Monaco . Ha. I have always had problems with game addiction. Understandable in a child. But - in my mid thirties - I ask why does still happen? The latest has been Monaco. I preordered it ages ago. It looked novel and edgy: * Arcade roguelike (i.e. streaming action; gauntlet not nethack). * Heist genre * Promising cooperative play Awesome game. Addiction came slowly but kicked in only as it became a challenge. :: Overview You play as a criminal, wondering around buildings, stealing things. The guards try to stop you. You can crack locks and hide in the ceiling and pot-plants, and wear disguises. There's guns and explosives too. It's not necessarily gruesome. But you can make it so. There are four starting characters who have special powers. The locksmith unlocks things more quickly then the others. There's a character called the lookout who has a blueprint of the map, and can detect where threats are. The cleaner can do a Chloroform knockout on unsuspecting guards. The pickpocket has a small monkey who retrieves coins stealthily. Something that's fun: it's so new that nobody has had time to put up any spoilers or videos yet. What you're playing is fresh. I think I came in as the number 4 all time fastest in one level that I struggled with and then got super-organised for. A rare occasion of me being close to glory. :: Challenges to the Designers The game designers had an interesting challenge in building the game. If you're building Call or Duty or some other soulless rebadge of the 3d shooter game, then you can count on a segment of your players having good reflexes and understanding of what you're doing from years honed at Counterstrike. Monaco is different enough to the kind of games we've played before that your standard casual gamer is going to be rubbish at it to start with. To not even realise how inept they are. They've done a lot of smart things to get around this. The initial mission sequence is narrated by the Locksmith character. This plays out like many games: it starts easily, and gets harder gradually, and then you grind through and finish it. There's bonuses - you can pick up coins. But you can just ignore them if you like and the story moves on. During the course of this, you unlock a second second story narrated by the Pickpocket. I won't give much away, but if you've seen The Usual Suspects you'll recognise the approach. In order to unlock the Pickpocket levels you need to clean out all the coins from the Locksmith stories. So the designers have set you up to play at three difficulties. Getting through the Locksmith levels. Getting through them collecting everything (which is significantly harder). And then the Pickpocket stories. It's a clever mechanism. In addition, the Pickpocket story is far more compelling than the Locksmith, and this is great motivation. A couple of missions late in the Locksmith story, and early missions in the pickpocket timeline get hard. Not fun hard. Just annoying hard. You feel like you're falling foul of complexity, and the waiting for the right moment is boring. I think I got stuck because I was going against the grain. The game wanted me to think, and I was trying to bluster through. Different people will suffer it in different ways, but a standout example of kind of thing I mean is in the character of The Mole. The Mole is an unlockable character, who has a power of burrowing through walls. In the context of the game, it's very powerful. But it has lots of potential to be an annoying crutch. It's one of those things that you can use as a hammer for many problems. Instead of finding a stylish way to engage with the game, you can just laboriously grind through the game using the Mole. For a while. :: Being Shown Up There's some tricks you can use like that for a while, and then you hit a brick wall. I spent ages on a level called Devil's Trick. This was a struggle, but tenacity scraped me through. But even a glance at the level after that, Scent of a Rival, made me realise I needed a rethink. With my play style, it wasn't just hard, it was impossible. Monaco became the first arcade game where I ever resorted with pen and paper. I started to play new games on the level just for research, and brainstormed strategies. Doing this made me realise the extent to which I've ground through most arcade games. Last year it was Sleeping Dogs: never really got the martial arts. Instead, I sifted out a few combinations that worked for me, and found some of the late fights to be very difficult but found corner cases and ground out a finish. There was something similar with No One Lives Forever ten years ago. I managed to find a bug in the game for the purpose of getting past one character in preference to .. getting organised. I wonder if there's something in here about why I'm so bad at Counterstrike. :: Incomplete I've finished the game, but there's a bonus level left to complete. There's supposed to be a level designer that people can download, and I bet we'll see a bunch of downloadable content - extra story lines and the like. Not sure how much more play it'll get for me. I like the idea of more, but I worry that a gulf will open up between speed-run players, and the levels they take on, and mere mortals like me. I feel I have a great understanding of the play style of The Gentleman (stealthy); The Lookout (speedy). I like playing The Cleaner too but don't have this fluent yet. I didn't have much use for The Locksmith and wonder what I missed here. Although I avoided The Mole, I did find myself using explosives frequently to get a similar effect, and suspect there's other approaches I could have been learning instead. I suspect the players that will turn out to offer the most finess in the hands of experienced players will be Lookout and Redhead. I've played her the least but have had a glimpse of some of the options that are open if you have nerves of steel. I'll be interested to see speed-runs and the way they use The Mole and The Cleaner to lay groundwork for other characters. I'm trying an approach of carving out laneways for other characters ion the bonus level, and discovered a hidden passage when I did. I've barely played it multiplayer yet. I wanted to have a go at doing the levels solo first. I think this would be fun with friends, but not so much fun with random people on the internet. My brief attempt confirmed that the teamwork angle is totally lost on the average player. :: Variations This could change if there was potential for procede-generated levels. For example, a level would be built from some kind of building blocks, and then playtesting by an AI for a selection of characters to make sure it was possible. Or just huge levels which are not necessarily fair, but where you're given good odds on the level being possible, and then having to use new techniques to reach your goal, without the expectation of clearing a level with coins. :: Flaws? Monaco has some flaws. I think some of the late missions in each sequence are necessarily grindy. That is - you have to play them in a grindy manner. The apartment complex works like this. This is unfortunate. Dogs seem to ruin any level they're added to - the only way I can deal with them is to really slow the pace. I'm hoping to see youtube videos in the future showing me wrong on this. :: Cheap Tricks Here's a trick for you to have some fun with: as the cleaner, turn off the power and wait for guards to come and switch it back on. You can mug three or four as they try this, and then dynamite their bodies. Works a charm in the palace. Done! It has been an experience to play - one to remember. Good work team!