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Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Release Date: April 24, 2013

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Review - 'Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine'

by Brian Dumlao on May 16, 2013 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine is a single player or co-op heist game. Assemble a crack team of thieves, case the joint, and pull off the perfect heist.

There are two types of heist movies. The serious ones, like "Heat" and "The Town," give you a glimpse of the adrenaline-fueled rush and drama behind a robbery. Then there are somewhat comedic films, like "Ocean's Eleven" and "Hudson Hawk," which trade drama for laughs as the heist goes south. Games lean toward more serious fare. Sure, there are a few comedic examples, like Bonanza Bros. and Dollar Dash, but most players think of grittier games, like Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, Payday: The Heist and Stolen. Monaco: What's Yours is Mine does a good job with the comedic approach, making it a good heist game — and a good party game.

You control a motley crew of thieves who has to break out of prison in Monaco. Things quickly get more complicated as you go on a long, winding adventure, picking up compatriots along the way as you try to escape with as much cash as possible and in one piece. The goals vary for each mission, so you'll be rescuing compatriots or grabbing valuable items before your escape.

All of the characters (four are unlocked from the beginning, and the other four are unlocked as the story progresses) share the same traits, such as donning disguises, hacking computer systems, hiding in bushes, and lock picking. The criminals also have the ability to use shotguns, smoke bombs and wrenches to get things done and bandages to heal wounds, though only one item can be held at a time. The abilities are restricted to one use, with an extra use doled out for every 10 coins collected in a level.

Where the characters differ is in their specialties, some of which are more useful alone while others are better in groups. The cleaner can incapacitate unaware guards, and the gentleman can automatically disguise himself. The locksmith can unlock passageways and safes faster, and the hacker can do the same to computer terminals and hack via electrical outlets. The lookout can spot guards behind surfaces, while the mole can (noisily) break down most surfaces. The pickpocket can use his monkey friend to nab coins that are slightly out of reach, and the redhead specializes in guard distraction.

Each of the 30+ levels plays out in a similar fashion in single-player mode. After selecting your desired character, you're thrust into the level. You can see the blueprint of the level, including locked doors and other points of entry, but you can only make out details from your cone of vision, which includes guards and animals. Other obstructions include locked windows, pressure-sensitive floors that act as alarms, and lasers that activate alarms or shoot sleeping darts that immobilize you for a short period of time.

You'll go through each floor, picking up coins and unlocking everything, until you find your target object. Once that is obtained, make your way to the getaway vehicle. At the end of each level, your completion time is marked, and any missed coins add 10 seconds to your completion time. In single-player mode, you have a few restrictions. While you can select which character you'll start with, you can't change your character until you die. You only have three lives in the game, well and any characters you lose while in a mission won't come back until the next mission starts — or until you quit your current mission, whichever occurs first.

You'll want to play this as stealthily as possible since just about everything can alert the authorities. Civilians who see you will try to call the guards or call more cops to the area. The mole can produce tons of noise, and dogs give chase when they spot you and start to follow your trail if you have recently arrived in the area. Staying hidden without raising alarms can be done, but with the number of guards and laser alarms littering the level, staying undetected is much harder than imagined.

Should you happen to make any noise or get spotted, Monaco doesn't punish you with a failure message. Instead, you're allowed to run away from them or hide out until they give up the chase. You can also try to kill them with shotgun blasts, which are very effective — until their friend comes by to resurrect them. Getting caught by a guard depletes your health, but there are first aid kits and bandages everywhere, so getting patched-up isn't much of an issue.

The core concept is fun, but some things don't translate well in the solo experience. For starters, the enemy AI isn't very intelligent. Unless you're making lots of noises right next to them or get caught in their line of sight, you can walk by unnoticed, without even holding down the sneak button. Once you're found, you can escape by hiding in a ventilation shaft, and the guard will stop searching, even if he saw you get in the shaft. The only exception to this is bushes, but otherwise, it doesn't take much effort to evade them. Though the lookout barely provides an advantage, the redhead seems ill-equipped for solo missions, making one wonder if anyone would pick that character when more advantageous characters are available.

Though the core of the game remains the same when you transition from single-player to multiplayer, there are a few changes that make it feel like a vastly different title. Players can still select any character, but they can't change it out for someone different when they die. Other players can revive fallen comrades, so death is never permanent. All of the players must be at an exit for the party to progress to the next floor. Finally, coins and tools cannot be shared or traded among party members.

The changes make the game more strategic and iron out some of the flaws in the single-player experience or make them seem like legitimate design decisions. By being forced to select a completely different class for each person, it's important to come up with the perfect team and strategy. Since you're now working as a team, some of the characters who seemed useless now have some purpose, such as playing as the lookout. With the inability to share coins, planning who gets which tool and who should be collecting coins is also an important consideration in each level, especially if the wrong person stumbles upon a large horde of coins while others are far away. The inattentive guards now work in the game's favor since it ensures that anyone of any skill level can help with the heist and not feel inadequate.

That last point best exemplifies why this game is ideal for multiplayer. Pulling off the near-perfect heist with minimal casualties is always a great feeling when others work in sync with you, but it's equally fun trying to get out of a mess that someone else made. It takes plenty of work to fail a heist since the game is very forgiving. Finding the many combinations and methods to beat the same level feeds into the need for replayability, which is essential for a good multiplayer game. Interestingly, the system also inherently discourages griefing. That isn't to say that it can't be done, but with so much emphasis on cooperation and so little on competition, there isn't much of a reason to ruin other people's games since you'll likely end up being immobile.

The game features both online and LAN play for its multiplayer, but it also features local multiplayer on one machine, which is something of a rarity for the platform and most likely a byproduct of putting the game on the Xbox 360. Despite this addition, the game doesn't feature a way to combine these connection types. Playing a local multiplayer game keeps you separate from online players, so you're out of luck if you want to combine your online and offline friends in one game. Leaving all of these options is a very welcome thing for the platform, especially as Valve tries to encourage growth for Steam's Big Picture mode, and this game fits that option perfectly.

Graphically, the game certainly has the indie hallmark, sporting a more low-definition visual experience instead of a high-definition one. Every object in the environment is made up of blocks similar to Cubemen and Thirty Flights of Loving, so expect every object to look like it came from an advanced Atari 2600 or Intellivision. Don't expect anything outrageously detailed, as the textures are little more than solid colors for each block. The light cones are a different story, as those are more angular and sport a wide spectrum of colors while the particle effects work but won't tax your computer system.

From an audio perspective, the game is well done. The voice work is limited to the guards and civilians and is all in French, which really fits the theme of being in Monaco. There aren't lots of sound bites, so while the voices are clear and appropriate, there isn't much variety to what they're saying. The effects are also nice, but like the voices, there isn't much variety. The standout is the music, which trades dark, pulse-pounding riffs for something lighthearted and jazzy. The general vibe reminds you of pre-1970 heist movies in that it adds some light tension to the situation instead of full-on seriousness. Even when the action ratchets up as guards are chasing you, the tempo of the score only heightens it to the point where you might not notice it going faster or slower. Still, it feels fresh and is a perfect fit for a game that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Monaco: What's Yours is Mine is another great example of the indie game scene's popularity in recent years. Even though thievery as a multiplayer party concept has been done before, the execution and focus on simplicity over complexity is nearly unmatched. The concept is explored wonderfully, with an emphasis on cooperative play due to the different classes and less of an emphasis on griefing. It even manages to distill that primarily multiplayer experience into a single-player one that remains very playable, though less fun than co-op. With a low barrier of entry as far as hardware is concerned because of the simplified graphics and sound, it remains accessible to a wide audience and almost ensures that the community will be large. If you're looking for a good party game that is very different from the norm, don't hesitate to snatch up this title.

Score: 8.5/10

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