If Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine were a movie, it’d be narrated, silently, by the obscure lovechild of Kevin Spacey and Charlie Chaplin. And he’d be laughing most of the time, the jerk.
What we have here is a high-proof batch of heist comedy moonshine. Using one of eight specialist characters, you and up to three mates (or strangers; whatever) get to have what can only be described as top-down antics. Each stage is set up to be one of three things: a clinical operation masquerading as a tightwire traipse; a bumblerun through a hive of Keystone Cops; or a dismal but hilarious failure.
Stages are rife with opportunities to exploit and ways to screw up; getting to your objective – which could be anything from securing the release of a new playable character to filching medical supplies from a hospital – requires getting through a gauntlet of guards, cops, sniffer dogs, civilians (who alert the fuzz), security systems and the like. Oh, and cats. Cats in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bloody cats.
Savvy level design makes it possible to do this in a hearty number of ways. Play the Mole, for example, and you can dig (noisily) through any wall, and to hell with the paint job; play the Gentleman, master of disguises or some such, and you get to rub shoulders with the very people who’re out to get you; play the Pickpocket (my personal hero), and his pet monkey will nab all the shiny it can get its grubby little fingers on – especially useful because picking up cash is how you get more of whatever item you’re given at the start of an operation.
Monaco’s 33-level jaunt of a story makes for a fine single-player experience, and it would be a great, memorable game if that were all it aspired to. The co-op play, though – that’s the fist-sized ruby in this laser-swept vault. Man, the co-op: it’s splendidly ridiculous to bicker your way through a bank or a well-guarded mansion with a bunch of friends. This game will save your marriage (or end it). I’m just swinging the hyperbole about like a hammer in a casino, aren’t I?
Really, this is a tremendous jumble sale of awesome, managing to plunder both sides of the fine divide between arcade-ready snap and considered depth. Each character feels sufficiently unique and well-balanced, but no single special ability is indispensable – and every stage is a finely wrought labyrinth packed with potential peccadilloes.
Monaco is a speed-runner’s dream, just begging to be clocked out to the last bleeding second, but it also has the presence of mind to be absorbing as all getout for those predisposed to more sedate play. Its rinky-dink, living-blueprint aesthetic has been lavished with LEGO-era detail, and it pays to take your time and enjoy it. This game pulls itself off with such effusive cheer that even a shotgun blast to the face of a sleeping guard doesn’t feel so much like violence as a sly wink and a tip of the hat, you old rascal you.
To sum up, then: Monaco, basically, is the sort of rosy-cheeked hustler who, having just emptied your house of value, would buy you a beer and a clip of bourbon. And d’you know what? It’s a fair trade.