The Big Con is a nostalgic trip back to the ’90s, but it does not attempt to recreate those games’ iconic look and feel as accurately as possible. The Big Con creates a world that pays homage to the era while also borrowing heavily from the art of that period in its NickToons-inspired aesthetic and decade-specific narrative trappings.
However, the game’s translation of its inspirations leaves you with the impression that you have seen it all before. Though the story is recycled, it’s still a lot of fun going through the motions. As the story opens, we learn that Linda is in severe financial trouble, owing to a total of $97,000 plus interest. Despite Linda’s repeated warnings not to worry about the money, Ali is determined to raise funds necessary to save the business.
Ted offers Ali a new opportunity when she demonstrates a knack for it: Pay off the majority of your debt by traveling to Las Venganza, the Big Con’s version of Sin City. As a result, Mighty Yell has the opportunity to show off a wide range of locations en route to Las Venganza using the road trip formula.
Others, such as a shopping mall (conveniently located next to a train station), demonstrate the unique characteristics of the period. Instead of spending money on his child’s Burblo, a working-class dad at the mall wants to buy one for a rich dad who says things like “Spare the expense, spoil the child”. The characters are not complex, but the hazy portrayal encourages you to put your thieving skills to good use right away.
Like a well-worn race track in a video game, the plot of The Big Con follows a predictable path, but there is plenty of color along the well-worn route. Stealing a certain amount of money and moving on to the following location is the goal in each area. Most of all, you must maintain pressure on the key as the needle moves back and forth in response to your actions.
The tutorial does not demonstrate how to play the minigame, and the explanation provided is ambiguous enough to suggest that this is a common blunder. Whether it’s confusing or not, Picking pockets is essential if you want to move around the city. To pickpocket the same person again after failing the minigame and being caught, you must change your disguise (this is not an issue if you disable the minigame).
The irony is that no matter where you go, a video rental store is nearby to make your punishment more convenient. All you have to do is hold a button while Ali switches out the tapes and presses the rewind button. However, even after removing the pickpocketing minigame, there is still a lot to do. Before you can move on to the next level, you must earn a certain amount of money at that level.
There are plenty of tropical items in the trash that might be suitable as collateral for a pawn transaction. The quests themselves are not all that exciting, but they motivate me to explore each level and speak with more of the various characters. It’s nice to have the extra motivation to explore each level because there are a lot of interesting characters to meet and hidden treasure troves to uncover, even if they are not necessary.
Once you have amassed sufficient funds, you have the option of continuing your exploration of the area or informing Ted that you have decided to move on. The Big Con’s handling of music is a small but noteworthy detail. However, the approach to the music varies depending on which section of the story you are playing.
Instead of the default song, you might hear a pop-rock arrangement running around Ali’s small town and an Enya-like account from the flower shop next door. While the writing is not particularly funny or clever, the art style and story conceit have enough personality to keep me engaged for most of the six hours I spent with the game.
In The Big Con, you will go on a nostalgic road trip where you will have to rewind cassette tapes, watch music videos on MTV, and marvel at how charming a bustling shopping mall can be despite America’s rampant consumerism.