Monaco is a top-down heist game by Pocketwatch Games featuring a rag tag group of recently escaped prisoners, each with a unique skill to take you through the games many chapters of break outs, break-ins and thieving as many gold pieces you can get away with. Across the games' 30 chapters, you will take characters such as the Lookout, which is the only one who can see where all the guards are; the Mole, who can break through walls; the Gentleman who is the master of disguise and others that have a useful skill for evading and getting into places you shouldn't be in.
Before each mission it can be a tough choice which character you want to use for their ability, given no one ability is likely to get you through unscathed. You're on your own and while your ability may make clearing one floor more easily, your skill could be a lot less useful on the next one. About eight chapters into the game, the difficulty has ramped up, and you're more likely to lose lives trying to escape from the beefed-up security. As a solo player it can have some very frustrating moments. During a frustrating chapter or two, I would slowly work my way to the getaway vehicle only to be killed on my last life, and eventually I became less concerned with trying to clear every floor of its gold then to get to my goal and escape.
While most of the characters are unable to subdue the guards, you can find items to aid you, starting with shotguns for killing guards and smoke bombs for escaping. There are other useful items such as EMP bombs for blackouts, and Band-Aids for healing on the run. To keep these items in stock, you'll need to collect 10 gold for an extra item. So if you intend to go around shooting guards or knocking out the electrical systems often, you'll have to be collecting plenty of gold to keep stocked up. This can become more of a struggle in multiplayer, as coins are not shared and you have up to four people all needing to collect gold if you want to all be able to use items.
The game comes alive when you add in more players. Whether they're in the same room or on the other side of the world, working with other people can change the whole game, replacing careful trial and error with up to four people using their characters ability in unison to clear the chapter. It can also turn into a crazy mess with four people running around setting off alarms and all scrambling for hiding places. This can be fun in its own way; I would recommend using voice chat or playing as a team in person, as communication is key to ensure everyone knows what the other is doing and with four people running around the items for each character are more limited.
One problem I found was that when the players move further away from each other everything becomes bit of a mess as the view zooms out and characters become a lot harder to distinguish in the maze of rooms and corridors. You could say it adds to the chaos, but it is also likely to cause frustration when the levels become more intricate.
While Monaco's graphics are far from sophisticated, they are charming and that can go a long way. The characters in the game are blocky and largely identifiable by the different animations which add a little personality to each character. Most of the time a lot of the floor is obscured, as you can only really see in your line of sight. The rest of the floor shows up as floor plans to give you a rough idea of where you're going. It is a nice effect, and it keeps you on edge as you never know what could be through the next door (unless you're playing as the lookout). While the neon colours and variety in locations help keep the game from getting too stale, unfortunately when there is less light in a room the colours are muted, and it can be hard to distinguish hazards that may slow you down. It can become frustrating when it occurs more often as the levels become larger and more intricate.
Monaco is easy to pick up and play. Outside of using the direction keys/control stick there are buttons to sneak and use weapon/item and to display the HUD. Every now and then the game will remind you that you can sneak and use items. Everything else is done by walking into it. The PC version supports controllers as well as the keyboard.
Hopefully you like jaunty piano tunes, as you will be hearing them a lot! The music evokes old heist movies like The Sting, and older silent movies and adds to the games style. Should you set off alarms, the music goes tense and speeds up to help get the adrenaline going while you try to evade the guards. While the characters don't have any vocals, you will hear guards mumbling in French should you get too close, or if you get noticed by citizens you'll quickly get used to them yelling and running off to get you in trouble.