Pocketwatch Games’ co-op heist game Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine has been years in the making, but has it paid off so far? We go hands-on with the beta to find out.
The first thing that’s striking about Monaco is the unique line of sight system. In the game, which is played from a top-down perspective, you can only see the environment in full detail and color if it’s in your field of view. That means everything outside of that is gray and shows nothing except the outlines of things like walls and items.
It’s basically like looking at a floor plan, which is pretty neat, and I like how colorful the environments are when they’re revealed from the darkness. The line of sight system also adds a nice challenge and creates tension, since you’ll often not know an enemy is just five feet away from you.
At first, I played the game in single-player as I tried out a variety of character classes such as ‘The Locksmith’, who can unlock doors the fastest, and ‘The Hacker’, who can hack computers/power outlets to disable security systems. For the most part, the classes were more fun and useful than I originally thought, and I had a fun time sneaking my way through the first few levels.
There’s currently around 15 main missions, with each one having a more challenging side mission that can only be unlocked by collecting coins and trophies scattered around each level. Contrary to what I normally do in stealth games, I actually took the time to explore some of the levels and attempted to collect everything, but I soon grew weary of this.
The game became too hard and repetitive, and the lack of signposting was frustrating, with nothing telling you where to go. A lot of time is spent aimlessly wandering around trying to find the trophies I needed to collect and where I needed to go to escape, which, for the latter, entailed inconveniently backtracking all the way to the beginning of the level.
Co-op, however, was more fun and helpful. Not only does more ground get covered in co-op, which supports up to four players, but you also get to take advantage of your teammates special abilities. For instance, playing as ‘The Lookout’ allows you and your teammates to see where enemies are, while ‘The Mole’ can create a shortcut for others by breaking down walls.
Unfortunately, though, there wasn’t much teamwork or strategy when playing with others online since everyone ended up just running around doing their own thing. Co-op was pretty chaotic compared to the slower pace of single-player, and while it was off-putting at first, I eventually acclimated. Everyone frantically running away from enemies and causing havoc after being spotted even ends up being quite fun, despite the chaotic nature .
Whether in single-player or co-op, coming face to face with enemies was the norm, but this was frustrating considering Monaco is a stealth game, despite Pocketwatch’s head Andy Shatz saying otherwise. Or, even if it hasn’t been designed as a stealth game, it at least feels like one and makes you want to play it as such – if Shatz’s intention was to create something non-stealth, there should be more to explicitly steer you away from that direction.
Instead, it feels like you’re being encouraged to play stealthily, then punished for doing so. Guards get suspicious way too easily and there were times when a guard would come to me to investigate, even though I was standing behind a wall not doing anything at all. In most levels I would usually get spotted and frantically run for my life, which entailed running into even more guards and setting off even more alarms. Sometimes if I was near a trophy, I would just recklessly run to it and grab it since it was faster and easier than sneaking around.
Getting away and hiding from enemies also proved to be a challenge. There are bushes you can hide in, but there’s not a lot. There are ladders you can climb to get into vents, as well as stairs you can use to escape to the next floor, but I would usually get beat up and shot by guards since I had to wait to use the ladder or stairs.
When interacting with any object, you have to wait a certain amount of time in order to use said object, while the enemy AI are free to continue their actions. Additionally, I never fully understood the game’s sound mechanic. Did the sound of me getting into a bush or closing and opening the door give me away?
It seemed too, and yet guard-alerting civilian NPCs didn’t get alerted if I ran back and forth right behind them? It was confusing, and again points to a lack of feedback guiding the player.
Monaco definitely feels like it was made for co-op, and while it’s unique and carries plenty of charm, hopefully the final retail version of Monaco will either be a smoother, stealthier and more strategic experience, or one that lets you know it’s not from the get-go.
Monaco, from Pocketwatch Games, is due out around March 2013 for the PC and Xbox Live Arcade, with a Mac version coming out afterwards.