Arizona Gamer reviews Monaco

This review was originally posted on http://www.ferritales.com.

They say subtlety is dead. When it comes to video games, there’s evidence to support such a claim—just look at the success of titles like Call of Duty, Halo and Borderlands. While I love going on a testosterone-fueled rampage just as much as the next dude, it’s also nice to play some games with a different play style.

That’s where Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine comes in. Developed by Pocketwatch Games, it’s a top-down heist game with stealth elements and a focus on co-operative gameplay. You play as one of eight unique characters and use their special abilities to evade security and steal… well, just about everything.

The most important thing for any stealth game like Monaco to do is find a balance between the actual “stealth” game play—running, hiding, tricking and outsmarting—with the “oh crap” moments when you have to fight your way out of a sticky situation.

A good stealth game makes its combat feel like a last resort. Enemies should actually be stronger overall than the player character—after all, if you were consistently more powerful than your opponents, why would you bother sneaking around? That doesn’t mean the player should feel completely helpless, but combat shouldn’t be the easiest way to play the game.

Being stealthy should be the primary objective and game play mechanic, and it should work better than running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

By now, you’re probably just dying to know if Monaco meets these elaborate criteria and passes the “good stealth game” test.

It passes the test.

There are two ways to play Monaco: You can make mad dashes across the map toward objectives, dying as you go, or you can progress slowly and methodically, utilizing all the tools at your disposal to complete the mission at hand. Both are equally fun, but the former can be a lot more frustrating, since that kind of “YOLO” attitude often gets you killed.

In that sense, the game definitely rewards players who choose the stealth-based play style. Yet the hectic moments where you screw up are also entertaining, and I often found myself enjoying those mad dashes for a bush just as much as the stealthy parts.

In terms of difficulty, the game starts out almost too easy, but ramps up the challenge quite hard by the end. While it’s pretty simple to complete the early missions without dying and while collecting all the coins, that tasks actually gets pretty daunting near the end—I still haven’t gotten every trophy in the game.

Monaco is actually surprisingly difficult at times. There are missions that simply overwhelm with the number of enemies on the screen, especially in the second campaign. Those guards with machine guns are a real pain in the ass, but–going back to what makes a good stealth game–they should be. The challenge makes earning each of those later trophies feel like that much more of an accomplishment.

This is what they actually look like

This is what they actually look like

There isn’t much of a plot, but the game does make an effort to tell a bit of a story. However, that element isn’t really something that is important to a game like this. It knows what it does well—game play—and doesn’t waste time with long cut scenes or lame conflicts.

You’re getting a nice bang for your buck out of Monaco in terms of game play time. It costs just $15, and I’ve already logged 15 hours and still haven’t completed everything. That’s a better cost-to-hour ratio than many AAA titles, so if you’re looking to really squeeze every last minute out of your gaming fund, consider this game.

But Monaco is a little harder to recommend if you don’t have a few friends to play it with. While a game’s multiplayer is often examined in reviews as a secondary feature to single player, it’s the other way around with this title.

Monaco is designed to be played cooperatively, and it’s a fantastic game to play with a couple of buddies. Playing with a team greatly enhances your strategic options in a heist because it gives your team access to more special abilities. For example, having a Mole, who can cut through walls, makes certain missions much easier—but the Mole lacks the crowd control abilities of the Cleaner and the Redhead, and he often needs protection from the attention he draws by collapsing entire walls.

This is actually the first point against Monaco—that it isn’t as good of a single-player game. Sure, there is an online matchmaking system, but that can’t compare to playing with people you know. The single-player doesn’t really even feel like quite the same game, to be honest, and my enjoyment definitely increased the more people I played with.

Another part of the game I find just a little frustrating is the coin-gathering element. To unlock the later missions in the campaign, you’re required to “clean out” missions by collecting every last coin on the level. This can sometimes feel like a chore, especially if you miss a coin on an earlier level and have to go back to get it. That mistake is easy to avoid once you’re a bit more experienced in the game. But even experienced players will wipe occasionally, and since there are no checkpoints in the game, that means you’ll have to start the mission over again and lose your progress.

But those aren’t major problems, more minor gripes. And if you have a couple of friends willing to chip in on Monaco with you, or if you don’t mind playing with “randoms” in matchmaking, Monaco is an affordable, entertaining game that does stealth gameplay right.

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