketwatch Games (with a downloadable DRM-free copy & a Steam key), or on Steam.  Last I checked, both are $15.  There are also 4-packs available for $45.

Leave your thoughts on the game in the comments below!

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