The Big Con Review

Richard Walker

Remember '90s Nickelodeon cartoons like Doug, Hey, Arnold!, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, or Rocko's Modern Life? It seems that developer Mighty Yell does, all too well. The Big Con's energetic 1990s style recalls that very age of animation, all vivid shapes and shades, colourful characters and wacky weirdness. The Big Con charts the exploits of Ali, a teenage girl who's meant to be heading to band camp to play trombone for the summer, but instead ends up falling in with dodgy grifter Ted. Together, they embark upon a road trip to make enough money to save her mother's ailing video rental store, and swindle their way to success in an adventure that proves strangely addictive.

No, Ali, you can't let the man win.

With a big video rental company (like Blockbuster Video; remember them?) looking to move in and take over the family business, Ali quickly falls into petty thievery and other small cons to make a quick buck, as her and Ted bounce from location to location, raising funds towards a big score that could save the endangered video store. What follows is a string of compact isometric levels, cordoned off by big, fluorescent lines (Ali even remarks at one point, “Huh, I guess the path just ends here”). The Big Con isn't a huge or complex game - during a 4-5 hour playthrough, you'll talk to characters, steal from them, perhaps unearth a few secrets and side activities, then push on to the next bit.

The good news is that there's ample enjoyment to be found in fleecing folks, as Ali and Ted each have their own motivations for needing to generate some quick cash. And, even if their methods aren't particularly likeable, they are fun.The pick-pocketing is done via a timing-based mini-game, wherein you have to stop an arrow within a purple zone on a gauge. The more cash your mark has, the smaller the window of success and the faster the arrow darts back and forth. And the more likely you are to be caught with your hand in someone's pocket.

Should you be spotted, you can try approaching your target again while sporting one of Ali's many disguises – things like paper bags, sunglasses, masks, fake moustaches, animal mascot heads, and hats that you'll find hidden in each level – but if you hit three strikes, you'll be thrown out of wherever you happen to be grifting, and subjected to menial work, like rewinding video tapes. It's not long before the art of pickpocketing becomes second nature, however, and you'll be lifting cash and whatever objects someone might have on their person like a seasoned pro in no time.

From Ali's tiny hometown, you'll visit a mall, take a train ride, and eventually land in Las Veganzas, each location presenting you with a target amount of moolah to generate. It's not all about simply wringing money out of rubes, though; sometimes you'll get to chat with random people and help them out, certain characters you meet reappearing again and again throughout your journey, many of whom have a nice little payoff at the end, assuming you remember to track them down and regularly check in with them. There's the aspiring stand-up comedian with the bad jokes, a heavy smoker thinking about quitting, the lovelorn guy looking for his penpal, and the angry stockbroker trying to make a killing on the 'flungus' – and they all end up following you through to the end, offering you the chance to influence what ultimately becomes of them.

Along the way, you'll also have the helpful guidance of 'Rad Ghost', offering tips and hints, while warding you off using drugs, because, as we all know, winners don't use drugs. Witty dialogue keeps The Big Con's tale of cash-snatching ticking along nicely, even if the only audio you hear during exchanges of text are 'um', 'ehhh', 'whut?', and the like. There are no time constraints to worry about, plenty of secrets to unearth, a bevy of weird characters – like The Collector, who will buy themed items off you at certain junctures – and it all makes for a gently paced, enjoyable caper across a brightly coloured, cartoonified version of 1990s America.

Just look at those rubes…

And, even if their methods aren't particularly likeable, there's fun to be had in watching Ali and Ted’s budding relationship. Ted might be shifty, but there’s something unusually wholesome about the duo’s shared journey, despite all of the wanton, unflinching pilfering that goes on. At its heart, The Big Con is a sweet-natured story of two awkward, rebellious ‘90s teens simply trying to make the best of a bad situation, and you can’t help but empathise.

While it's neither mechanically complex nor ever particularly taxing, there's something inviting about The Big Con's esoteric world, its simplistic story, and its oddball characters. Open-ended quests scribbled in your notebook may coax you in for a second playthrough, as you try different things - especially during the game's final stretch, in the Las Veganzas casino - and before long you'll be picking the pockets of absolutely everyone. Its vibrant cartoon style, thick-drawn lines, the most rudimentary of animations, and earworm tunes only serve to enhance the appeal, making The Big Con an oddly compelling game that's perhaps far more entertaining than it should be.

The Big Con

Simplistic it may be, but there's an inherent charm to The Big Con that proves infectious. A sweet, coming-of-age yarn that happens to involve a lot of stealing and skullduggery, Mighty Yell's game is full of heart, soul, and '90s nostalgia.

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Some properly catchy tunes and loops that will burrow into your head. Voice acting is mostly little noises, but that's all part of the charm.


Hand-drawn characters and levels remind me of '90s Nickelodeon cartoons, although some elements are a mite on the crude side. Colourful, though.


Not every game needs to be complex, and The Big Con definitely isn't. What it is, however, is good, wholesome pickpocketing fun that's immediate, pick-up-and-play stuff.


Several levels of pilfering spun across 4-5 hours that proves to be remarkably enjoyable. Sometimes, it's nice to relax with a game, and, to that end, The Big Con fits the bill.


A list that rewards exploring every avenue, there are achievements here for completing every major character's thread, and for unearthing secrets. Not bad.

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