The Big Con
Developer: Mighty Yell
Publisher: Skybound Games
Genre(s): Adventure, Comedy
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (Also available on Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 31/08/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Calling All ‘90s Babies!
Video tapes, scrunchies, plaid shirts, grunge…did someone say a recipe for the ‘90s? Though I was born in 1997, which some would say doesn’t count, I still remember the ‘90s vibe going on strongly into the early 2000s. A time of Pokemon, classic Disney films and the PlayStation 1, where little me had no responsibilities!
Do you too think wistfully about that era? Well, The Big Con is here to scratch that nostalgia itch, while providing plenty of laughs, references and wholesome moments along the way. But is this the blast to the past for you, or a time machine trip best avoiding? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
Loan Sharks Killed the Video Store
One of my favourites things about my childhood was going to the video shop as I called it, and picking out something to watch on the weekend as a treat. Our protagonist Ali actually works at a video store that her mum owns, and despite her mother Linda’s well-meaning wish for Ali to be a trombonist, she is very much happy working there instead of jetting off to college.
A spanner is put in the works when Ali overhears loan sharks threatening her mum to pay up $97,000 or the mom and pop shop will be converted into just another chain store, Videoville. Linda’s determination to send Ali to Juniper college means Ali has to take matters into her own hands.
After meeting Ted in her home town who teaches her the art of pickpocketing and listening out for secrets, Ali ditches band camp and embarks on a con artist journey to uh, raise money and save Linda’s store. Though this story is a little wild and out there, it is totally believable in this wacky world. It’s fun and silly, so if you’re someone into serious titles The Big Con may not be your cup of tea.
You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two
The gameplay in The Big Con felt fresh and unique; combining both a side view with an almost top-down perspective, you run around raiding the pockets of each place you visit or rummaging through bins and bags to find extra cash or items to sell. Pressing Y next to a person when a symbol of a cash-filled pocket appears initiates a mini-game. You must hold down Y until the moving arrows reach the purple section of the bar for a successful steal.
The more cash a person has in their pocket though, the faster the arrow moves and the smaller the purple area. If you miss, you’ve been caught! You can’t pickpocket this person again until you’ve put on a disguise, like a popcorn bag over your head or some swanky shades. I thought this was a great way to add more interaction rather than just pressing one button and having it affect the rest of the gameplay. It fit with the fun atmosphere of the game too.
Another gameplay element in The Big Con is eavesdropping on people. This way, you can find out exactly want they want and retrieve it for them! In return for money of course. And there are some very wealthy people out there willing to buy a gold knock off Furby for their son for example…
The Choice is Yours
Like Skybound Games’ Walking Dead series, there is an element of choice in The Big Con too. There are dialogue options when replying to people, however, I’m not sure how much impact this has on the game. Nevertheless, there are times where it is essential you say what someone wants in order to progress. For example, to get a safe code out of someone, you have to spy on them to see what they like. Then you have to remember what you’ve heard to become buddy buddy with him.
Speaking of safe codes, there are a lot of suitcase or bag codes for you to discover and get some extra dosh. So, despite the game mainly revolving around the same gameplay elements, there’s enough variation in them and the locations you visit, as well as a plot with twists and turns.
Bad Hair and Questionable Clothes
Perhaps one of my favourite parts about The Big Con is the art and design. As an illustrator, I adored the hand-drawn style with the thick pencil stroke outlines and lots of detail; it makes the game stand out among the crowd. It looks extremely vivid on my powerful little Series S too! The bold, clashing colours screamed ‘90s and the characters all looked as if they were pulled straight out of an American ‘90s film too. I loved that every character had a bubble of dialogue above their head too; this simple touch added personality to each and every person you encountered. This is where the humour really excelled as well.
I adored Ali as a protagonist too; she’s sarcastic, strong while also a flawed teenager who makes mistakes. Also, she looks damn cool. The only issue I had in terms of the visuals or game performance was that occasionally characters would cut through the environment layers. It wasn’t game-breaking as it didn’t occur too often, but happened enough for me to raise its existence.
The soundtrack also fit the ‘90s aesthetic too, a mix of hip hop, pop sound with punky tones too, almost like a blend of all 90s genres. Adding to this audio was some phrases that would play when the characters dialogue was displayed. For example, Ali would say “what?!” or laugh. I’m still unsure how I feel about this; on the one hand, it brought some more life to the characters. On the other, some phrases didn’t seem well suited to the situation and broke the immersion.
Once playing through The Big Con for the first time, is there any reason to replay it? Well, there are actually a few side quests you might have skipped along the way. These come up among the “could do” tasks in your notebook, which is a handy way of tracking what you have to do and who you have met.
Some of these side quests may lead to achievements too. There are some that are easily missed in your first playthrough, so this would be a reason to replay it. However, once you know the story, I don’t think the gameplay is compelling enough or differs enough to be able to play it multiple times.
Smells Like Teen Con Artists
That isn’t to say The Big Con isn’t worth playing, not in the slightest. For only a tenner, you couldn’t ask for a better experience and I’m highly impressed! It’s extremely unique, combining stealth, logic and a wacky story with a gloriously 90s style and characters.
I laughed out loud throughout and easily played it for hours at a time: it will probably take up to 10 hours overall to fully complete if you’re thorough with achievements. I really haven’t played anything quite like it and I urge if you’re after something different to give it a go! Those reminiscent of the ‘90s will love it, but so will those who didn’t live through it, as it feels like you’re transported right to that era. Rad Ghost says: pick up The Big Con now!!
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase The Big Con from the Microsoft store here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.