The Big Con review

By Heidi Nicholas,
RAD. That’s the word I’d use to describe The Big Con, which happily flings itself into the Nineties to bring us a crime adventure filled with nostalgia, plaid, and everything rad. Everything from the retro art style to the floppy disk autosave symbol is geared towards that sense of nostalgia — right down to the “cool S” (yes, it is called that) loading screen — and it’s something that The Big Con excels at.


We play as teenager Ali, whose most pressing worry is trying to escape being sent to band camp, until she finds out her mum’s video store is in trouble from loan sharks. This soon sends Ali on a hectic journey across America, trying to pickpocket and con people for enough money to save her mum’s store. Pickpocketing and stealing usually takes a backseat in other games, and it’s oddly freeing to play one which specifically tells you to steal as much money as you can. At the same time, that memory of Ali’s mum and the video store keeps it from becoming too frivolous an activity: Ali’s against it in principle, and is only committing these crimes as a last-ditch desperate attempt to help her mum. That premise of the video store and the loan sharks also defines an end-goal — instead of pickpocketing people at random, every penny goes towards our savings to help save the store.

One of The Big Con’s greatest strengths is its dialogue. There’s a wry, self-aware sense of humour threaded throughout, and the game is peppered with conversations or observations that are genuinely funny. Ali’s sarcastic outlook keeps you entertained, as do the game’s nods to its own weirdness — Ali’s fanny pack functions as the inventory, for example, leading to several amused or indignant comments from lookers-on as they watch everything from ice creams to a full cake being stored away in that fanny pack. It helps that the game isn’t even the slightest bit interested in taking itself seriously. Ali will call out weirdness when she sees it, such as the pawnbroker who talks to her as if she were some fabled adventurer, or the fact that she regularly checks in with the Rad Ghost — a figment of her own imagination that pops up to offer helpful advice. Another of The Big Con’s biggest pros is that wonderful retro art style, which never gets old, and which makes otherwise ordinary areas — such as a train carriage or car park — vibrant and entertaining.

the big con gameplay trailer

Your main activities will be pickpocketing, chatting to the bizarre and wacky characters you’ll run into, eavesdropping on them to work out how to con them out of even more money, and wearing disguises when you get caught. Pickpocketing gets harder if there’s a lot of money at stake, while eavesdropping will often open up new possibilities for conning. For example, at the very beginning of the game we practice eavesdropping in the video store, while racing Ali’s mum to help as many customers as possible to find the movie they’re after. Walk past those customers, and they might start loudly discussing how much they want to watch an artsy movie or a scary one. Hide behind the aisles to eavesdrop on them, and they might just mutter to themselves about how they actually want a film about a dog who fights crime. It’s a clever inclusion, and helps add some variety to the gameplay.

Pickpocketing can sometimes feel a little easy — one task asked me to steal $80, and the first person I tried had $90. You can still obviously pickpocket to your heart’s content, but it would have been nice to occasionally have a little more of a challenge to work through with pickpocketing. There are more elaborate operations, which require spying, finding out what people really want, and then looking for a way to con them with this information. These are fun when they crop up, but although Rad Ghost sometimes pops up with hints, it can be a little frustrating when you’re still not sure what to do next to move the con forward. These are more nitpicks than actual complaints, as The Big Con remains a very enjoyable experience, but it’s just worth remembering to take your time with it so that you don’t miss out on anything — for instance, it’s not always clear when you’re going to leave a place for good, so you want to make sure you’ve gleaned everything you can from it.

the big con gameplay trailer

One nice surprise with The Big Con was how touching its story is. Despite the fact that Ali only occasionally talks to her mum throughout her journey, those few interactions are effective at setting up a believable bond between them, and ensures you don’t forget the main story as you go gallivanting across America. As for the achievements — The Big Con has 35 achievements, and is pretty generous with them; for instance, dishing out an achievement for when you first add to the pawnbroker’s collection. It’s another pro (in my eyes) for The Big Con that you hear that “achievement unlocked” bloop sound pretty regularly as you play through.

Summary

That bright, cartoony art style works perfectly for The Big Con’s nostalgic portrayal of the Nineties, and, combines with a touching story and witty dialogue to make The Big Con a very enjoyable adventure to play through. It can be a little easy at times, and I played through it more quickly than I expected, but I had a blast.
8 / 10
* Heidi spent around nine hours pickpocketing, eavesdropping, and soaking up the Nineties, earning 18 achievements in the process. The game was played across Xbox and PC and a review copy was provided by the publisher.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature, and now enjoys writing news, reviews, and features across TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. When she’s not writing, Heidi is usually either looking for her next RPG, or trying to convince the rest of the team to hear about yet another delightfully wholesome game she has found.