Monaco is a hoot.
It reminds me of so many other games - Thief, Super Mario Bros., Splinter Cell: Conviction, Metal Gear Solid - but plays unlike any of them. It looks like Hotline Miami and starts off as readable as Dwarf Fortress.
Hmm. How can I explain it?
Take control of some sort of hybrid of man and beetle that radiates colored lighting like it’s 1998. Once your pitiful human eyes identify which moving object is your character, your task is to blindly follow the instructions of sidewalk graffiti. Step into the floorplan of a building and fill up pie charts until you’re standing in the right spot, whereupon you will have stolen jewelry or freed a prisoner or turned into a woman or something.
Then retrace your steps while other beetlemen in white coats try to stop you by making your controller vibrate and decreasing the number of slices in one of three unlabeled pie charts around your character. If you run out of pie slices, you turn into a skeleton and a new beetleman under your control appears at the last stairway you visited. Sometimes the enemy beetlemen will cure each other of fatal shotgun wounds.
To unlock new levels you must complete your objective while also grabbing every single yellow diamond that you immediately cash in for supplies in the most easy-to-remember, wildly unrealistic, “that sound you hear is Adam Smith spinning in his grave like a jet turbine” economy ever conceived. 10 diamonds = 1 smoke bomb, 10 diamonds = 1 band-aid, 10 diamonds = 1 C4 explosive, Bitcoin is not a fiat currency, etcetera.
I think that about covers it. Questions?
If you enjoy a good stealth game as much as I do, you’re going to be really annoyed by Monaco. With enemy vision cones, tripwires, and disguises, it looks, walks, and quacks very much like a duck! But it isn’t. Guard locations are randomized, diamond locations are randomized, and some rooms have alarm pressure plates in what seems like a checkerboard pattern. You’re going to screw up. Badly. Then you discover what kind of game you actually purchased.
It’s an “oh shit I moved one pixel too far and activated the alarm” game. It’s a “damn you don’t break down that wall you’ll alert the guard” simulator. Sometimes it turns into “hold on, I’m almost done putting your bones back into place and then we can get out of here” the video game.
Monaco is a game about screwing up. While the controls are precise and responsive, the rest of the game is giddy about making you mess up and think on your feet. Do you kill the guard or sneak past him? Hide in the air ducts? Did you consider that the guard who spots the skeleton of his dead buddy can reanimate his friend in less than five seconds?
Don’t bother with a plan. Don’t memorize locations and patrols. Just run. Run to the bank safe, run to the unoccupied balcony, run to the computer to shut down the security system that even now is drawing a dozen guards to your location.
Do bother finding a friend. Monaco is a multiplayer game at heart, made even better when you and your buddy can look at each other in astonished relief as you reach the next floor of a building. Or declare “I AM BEING A DISTRACTION” as you run around the level, gathering a train of guards like the early days of Everquest.
If you’ve ever wanted Ocean’s Eleven the video game, here’s the chance to get what’s yours. Just don’t blow it all on the suit.