Roguelikes aren't traditionally a beautiful genre - they're beasts built from ASCII. But Monaco is like a dozen neon signs, fizzing under a sheet of greaseproof paper. As you explore the maps, your line of sight sloshes paint across them. It's a kaleidoscope that's surprisingly pleasant, and a little bit distracting. You'll soon tune out the pretty glow and focus on the thievery at hand.
Behind the colours, the goals and controls for Monaco are dedicated to simplicity. It's virtually all on one thumbstick. You use objects in the world by moving towards them - computers spit out a hacking spark that follows you around the building, disabling security. Disguises will fool guards, from a distance. Every action will trigger a timer clock that you'll come to think of as your biggest enemy: it's this delay that makes every action a gamble.
This is where the classes come in. The devotion to simplicity means that most of the class bonuses are passive boosts. Locksmiths can unlock doors much more quickly. The Gentleman can slip automatically into disguise, and the Scout can see guards through walls. The Mole, meanwhile, can dig through walls. It's a powerful tool for reshaping maps that would be overpowered if it didn't come at the price of heavy guard attention.
Co-operative multiplayer is technically optional - but realistically, it's absolutely essential. Monaco was built with collaboration in mind, and playing alone is only really useful for learning the rules of the game, the alertness of the guards, and the behaviour of the security systems. Once you've got the hang of it, you're best to get online as soon as possible, before you get bored. It's only when you've got four players working together, each using their talents, that the game suddenly snicks together, and you can start to play stylishly and with satisfaction.
Recent XBLA heist competitor Dollar Dash went for heist chaos, and became so chaotic that it ended up unplayable. Monaco, on the other hand, is intelligent, tense, and chaos is just one tool in the box. With a bit of communication, teamwork and timing, you might even make a stealth run. Monaco is a stylish and considered game that's all the more remarkable for being the work of just one man. It's absolutely worth your money.
Monaco was supposed to release today, but has been delayed due to a technical snafu. We'll let you know when it arrives. Thanks to Ben Borthwick for the heads-up.
Taste the rainbow of grand larceny
- Neon francophone roguelike
- Cleverly put together
- Classes click well into teams
- The music begins to grate
- Not a game for solo players