On the surface, Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine sounds like it'd play out like a cartoony version of Ocean's Eleven, putting you in control of a team of expert thieves looking to escape the titular city after one last series of heists. Unfortunately, while there are a few moments of humor and charm in the game, Monaco comes with a learning curve that can be difficult to grasp and a co-op mode that leaves much to be desired.
In Monaco, many of your heists take place across a multi-tiered map, and are filled with various traps, guards and alarms standing between you and a set of diamonds or priceless art. How you approach each mission is where the real fun of Monaco starts, but also where you'll get the most frustrated, since the game doesn't always give clear instructions on how its mechanics work. You'll have to run through some trial and error as you navigate each maze-like map, and chances are you'll find it easier to brute force your way through levels by sprinting straight for objectives as fast as you can a few times until you get a solid grip on Monaco's more confusing elements.
Each member of your criminal gang has their own unique skill to use in game, such as the Locksmith, who can quickly crack through safes and locked doors, the Lookout, who can see any enemy on the map while she's sneaking, or the Cleaner, who can knock out unsuspecting guards with ease. As you progress through the game you'll unlock more thieves with alternative ways to break through high-security checkpoint, like charming hostile enemies or digging through walls. You'll also pick up items like tranquilizer darts, shotguns or EMP bombs to deal with anything unexpected the game throws at you. These items initially have a one-time use, but you can get extra uses for every ten coins you pick up.
If you play solo, you're limited to using one character at a time, but it can be an interesting challenge to play through a map over and over to see if one character is particularly better at getting through its obstacles than another. This is especially true if you're hoping to "clean out" each stage by picking up all of the coins in a level. This is a daunting task on its own, especially given how maps by the mid/late game are filled with dozens and dozens of collectibles, but it's the only way to unlock the more advanced story missions that tell Monaco's narrative from other character's viewpoints. Since Monaco's narrative is told mostly told through scrolling text boxes and, besides a few interesting plot twists, isn't particularly robust, you probably won't feel inclined to put in the considerable time and effort it takes to unlock the extra campaigns unless you're really interested in the extra challenge.
Playing Monaco cooperatively with friends through Xbox Live or sharing the same screen is a whole other experience, and sadly isn't as fun as it first seems. You might think having multiple players would let you pull off some well-orchestrated schemes, but in reality its way too easy for everything to descend into anarchy, as Monaco doesn't do a very effective job of incentivizing teamwork between players. Resources aren't shared, so whoever picks up all the coins first will get the benefit of extra item uses, while everyone else will have to scrounge for the leftovers. There's also no bonus given for using your items or character skills to assist your teammates in getting past a bank vault full of lasers or escaping a team of guard dogs. If one player decides to go off and do their own thing, it can cause an entire mission to fall apart - especially if they die and you need to rescue them in order to proceed to the next level. Monaco may have been designed with encouraging this kind of chaos, and it can be worth a few laughs to see your team scramble around Three Stooges style, trying to grab as much loot as possible amidst blaring alarms. But it can get old awfully fast when it results in having to restart missions over and over and over. Either way, it would've been nice to see some mechanics that encouraged players to play more cooperatively to complete objectives.
When everyone is able to slow down and organize into an effective bank robbing team, it's actually quite satisfying to pull off a well-crafted maneuver without so much as alerting a guard. But depending on how many people you're playing with (and how willing they are to cooperate with you), these moments can be few and far between. Even if your teammates are physically in the same room with you, it can still be confusing to coordinate who needs to hack open what door and or who needs to disable what alarm.
Bottom Line: Regardless of which thief you prefer to use, or if you'd rather tackle the game solo or with other players, you're going to need a great deal of patience, luck and skill in order to handle Monaco's complex missions.
Recommendation: Fans of challenging puzzlers will get the most out of Monaco, but for those hoping for a more relaxed co-op experience might not enjoy the steep learning curve or the challenging difficulty.
This review was based off of the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Game: Monaco: What's Yours is Mine
Genre: Stealth Action
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Platform(s): PC, Mac OS, Xbox 360