Ermergerd, erts Mernercer – A Monaco Review
My head hurts. I can’t tell if I’m dying or my body is trying to do that obnoxious migraine thing again. It’s also gotten warm here recently. I can’t tell if the two are connected. Neither can modern science.
So, in my agitation, what better topic to write about than a review of Monaco – What’s Yours is Mine!
Now, I know I haven’t done a review of a piece of media for awhile. What between my procrastinating, ranting and own scribblings it’s not like I haven’t consumed media in that time. Granted, on the video game front I’ve mostly been taking a look at older work. I decided that, since I’m a PC gamer, it was foolish of me to be spending gobs of money on new releases when I have easy access to a large library of very inexpensive games. That is a Steam endorsement, if you did not catch it.
What this means, however, is that I’ve been focused on clearing my growing backlog of older titles as well as achievement grinding while I wait for the annual Steam Summer Sale to purchase something of moderate relevancy at an affordable price (mainly $2). Thus, between my rage inducing games of Dota 2, I have mostly been focused on a modded playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas in order to try and get as many achievements as possible, and working through this article’s titular piece with Derek when both of us are too tired of doing our respective writing.
So, what is Monaco? Well, it’s an independently made 8-bit inspired four player heist game which sees the player playing one of eight possible personalities as they work through the French gibbering city-state in an attempt to collect as many ambiguously shaped valuables as possible without getting bludgeoned, beaten or shot into a skeleton.
It isn’t a looker, I’m not going to lie, but part of the charm and difficulty arises from trying to parse and understand what the stylized graphics are trying to display. I can tell you, there have been many botched missions due to Derek’s inability to perceive alarms and I’ve been stuck more than once in adrenaline pumping retreats upon the peculiarly impassable edges of a swimming pool. However, graphics are one thing that is often sacrificed in independent games. It would be like expecting Little Miss Sunshine to wow people with its CGI effects. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that the game would work with a more cleaner style if, at the very least, to provide the player with more distinct objects with which to interact.
Now, normally I would spend a great deal of my review discussing the characters, narrative and world of a game as usually those are my focus. This is impossible with Monaco. Partly because of its multiplayer aspect, the narrative elements are diminished in the name of gameplay. The window dressing for why we must steal into a museum and rob its eight great works is inconsequential to why we are performing this task. Due to their interactivity, telling a narrative in a game is tricky enough with one person who can and often will wander away from the points of interest the story-teller wishes to focus upon. Throw in upwards of three or four people wandering in all directions and you have a veritable narrative nightmare.
This isn’t to say that Monaco doesn’t try to tell a story. This is mostly to say that Derek and I completely avoided it. The only thing that I can remember are the wild proclamations of “Gyaaaard,” “Oui. C’est bon,” “C’etait seulement une chat,” and “Cerveau?” Each mission begins with a short description to set up the reason for whatever haphazard task we must accomplish. But the justification is terrible and not just because the developers were trying for some cutesy unreliable narrator shtick. I mean, you can only blame character bias so far when one of the missions is you breaking into a diamond store to steal the redhead a bunch of jewelry so she can get over having to murder people in cold blood.
I will say that the one narrative element I enjoyed about the game was its setting. Not that it was used to any useful degree, but the fact that the story took place in Monaco was refreshing and highlights the sort of lazy writing which I have complained against in past articles. Most stories do not necessitate a specific location and the vast majority of settings default to a handful standard locations. Typically, in American media, this will be New York City or Washington D.C. If you’re in Britland, the place where everything happens is almost always London. The number of movies that involve the poor Statute of Liberty being destroyed makes you wonder why people would want to visit such a high value target for just about every terrorist plot imaginable.
Which is a shame because we live in a large world filled with interesting locations. Monaco demonstrates that you can take a very standard, unremarkable tale and set it somewhere that isn’t a tried and tired locale. Nothing in its game truly requires it to be in that specific setting but it is able to adopt certain elements to give it an interesting flair. The guards and workers now shout French sentences when pursuing or fleeing you and even one level has you break into Prince Albert’s palace which, obviously, is impossible if you’re in the Big Apple.
Granted, I am not immune to this criticism. My first story takes place in a fantasy city analogous to London. I truly understand the automatic impulse of picking one of the default locations to set your tale especially if you don’t have anything specific in mind. The media we consume creates an almost internally feeding loop where we read about stories in New York, London and Tokyo so we write stories set in New York, London and Tokyo. However, I imagine a lot of us have lived or visited other places which we can draw on inspiration. And you never really know what you’ll get out of shaking things up and packing your protagonists to more remote, exotic or even mundane areas. It also gives a really great excuse to travel – you see, we have to do it for our research!
Anyway, my head is getting distracting again so I’ll wrap this promptly up.
I wouldn’t recommend Monaco to anyone unless you had friends who would play it. It is certainly doable with one or two people but the levels (especially the later ones) are designed with three to four players and I think a large part of its appeal is in co-ordinating your team to successfully pull of these heists. It is much the same as Left 4 Dead only you aren’t saddled with atrocious AI teammates if you are misanthropic.