There are plenty of stealth games out there that put the focus on being super sneaky, and working your way through regimented challenges. Monaco may seem like a top-down take on a familiar genre at first glance — however it is through the utter chaos that results from being spotted that this indie darling truly takes shape.
Monaco is all about pulling off the perfect heist, and in the process it makes Oceans Eleven seem like a heist hatched by kindergarteners. Players fill the shoes of a master thief, each of whom have a special ability ranging from a hacker to a hobo with a monkey who can pick pockets. That’s also an indication of Monaco’s tone: fun and playful rather than heavy and brooding.
The top-down perspective allows Monaco to display areas much like a set of blueprints, with the player only able to see within their line of sight. This interesting mechanic forces the player to sneak throughout the areas, memorising patrol patterns and object locations. Knowing where there is an accessible window to jump through could be the difference between life and death when being tailed by a rambunctious guard.
While Monaco does offer a single-player experience, the game truly takes shape when you jump into a four-player co-op heist. Instead of a slow and cautious mission, more often than not entering with three of your best friends will end in utter chaos. That’s not a bad thing though, because that chaos often brings laughter and lots of yelling at each other over the mic (or in our case, thrown couch cushions as we were all playing in the same room).
Using your unique ability when playing solo is a handy bonus, yet when working together as a team, each ability melds together to create an unforgettable experience. Your Locksmith will take the point, unlocking doors at super-sonic speeds, while the Lookout follows them, quickly scouting guards before they can get a fix on your location. The Cleaner brings up the rear, protecting the group from rogue guards who are on your tail, and all of a sudden Monaco makes sense. Not only is this the most fun you’ll have in gaming this year, this is one of the best co-op experiences I’ve ever played.
While the gameplay feels perfectly balanced, Monaco’s presentation is immediately striking and memorable. The greyscale blueprints come to life with bouncing colours as your line of sight reveals the room’s contents, while the character animation seems to glide across your screen. The real standout, however, is the classical soundtrack, provided by Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory of Journey fame. Not only does the piano-based music make everything feel a little classy (which is how I imagine Monaco as a place), but it gets your heart pounding as you near your objective, or when you try to leave the heist undetected.
Playing Monaco solo, I thought it was a decent experience with a lot to offer the stealth genre. However, what started out as an hour of four-player co-op ended up being over three hours of laughs with friends in one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve seen in years. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a triple-A gamer or an indie aficionado, Monacoprovides a game that is all-round fun and full of thrills, and it should definitely be on your radar for this year for when it launches (hopefully some time in March).