Advent Showdown Round 2 : Co-Op Multiplayer
Co-Op Multiplayer is a genre I can’t get enough of, and any game that has it, for better or for worse, I generally find myself dragging a friend or three into to try out, or more likely, get hooked on for a week as we yell down microphones at each other calling each other bad and getting each other killed. The genre has so many gems that it was hard to pick just a few, so I’ve picked three of my favourite co-op games, none of which are first person shooters, because I may save them for a co-op FPS showdown yet to come.
Todays participants are Monaco, Trine 1+2 and Magicka!
Monaco is a top down steal-em-up where you (either alone, or with up to three friends) play through the story of a group of professional criminals and their rise and fall through the city of Monaco. The story is told in groups of missions that are split across chapters with each playable character in the game having a chapter each and a slightly different story to tell. In addition to the mission objectives at hand you can also pick up all the money in the area for additional bonuses. Each character has unique special abilities that help the team accomplish both of these things, for instance two of the starting characters can unlock doors faster and gather money from a distance respectively.
The gameplay is the major strength of the game, as the top down perspective and various visual and audio indicators (which, while lo-fi, are generally enthralling) allow you and your team to watch guard routes, check for less guarded ways in (and out) and plan your routes. While you can play the game solo or with less than the full party for a real challenge, A well rounded team with verbal communication is essential to completing your objectives in each mission. This planning and communication inevitably goes flying out the window when someone screws up and the whole buildings alarms are blaring and the security forces are swarming all over you.
Its at this point Monaco does something unexpected. It gets even more fun. Failure isn’t the end of the game in Monaco, not by a long shot, and theres always a way to complete your mission no matter how bad it gets. If you trip the alarms, you can run and hide until security stops coming for you, if you run out of ammo for your weapons, you can refill them by finding more money, if you die, you can get a friend to revive you. For me the ending of a mission always ended up with a series of shouts and yells as one by one we fell and one by one someone managed to sneakily revive and get us closer and closer to our escape route. Its a brilliant crossover of careful planning followed immediately with frantic improvisation, unless you’re good enough to beat the mission without any failures whatsoever, in which case you will find two things, one : victory is sweet, two : you’re much better than me and my friends, and indeed most of the world.
The gameplay might seem a little simple at times, but Monaco’s story and varying characters do enough to keep the game fresh for quite a while, as does the introduction of PvP levels and, if you fancy even more thievery, user made levels from the steam workshop. Not to mention the replay value of doing earlier levels with different characters. The game does have some issues regards online play and a few UI/Menu upgrades are sorely needed, but grab three friends, get on Skype, and go nuts. Monaco is available on Steam for £11.99, and a four-pack with a decent saving is available.
If Monaco is the King of co-operative planning and improvisation, Trine is his beautiful Queen of adventurous storytelling and ludicrously pretty environments. Trine and its sequel are side scrolling platformers with puzzle and combat elements where you and two friends take control of a trio of adventurers each with a different set of skills that grow in power as you play through the game. The story is told through the voices of the three characters and also a narrator, all four of which are voiced brilliantly and along with the stunning environments set the scene perfectly.
Its hard to do justice to how good the Trine series looks and sounds when you have the graphics up to maximum and a headset on, so much so that its worth recommending it as a game to play alone if you have friends that like to chat instead of appreciating parts of the game in the silence it deserves. Some parts of the series’ looks and ambience are so good they will make you stop, stare, and exhale. Trust me. Hell, Trine 2’s menu screens are playable one-screen levels, and on first loading up the game I’m pretty sure myself and my two teammates spent nearly 15 minutes just jumping around it checking it out before we started up the game proper.
Earlier I mentioned the game feels great playing solo, but playing through, you’ll be thankful for a few friends, because some of the puzzling and combat sections can be rather difficult. Like Monaco, the whole game is possible to complete on your own in a more cerebral way, but having a few friends to consider the puzzles with, and to help with the combat, is definitely more fun. Not to mention the physics of the game and the abilities of each character means death can often come quickly and hilariously, but thankfully death means very little in this game, and checkpoints are littered everywhere across the levels, the only downside to this being that the game can lean towards the easy side. Indeed, with a semi-awake team of three, the game isn’t much of a challenge and many of the puzzles can be solved reasonably quickly, meaning both the original and its sequel could easily be completed in a day if you powered through them.
However, to blast through the two Trine games so quickly would miss the point I feel. These games are about adventuring with your friends in a landscape so beautiful in so many ways, and on that it delivers brilliantly. Trine complete edition which includes Trine 1 + 2 and their addons will set you back £17.99, and a three-pack is available.
How to introduce Magicka? There’s a lot of descriptions that would fit, but the best way to describe it I can think of is simply an old-style brawler in the style of streets of rage or similar, but instead of punches and kicks, you combo together elements like fire, water and stone to make ridiculously powerful spells that can devastate the massed ranks of the enemies and their bosses on screen. You start with just a few small combos, for instance you can combine fire and earth to make a boulder on fire, but as the story progresses you learn bigger combos, like comboing together a string of five elements to make a lightning storm, for example.
The best part about this game is that while the game is story based co-op, friendly fire is most definitely on. More often then not you’ll find yourself charging up a particularly devastating spell, only for it to flatten a friend who just happened to wander across your path running away from a big angry ogre. Even better, hilarious suicide seems to happen often too, you can die to your own spells in various ways if you aren’t paying attention. However the opposite also applies, if you use teamwork and communication well and chain your combos with each other, you can turn into an unstoppable force of nature.
Magicka’s other major strength is its story, which is filled with decent humour which at times manages to get into the realms of laugh out loud, its also a decent length and theres lots of different levels with plenty of kinds of environment and plenty of different enemy types with different strengths and weaknesses to find. On top of this, developers Arrowhead have released a ludicrous amount of DLC that adds weapons, equipment, levels and PvP arenas to the game. In terms of content, if you have all the DLC there’s a hell of a lot there. The only problem is, some of the DLCs can feel a little costly for what is in them, and theres a lot of them. The base game costs £7.99, and the Magicka collection will set you back £34.99. Naturally, a 4 pack is available.
– Top down careful planning which quickly turns into frenzied improvisation to complete the objective and escape
– Brilliantly charming adventuring platformer with some great voice acting and stunning visuals
– Fast paced spell-em-up where you and your friends use devastating spell combinations to blast enemy armies to bits…but mostly each other
I love all of these, so picking a winner is really hard, but I’m going to have to go for…. Trine! The stunning visuals and ambience with a two friends who knew when to talk and when to be silent was too good for me personally, it really was a great little adventure playing through it, and very recently developers Frozenbyte released level editing tools, and some makers have come back with some excellent looking levels. Monaco is in a very close second, though, just because I love its gameplay and the hilarity of snatching victory from the jaws of failure. All three, however, are definitely worth your time and I recommend them all!
Next time : More multiplayer games!