Thoughts on Monaco

Monaco_250

Jordan: I like it. It suits the indie credo very well, which is to design a small, instantly engrossing game that is tightly designed and allows players to jump in without much investment. It tries to create a specific feeling and play-style and I think it hits that very well. I’ve played it a lot more than other games at this price point.

Aaron: For me, one thing that scales well is the difficulty. It always feels challenging, sometimes verging on frustrating. As you continue along the difficulty scales well, especially because you have a range of win conditions, so players can manually decide how hard they want to make it. They also had to consider the character choices to make sure they’re all relevant and useful.

Player Scaling, Single Player

J: Not only characters but the number of players as well. The same levels need to be playable with one to four people. That’s not easy, especially when the game doesn’t alter the number of enemies or anything in the game environment. That’s hard, and I think the game suffered a bit from it. My single-player experience wasn’t nearly as much fun as multiplayer.

A: I found it was easy to do single-player and get the basic achievement, but anything beyond that seemed to require more people. I found myself using the gentleman for single player, running around doing everything and then finding a bush to hide in.

J: I think it was a good design choice for the multiple / scaling win conditions, especially with that range of players. You don’t need to get all those things, but it lets four players go for bigger achievements while still playing the same level.

Characters, Weapons

J: I always felt like certain characters were useful on particular levels, but I think they can all fit in some way on each level.

A: I agree, and you can see the balance in the level design where they were specifically designed to do certain tasks like outlets for the Hacker or rocks for the Mole. Even the Locksmith or Cleaner have areas where they can shine.

A: One additional variation to characters is the choice of weapon. They all have their uses.

J: I like that those options are available because different strategy is necessary for one player as compared to four. You can’t bullrush the guards with one player, so you’ll probably pick up smoke bombs or the wrench, however, four of you can because there are more weapons and more people to revive you.

A: It’s another way to make your character different and change up the gameplay. I really liked the wrench because it was so adaptable. The gun doesn’t seem to work as well as advertised in terms of dispatching enemies since it often attracted a lot more attention and enemies are able to be revived.

Stealth and Action Modes

J: I think the game is interesting because there are two modes: one is a Metal Gear Solid-style stealth mode, but eventually something happens and the game explodes into a brief period of action until you hide or die.

A: Polygon wrote an article about that dynamic: the thrill of the heist when you successfully pull it off, and also that panicking, collapsing emotion when someone trips an alarm and everything falls apart. It’s really satisfying to experience both in the same game.

J: I read that someone compared it to pac-man in the same sort of chasing, achieving sense.

A: I would agree. There’s the same kind of chasing pressure, though in Monaco there are a lot more options for escaping.

J: The Grand Theft Auto series has that same tension and action dynamic: you shoot someone on the street and this whole new kind of game activates where you’re running and shooting and then you find a car garage and you escape back into normalcy.

Visuals

J: I think the visuals serve the design well. I wouldn’t say it’s pretty, and I know they were originally aiming for something more pixelated, but I think the basic blueprint-like visuals work better.

A: I agree. I think what this game does really successfully is make the details easy to digest. If you dive into it, the little details shine and the interactions between them makes the game both creative and beautiful. The interactions flow well together, and it’s satisfying to see your choices immediately create consequences.

A: It was a surprisingly big learning curve. I never felt like I mastered the icons and controls until later on, so the game initially felt clunky. One of the more complex mechanics I appreciated was running vs. walking. I found myself making a lot of mistakes of when to run and when to walk, but it was that fine line that made it fun to master.

J: I also appreciated attempts at differentiating between the missions. Some different visual aspects, yes, but also some changes to how the win condition worked: like an art museum, or an underground cavern, presented slightly different difficulties which required different strategies.

Replayability

A: Have you beaten the game?

J: I haven’t. I probably will, but I’m not sure if I’l be aching for more of the game without a big change-up, so I wonder how replayable it is.

A: Overall I thought it was fantastic and for the price the length of the game is fine for me.

J: Extending the game would require more than new levels or a new character to pique my interest. It would require a new mechanic or something drastic to open up this world a bit more.

A: I agree. What would add complexity to this game to make it worth playing again?

J: A whole new way of looking at heists, like a car chase, or some human interaction aspects like dialogue options with guards or trickery.

A: Changing the type of strategy would be interesting. Or major revisions like GTA, moving from top down to 3D completely remade how the game was looked at.