The Independent Game Festival is a yearly event recognising the best in indie development. 2010 was a particularly outstanding year, with games such as Closure, Limbo and Super Meat Boy making their appearances. However, none of these games won the Grand Prize. The winner was a game called Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, developed by Pocketwatch Games. Three years later, it has finally been released, and thankfully, it was worth the wait.
It is a top down downloadable stealth action game par excellence where you control one of a crew of people attempting to pull off heists, and it is wonderfully French. If your stealth breaks down, it becomes a high paced caper set to a racing piano and accordion soundtrack. The music was composed by Austin Wintory, the man behind the magnificent musical accompaniment to last year’s Journey. When alerted, the francophone guards will attempt to track you down while muttering things like “comment?” and so on. Luckily each character has abilities to help avoid detection.
A Truly Colourful Crew
Four characters are available from the get go and four more are unlocked throughout the course of the game. The Locksmith can open doors quickly, The Pickpocket has a pet monkey which will go round collecting coins for you, The Cleaner is able to knock out unsuspecting guards, and The Lookout can tell where guards are through walls. Special missions occur early in the game where you must retrieve your next crew member. When you find them, you play the rest of the mission as that character, allowing you to become familiar with how they play. The Mole can tunnel through walls, The Gentleman is able to disguise himself, The Hacker can cause havoc in computer systems, and The Redhead can seduce guards.
In single player, you pick one of these characters to play through each level as. The gameplay is almost like a complex Pacman where you have to avoid enemies while traversing around a maze-like series of corridors, collecting coins on your way to whatever the mission is centred around. Usually you will be after a specific item which will help you in the overall story, like picking up fake identification documents, or deleting evidence to cover your tracks. The aesthetic is great, with clever use of line of sight that looks really cool. You are able to see the general layout of the building in a sort of blueprint form but to actually see what is inside each room you will need to peek through a window or around a door. When concealed in the fog of war, a piece of overlay text will tell you what the room is. This same style of text will be used to give you tips, telling you what a certain item does, or how a character works. It is a non-intrusive way of helping you out which blends seamlessly into the world. If you manage to successfully clean out a certain number of levels of all coins, you will eventually unlock tougher challenges and a slightly altered story path.
The story is told through a short cutscene at the beginning of each level with sprites of the crew members talking to each other via text boxes. The narrative is cute, and quite amusing at times, and you quickly become accustomed to the personalities of each character, even though they are just simple 2D models. The Locksmith seems to be the brains behind the outfit, The Hacker speaks in quick bursts, while The Cleaner never speaks at all. It is easy to become endeared to the group, even though your missions all involve helping them break the law.
An excellent stealth game and a high paced caper all rolled into one. Unique aesthetic and soundtrack.
Some levels seem too difficult, especially in single player. The AI is not all that intelligent.