We slapped a monstrous 10/10 on Monaco: What's Yours is Mine when the game first landed on PC and Xbox 360 in 2013, and if you think back to what the world was like back then, it's clear that much has changed in the intervening years. Back then a heist game where you got to play as a band of criminals was a fun distraction, but these days the criminals are wearing suits and hold office and the world is an altogether less jovial place to live. On the bright side, six years has done little to diminish our affection for Pocketwatch's spectacular co-op heist game, and we have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it on Nintendo's portable console.
The Switch is proving to be something of a haven for classic indie games, and Monaco is the latest in a long line of titles to have been ported over to Nintendo's hybrid device. It's a great fit for the console too, as there's just enough screen space for you to enjoy the game in handheld mode, and on the big screen, it's just as pleasing on the eye as it was when the game won the IGF Grand Prize back in 2010. Monaco was never about flashy graphics and instead, Pocketwatch took a less-is-more approach to visual design with its clever use of line of sight and a top-down style reminiscent of Pac-Man, with your thieving friends on-screen grabbing up gold coins whenever they encountered them.
The eye-catching visuals make a positive first impression, but they continue to impress due to how effortlessly the game's visuals blend into gameplay. You can only see what you can see, with your blindspots shrouded in darkness. It's rarely as simple as just running around like a headless chicken in search of loot, but rather a cautious, tactical advance where you have to creep up to corners, poke your head around doors, and use every advantage available to you. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of running around like a headless chicken with guards in hot pursuit - and we don't mind admitting that we end up doing that all the time, no doubt a consequence of our aggressive playstyle - but Pocketwatch has built in plenty of features that mean skilled and patient players won't have to break a sweat as they sneak out with the loot.
There's plenty of content to chew through, including a "zombies" version of the game where the design of the guards changes along with their AI patterns. Playing the zombie mode is a fun change of pace and certainly a way of extracting more replay value out of an already generous package (that includes solo, local and online co-op, plus a competitive mode), but for us, the main draw is the main game and its missions, and there's a lot of them waiting to be unlocked.
While the main focus is on co-op, Monaco can be played solo. Here you pick your character of choice and attempt the level in question, moving through rooms and corridors as you search for coin and loot. If your character meets an untimely end, however, you can pick another, working through the roster until you're all out of luck. Each character has a special skill, such as The Pickpocket, who has a monkey that'll grab gold for you, and The Locksmith, who can get through locked doors really quickly. Our favourite is probably The Cleaner, who can knock idle guards clean out. There are more to unlock as you progress through the story, and each one brings a new trick to the table, although the limitations of single-player mean you won't be able to bring their abilities to bear at the same time.
That's when the co-op version of the game comes in, and it's here that Monaco: What's Yours is Mine really shines. There have been some great couch co-op games released over the years, but few - if any - can reasonably claim to be better than this. The thrill of stalking through a heavily-guarded building with careful cohesion is intoxicating, and the excitement when everything goes to hell and everyone scatters to the wind is unmatched. This is ludicrously entertaining stuff, and if you've got a group of friends who regularly come together to play locally, then Monaco is utterly essential (you can play online too if you prefer).
A rich and distinctive visual identity is complemented by a stellar soundtrack that enhances the playful tone and moment-to-moment experience. Moreover, there's a huge amount of content (including a survival campaign and an ultra-hard mode) for what we think is a perfectly respectable price - it's £13.49, which is a steal if you ask us. It might not feel as fresh as it did back in the day, but the single-player is great fun and the size of the levels makes it a good "on the go" game if you're fond of taking your Switch with you on your commute. But don't buy this one for the solo stealthing nor for the exquisite audio-visual design, buy it for the best in class couch co-op, which still stands up, even after all these years.
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