Are you a 90s child? Have you ever wanted to experience the thrill of the con artist lifestyle romanticized in so many films? Well, The Big Con is here to give you those 90s feels while also serving up a wacky, witty, and pun-tastic story of a runaway teen con artist.
Developed by Mighty Yell and published by Skybound Games, The Big Con focuses on Ali, a young teen who has a caring mom who wants to send her off to band camp to get into a good school later on down the line. But trombone is not Ali’s passion. Instead, working at the video rental store her mother owns is. However, when loan sharks come sniffing around and demand $97,000 in the next two weeks, or they’ll take the store, Ali can’t have that. So, she runs away, becomes a con artist, and hustles and grifts her way through bigger and bigger cons to save her mother’s video store.
Playing as Ali, you’ll road trip across America, hopping from a small town with a single movie rental shop to a bustling mall and on to a tourist strip that likens itself to Las Vegas. Along the way, you’ll learn how to make the most out of petty crime. You’ll first learn how to pickpocket the unsuspecting, which is very simple to get down since it’s just a timing mechanic, but it will get harder with the more money that’s on the line. Thankfully, the mechanic can also be turned off in the menu for a no-stakes experience making this a very accessible game.
Beyond filching cash, you can spy on people to learn more about them and how to approach each mark. Oh, someone is waiting for their food? Well, buy a sandwich using a credit card you stole and reap the returns by impersonating their waiter. This item isn’t for sale? But I want it. So, find a way into the back of the store and take it instead. But that’s just small-time crime. The further in the game you get, the more complicated the heists can be. While you can keep the game simple, you can also seek out more and more complex cons that include breaking and entering, smooth-talking, haggling, emotional manipulation, and so much more.
The complexity is all up to you. But beware, you can get caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Once you’re caught, you can’t approach the same person again. Well, unless you wear a disguise. Don a paper bag, sunglasses, a handlebar mustache, or a snazzy suit. There’s plenty of disguises to find around the levels, and they’re just as fun to wear as they are useful. And while getting caught multiple times in the same disguise does set you back, it’s often not a very harsh punishment.
And while you’ll have to do some crime to get to your goal of 97k buckaroos, there are nevertheless some interesting moral quandaries. Would you feel okay stealing from a rich jerk? What about a child? You can help people out of the kindness of your heart or charge them for your services. You get to determine who deserves to be conned. While these moral decisions aren’t as big or impactful as I’ve seen in other games, if it got too serious, I don’t think the humor and wackiness of this coming-of-age journey would be as fun.
And this is definitely a coming-of-age story. Ali is a teenager trying to find her path in life. And while it’s not such a huge part of the subtext throughout, how players choose to talk to their mom, if they choose to call home, and the conclusions Ali comes to at the end will resonate with anyone who has ever fought with their parents over who they want to become.
From start to finish, The Big Con is a 90s love child. The game is absolutely brimming with nostalgia in outdated technology and fashion. Floppy disks, VHS tapes, plaid, polka dots, shoulder pads, payphones, and malls, The Big Con basks in the fads of the time. And you definitely can’t forget the Cool S, especially since it acts as the loading screen. Even the “Don’t do drugs” motto that was drilled into kids’ brains is front and center. And like you can expect from a game about saving a video store, you’ll even encounter references to classic movies of the time.
While the dialogue is silly most times—a combination of Ali’s wit and sarcasm with just some absolutely outrageous and stereotypical characters—there are a few bumps in the dialogue here and there. Most conversations you have with your marks are short and sweet. But a few sections of dialogue stick out, and these really slow down the pace with their length and how stale they are. Whereas a lot of the enjoyment comes from shorter, zany dialogue, these put a damper on the fun. Thankfully these sections are few and far between.
My only other criticism for the game is some of the movements and buttons are difficult at times. For example, when you can interact with an object or a person, a button pops up. At times, the game will require players to position Ali very specifically for the button to appear, and it can be really aggravating.
Overall, The Big Con provides some much-needed 90s nostalgia while also providing an outrageous tale smothered in wit, sarcasm, and Horm. It’s a short, casual game, with a whole lot of spunk and a whole lot of crime, and I really recommend it to anyone looking for a laugh.
The Big Con is available now on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
The Big Con
- Rating - 8/108/10
The Big Con provides some much-needed 90s nostalgia while also providing an outrageous tale smothered in wit, sarcasm, and Horm. It’s a short, casual game, with a whole lot of spunk and a whole lot of crime, and I really recommend it to anyone looking for a laugh.