The Big Con Isn’t Stealing, It’s Recycling

Ali loves her mom and would do anything for her, including raising $97k to save their video shop, even if it means stealing. The Big Con on Steam.

of back-to-front caps, Push Pops and when MTV played music videos. The Big Con take us back (or you there) to the golden era, as you play teenage Ali and her a road trip to swindle Johnny Public.

On paper, Ali’s an anti-hero. Her mum/mom has enrolled her into band camp to recite some anecdotes to her sex-starved friends of the future. Though she’s not keen on going anyway, Ali overhears a local loan shark in her mum’s video shop. If she doesn’t come up with $97k in the next ten days, these wrong ‘un’s will sell the deeds to a competitor. That should be enough of an excuse to avoid playing the trombone.

Cue Ali and her quest to obtain the dough in time, followed by a car washing montage and… ah…. I’ve just run the maths, and $97k is quite a bit. How the fudge is she gonna make that? Theft. Fortunately for Ali, local swindler Ted is about to take her under his wing to travel the big US of A. The Big Con may insinuate a heist of sorts, but it’s really about pickpocketing. 

The Big Con - Streetwise
Streetwise. Source: Mighty Yell

The Big Con Review

Ted teaches Ali how to walk up behind a target to half-inch their wallet. This brings up a timed gauge where you have to hold then release a button in time to steal a wallet without being caught. If you are caught, you can don a disguise, then try again. It’s a simple mechanic which, for some mad reason, can be automated from the menu. This defeats the game’s purpose, as other than selling unwanted goods, it’s the only way to make money.

Each new area is essentially larger than the last, with more money on offer. You’ll encounter the same characters, and for some strange reason, they still don’t suspect you and keep topping up their wallets. The Big Con is like Toejam & Earl when it comes to the art style, only there are no aliens, and the colours used are a vibrant Doug. That will mean something to someone out there. Ali’s world is mainly from an isometric stance, looking for pockets to pinch and eavesdrop on conversations.

Each time Ali engages with an NPC, the screen switches to a visual novel-like dialogue sequence (with full-on 90s backgrounds). Instead of a pre-determined response, there will be keywords highlighted for you to respond to. It isn’t always clear where the conversation will go or whether it’ll affect the conclusion. At the time of the review, achievements were disabled.

The Big Con - Sticky fingers
Sticky fingers. Source: Steam

Tea Leaf

Ali can resort to her journal for her objectives, but it’s easy to miss what you should do next or where to meet someone. There’s one scene where you follow a character around and listen in on his conversations. An icon to eavesdrop didn’t appear at first, nor was there an option to talk to them, so I ended up wandering around in circles until eventually, it clicked.

The Mighty Yell are either the same generation as me, or they’ve done some pretty decent research as the art style feels straight out of the glory days of Nickelodeon, yet totally unique. The dialogue vibe is from the era of The Secret World Of Alex Mack, and Clarissa Explains It All (she didn’t) and works great. Without a doubt, the music was excellent. My only criticism of the sound was the shoutiness of the lead with her “WHAT?!” far too often. Rad Ghost will make it all better.

Despite the core story being one of a teenage girl lying to her mother on her whereabouts and travelling across America in an attempt to steal from innocent people, there’s something charming about The Big Con. Ali means well, but isn’t it wrong to steal from a mother tending to her baby, or stealing someone’s beloved fanny pack (huh-huh – fanny) in broad daylight? No? I’m off.

The Big Con release date
Source: Steam

The Big Con was nostalgia through and through. Even though the story was pretty predictable from the outset (not necessarily a bad thing), it was an enjoyable experience through to the end in terms of the story. Not necessarily a big selling point for a game, but the overall presentation throughout was excellent. I’m just not sure how everyone else will react to the pickpocketing gauges again and again.