There are some captivating "get rich quick" schemes in the realm of fiction. Somebody looks at the lavish lifestyle of the one percent and decides, "I want in on that," or someone has a noble cause that they have to raise money for in a short amount of time. The methods that the heroes use to earn all of that money are clever and have panache. The Big Con's story isn't quite like that. It's all about getting a lot of money fast, but the methods are far simpler. However, despite its simplicity, The Big Con is a fun story with an endearing main character, which helps make up for a gameplay loop that loses its luster by the end.
Rock 'n robbin'
The Big Con is set in the 1990s, but the plot is straight out of a 1980s family movie. Ali is a young high school kid working at her mom's video store. The video store is being threatened by some loan sharks, who are ready to seize it if they don't receive a lot of money from Ali's mom. The only way to save the video store is to somehow come up with a whole lot of cash. As Ali quickly finds out from a shady character named Ted, the easiest way to come up with the money is to steal it from people's pockets.
As one might imagine, taking a few bucks at a time from normal townsfolk isn't exactly lucrative. As it turns out, Ali's simply picking enough pockets to get by until she and Ted can reach one giant score several towns away.
While The Big Con tries to flesh out some of the game's characters, this doesn't quite work out. The faces that you run into are simply a means to an end and ones that you'll rarely run into a second time. Really, the only characters that end up mattering by the end are Ali and Ted and everyone else feels like window dressing.
A hole in your pocket
The main mechanic at work in The Big Con involves stealing from unsuspecting citizens. The process involves stepping behind a person, triggering a mini-game, and striking at the right time to steal some cash. This gets more difficult with higher-value targets and you can only get caught so many times.
The pickpocketing mechanic is a cool idea with its only downside being that because the game plays out with an isometric top-down view, getting behind a mark can sometimes take some extra work. The main issue with pickpocketing is that it quickly becomes The Big Con's only real standout feature. There are some collection side quests, but nothing that really dazzled me or kept the main formula from starting to feel stale.
There are a few targets that can be approached in multiple ways. Players soon learn about how to eavesdrop on conversations, which gives Ali the tools she needs to charm her way through some objectives and earn some extra cash. However, since most of the game can be completed by simply stealing enough money, I felt more incentivized to stay in the pickpocketing loop, which increased the sense of monotony. Only towards the end of the game does eavesdropping and collecting information become a major factor in reaching the story's conclusion.
Outside of pickpocketing, The Big Con's main attraction is its dialogue. The humor is going to be an acquired taste, because there are some genuine laughs to be had with the dialogue, but there are also some groan-worthy jokes. I will say, however, it's not everyday that I'm presented with the option of a laugh track and my main criticism with it is that it isn't utilized enough. I would have loved for this game to just go full 80s sitcom and totally ham it up. As it is, The Big Con's dialogue and the back-and-forth between Ali and anyone she encountered proved to be a big highlight for me and it did a good job of breaking up some of the repetitive gameplay loop.
The Big Con is an intriguing adventure game, but it's not a very long one. I was able to wrap this one up in less than three hours and once the story's over, there isn't much reason to dive back in. Still, Ali's a fun lead character and her sheer enthusiasm for a potential life of petty larceny is oddly endearing. The dialogue is very hit-and-miss, but I came to appreciate it as a good way to break up the pickpocketing action, which can get repetitive fast.
However, even if it does get monotonous sometimes, I certainly can't fault the originality of the pickpocketing idea. The Big Con is not the kind of adventure game I see every day and credit to Mighty Yell for trying something different. I don't know if it's because I was hoping more would be done with the idea or because the game felt too short, but I ultimately came out of this game wanting something more. Maybe that's just the hunger for a bigger score.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. The Big Con is available today on Steam for $14.99 USD. The game is rated T.
The Big Con
- Fun and colorful spin on a 1980s/1990s family comedy
- Pickpocketing mechanic is an interesting new idea
- Humorous dialogue with optional laugh track
- Some objectives allow for multiple approaches
- Pickpocketing can get old after a while
- Pickpocketing can also be imprecise at times
- The humor is hit-and-miss
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, The Big Con review: Pickpocket monster