Like many folks who frequent this website, I grew up as a latchkey kid in the 90s. Raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs, my surrogate parents were video games and cartoons. It’s no wonder then, that the highly saturated colours, bold lines, funky shapes and radical music of The Big Con instantly appealed to my nostalgic ass. This debut title from Mighty Yell Studios and Skybound Games is an exciting and reminiscent indie adventure game that looks and feels like it was ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon show, albeit one that would carry a PG rating for its mature themes.
You play as Ali, a stereotypical 90s teenager – sardonic, sarcastic and clad in an outfit that would make her a massive style influencer today. When some no-good loan sharks pay a visit to her small town and threaten to shut down her mother’s video rental store over some dodgy debts, Ali decides to take matters into her own hands. In a stroke of questionable fortune, she runs into a handsome young drifter by the name of Ted, who convinces her to blow off her upcoming band camp and travel across the country to fight ‘The Man’, swindle strangers, pilfer pockets and con the common people to raise the $97,000 needed to save her beloved video store. While this may sound a little dark, the story is delivered in such a light and humorous way that Ali always feels likeable and, dare I say, justified in her actions.
Bodacious backgrounds, bruh!
The gameplay is fairly simple and undemanding, definitely erring on the light side. You’ll spend most of your time running around the different levels of the game, trying to find sources of cold hard cash. You’ll pick a lot of pockets, which is done via a pretty easy mini-game, but you’ll also eavesdrop on people, find out what they want or need and then provide them with that, by whatever means necessary. For example, there is an obnoxiously wealthy father in the mall, talking about how he’s willing to pay any price to satisfy his clearly spoiled child. Through a series of tasks, I was able to enter the back room of a toy store and burgle their limited-edition golden toy, which I sold to the rich dad for an exorbitant price. Then I picked his pocket, of course.
I hope this doesn’t awaken the pick pocket in me
The Big Con’s strengths are its bold aesthetics and fantastic writing. Everything in this game is deeply saturated in that uniquely 90s feel, harking back to a simpler and perhaps brighter time. It’s also hilarious and filled to the brim with tongue-in-cheek humour and cringe-worthy puns. Most of the cavalcade of characters you meet in the game are so endearing and funny that you can’t help but love them all, everyone from Ali’s imaginary friend ‘Rad Ghost’ to the various NPCs you’ll steal from. It also has some great accessibility options like turning off the mini-game for pickpocketing and using a dyslexia-friendly font for the in-game text.
Although I really enjoyed The Big Con, there are a few caveats worth mentioning. I wasn’t rushing through the game and I reached the end credits after around four and a half hours. This may be a downside for some players, but I actually felt like it respected my time and didn’t overstay its welcome with needless fluff. The undemanding gameplay might also put some people off, but for me, it was simple enough that I could just enjoy the beautiful environments and well-written characters. I will also caution that I ran into a few bugs while playing (nothing game-breaking, just annoying) but I was playing a pre-release version so hopefully they’ll be fixed by the time you’re reading this.
Sound advice Ali, sound advice
It’s clear that everyone at Mighty Yell Studios loved the 90s, and that radical aesthetic permeates every facet of The Big Con. If you’re a wistful 30-something like me who loved Doug, Hey Arnold, Rugrats and ToeJam & Earl, I highly recommend taking a delightful stroll down memory lane with The Big Con.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Mighty Yell Studios
- Mighty Yell Studios, Skybound Games
- Xbox Series X&S / Xbox One / PC
- August 31, 2021