PAX '11: Monaco is the Most Fun You'll Have With Friends or Strangers

Some of the biggest games of the year were playable at PAX this year with lines flowing around the booth, some of them having upwards of a five hour wait just to play for 20 minutes. However hidden in a corner of the indie room on the top floor was a strange looking game with a bright pink sign above it and a single person standing next to a television with four Xbox 360 controllers: Monaco. A friend had told me to make sure to check this one out, so I stepped up to find a group of four people playing the game.

I had no idea what was going on as the small pixelated characters scattered around the top-down level, interacting with certain things and running away from others. Before too long it was my turn, but nobody else was in line so I just stepped forward. Before I could get to the character select screen three other people who I didn’t know joined me and we started up one of the harder levels at the creator’s request. 

The character select screen had you press a button to join in and then select which person you wanted to be based on their job title. There were quite a few to choose from, more than there were players in fact. The Gentleman, the Lookout, etc, each with a brief description of their abilities. I ended up choosing the Lookout, who can see farther than others.

In the actual game each character emits a flashlight / vision cone around them highlighting the areas nearby. In a small room this might light up the entire area, but in a long hallway you might only be able to see to the next door. My character was able to see much farther, and as such I spent a good deal of time in the hallways keeping an eye out for roaming guards.

Monaco is a heist game, where you play as a team of thieves. I believe the level we played was set in a hotel, and we were tasked with retrieving a certain package and returning to the car in the parking lot where we started out. Of course scattered throughout the other rooms were safes and other items of value to pick up, which we did along our way.

It was interesting playing next to people I didn’t know, but before too long we got a good handle on what was going on and were calling out instructions or telling the others where we were going and coordinating our movements. I would spot a guard coming and instruct one player to hide, while another quickly ran by behind him to get to a safer spot. It really was a lot of fun, and teamwork was pretty necessary.

At the beginning of the level our characters all assume a disguise and switched from the small blocky figures into something more resembling an actual person. In this disguise we were able to walk around freely, until we did something sneaky like opening a safe that is. If you get caught by a guard out of disguise they can knock you unconscious, but thankfully any of your teammates can walk up to you and revive you by holding a button.

At the end of the level one person had gotten stuck in a room and ended up getting knocked out, so I checked the hallway and another teammate went dashing through to revive them and we all made a mad break for the car to finish the level. Except that while my teammate was getting revived I decided to open a safe I was standing next to. The lookout isn’t the fastest at this though and I was scrambling to pick up my loot while my team waited in the car and everybody laughed as I was called greedy by the creator.

There’s a surprising amount of depth and strategy required for what appears to be a very simple game at first. Teamwork is crucial, as is choosing the proper characters to accompany your team on the mission. Had I not chosen the lookout we might have had a more difficult time with guards, yet at the same time I might have chosen a class that could have opened that safe easier.

Monaco was very interesting to play, and is very high on my radar at this moment. It unfortunately does not have a set release date, but I eagerly await that announcement. I can safely say that I’ve never played a game quite like this, and the prospect of playing more excites me. You can find out more about Monaco at the official site for the game.

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John Colaw

John is what you might call something of a badass. When he's not writing about games or playing them, he's playing in the Kansas City band "Documentary" and drinking as many different beers as often as he can. He's a huge comic nerd in the best sense of the term, with a particular love for the Creator Owned movement.

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