Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PC
PRICE: $14.99
DEVELOPER: Pocketwatch Games
PUBLISHER: Majesco Entertainment

I like a good, frustrating, deep game as much as the next guy, however; Monaco is just too damn tough at times. While I certainly appreciate a difficult title, I can’t keep banging my head against a wall trying to collect gold coins and unraveling a minimal narrative.

Playing as one of several fun and interesting characters, Monaco allows players to explore various locations, each brimming with vivid color and plenty of opportunity for multiple ways through. It’s a fascinating game, being able to explore different places, committing crimes as various criminal archetypes (my favorite is The Pickpocket, who uses a monkey to sneak coins away from nearby folks), each with their own special ability. The plot isn’t particularly revelatory, nor is it terrible. The game has a swanky, Ocean’s 11-type vibe, with each character filling a role nicely. As the player progresses, more characters become available, like The Hacker or The Gentleman. Each characters has their own branching narrative, unlockable by completing certain objectives within missions, mostly by cleaning them out. By cleaning them out, you’re essentially taking every last gold coin from a location, which is harder than it sounds.

The game is from a Zelda-like top-down perspective which both adds to the frantic vibe of completing a level under a certain time limit, but also can be frustrating. I found myself exiting a room only to come face-to-face with a handful of guards who weren’t visible a moment earlier. Typically, guards and dogs can be sensed by their footsteps when your character is in an adjacent room, however; there were a handful of times where this didn’t work for me. The stealth elements add a layer of difficulty to the game, as, even though guns are available, they’re really only meant to be used as a last-ditch effort and ammo only becomes available once you’ve collected ten coins within the level. There are other items or power-ups, however; the gun was my best friend. Other items include medkits, level-specific guard costumes, etc. All the items add a layer of strategy to the levels, however; things can go to hell pretty quickly.

monaco 2

I’ve never been much of a stealth-gamer. My admittedly minimal progression through Alpha Protocol indicates that. While I do enjoy stealth elements in a game, I don’t enjoy a game that relies on stealth completely. Monaco does a good job of getting me to change my mind about stealth gaming, however; I’m a guns-blazing kinda’ guy, for the most part, except in a game like Far Cry 3, where I took incredible pride in my stealthy assassinations and long-range arrow-murders.

I found myself falling into the following strategy as I advanced to the more difficult parts of the game: start as The Pickpocket, collect as many coins as humanly possible before being killed by guards, switch to The Hacker, collect however many coins were left before being killed by guards, then close everything out with The Mole, typically blasting through walls on my way to freedom. It worked, until it didn’t.

Overall, Monaco works but is tremendously difficult. If you’re up for a Super Meatboy-level challenge, go for Monaco. It’s a charming title with great dialogue, a fun story and colorful (literal and figurative) characters.

3 out of 5

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