Picture this scene: It’s the early ‘90s, summer vacation’s in full swing as your parents rent films from your local Blockbuster, popcorn and pick-and-mix in hand. For many, there’s a familiar scene which slowly declined these last two decades, one which perfectly encapsulates the nostalgia The Big Con’s tapping into. Launching for PC and Xbox, this indie adventure takes us back to ‘90s America, seeing players trying to save your family’s video store. Packed with a colourful presentation, there’s a wonderfully comedic experience within.
A True Blockbuster
Playing as Ali, what begins as a normal day working at our mom’s video store quickly turns sour, after it comes under threat from loan sharks. Facing a $97k debt to repay by next week, Ali resorts to morally dubious means, forgoing band camp and engaging in a cross-country hustle, pickpocketing our way to $97k with our new friend Ted. There’s a great cast of characters within and you’ll maintain this charade by calling both your Mom and Mari, a friend Ali’s found herself on awkward ground with. That’s not forgetting Rad Ghost, a figment of our imagination who offers advice when stuck.
However, reaching our target isn’t easy. Travelling between malls to
Las Vegas Las Venganza, we’ll explore each location to swindle strangers, eavesdrop on conversations, and pickpocket unsuspecting targets. Pickpocketing is done through a brief minigame with a moving pickpocket bar, holding down the Y button and releasing it in the purple section to succeed. If they’ve got more cash, theft becomes trickier and though The Big Con’s narrative encourages consideration for who you’ve targeted, there’s no consequence to your decision, letting you choose anyone and everyone.
Success isn’t guaranteed and if you fail this action three times, you’ll be compromised, forcing Ali to swipe some clothes for a new disguise. As an accessibility option, players can let Ali automatically steal from targets, alongside activating hints for eavesdropping locations – there’s also adjustable fonts and dialogue effects - but this doesn’t stop you failing conversations. Some conversations provide multiple dialogue options, and should it involve a key target, choosing the wrong option counts as a failure.
The Real Hustle
That said, pickpocketing doesn't just “earn” Ali money and occasionally, you'll obtain items like credit cards or driving licences. Those can be necessary for progression, while others can be sold to a rather eccentric collector. Across each location, our collecting friend asks for items of a specific flavour, such as corn-based objects or anything with a tropical theme. Outside of pickpocketing, many of these are found during exploration, meaning it (literally) pays to be thorough.
While I wouldn’t call the gameplay mechanics particularly in-depth, The Big Con does what’s required but ultimately, it was the story’s that held my interest. Bringing a unique premise and excellent presentation, there’s an engaging experience within, one that left me keen to see this story through. Even with Ali’s morally grey decisions and questionable guidance, you’ll find a protagonist who’s easy to empathise with, and even if the game’s self-aware humour doesn’t always land, it gave me some good laughs.
You’ll only need several hours to complete it, but The Big Con’s one adventure worth looking into. Offering a vibrant presentation brimming with nostalgia, there’s an enjoyable story about 90’s America which kept me hooked. Though the pickpocketing mechanic lacks depth, that’s made up for by a fun narrative and good sense of humour, keeping the action entertaining. If you like indies, The Big Con’s a breath of fresh air that comes recommended.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Reviewed on PC using these specs.