The Big Con for EGS

Looking at the video trailer for The Big Con, I didn’t really feel like it would be a game for me. But then I read a longer description and decided to give a shot. The story goes that Ali is a small town girl living in a looonely wooorld. She took the midnight…whoops, wrong notes.

Right, Ali is a small town girl working with her single mother in a video store. She learns that the store is going to be taken over by loan sharks, and that her mother owes ninety-seven thousand dollars. So Ali hooks up with a complete stranger to try and gather enough money through pick-pocketing, shoplifting and fencing garbage in pawn shops. So, a high fantasy setting.

Before I get to the gameplay itself, I should mention that Ali has a hallucinatory friend named Rad Ghost, the kind of mascot D.A.R.E. would think up who frequently says stuff like “Thank you for not doing drugs!” Despite the hallucinations and questionable setup, I felt for Ali. As a teen I spent a lot of time hanging out in video stores and at the dollar theater, so like her, I’m something of a film nerd. Add in her desire to get out of her small town and do ANYTHING combined with her crush on a friend, and she really hit all my feels in the best way to make her an endearing protagonist.

Shortly after learning about the video store’s impending doom, Ali meets Ted, (no last name, but she’s okay with that because, hey, it’s the 90s) who proposes that if she can pickpocket enough people to buy him a bus ticket, they can leave town together and hustle up the money Ali needs to save her mom’s store. She goes along with it because how else is she going to get that kind of money?

The pickpocket mini-game is pretty easy, but let’s say you aren’t gifted with coordination or thumbs. There are accessibility setting that get rid of the mini-game and just let you press a button to do the thing. It’s a game that wants to tell you a story, and if you want the easy version, these folks will deliver exactly what you need.

Moving on to a shopping mall for the next target, Ali gets the chance to make money from fencing toys, collecting items for a shady pawn broker, making change with vendors, or trying to beat an arcade gamer’s best score in a Rad Ghost game. (Which offers another accessibility feature. Is the game too hard for you? Make Rad Ghost invincible. I didn’t use it because the game isn’t that hard, but it is nice to see for folks who want it.)

From there, Ali gets on a train (midnight? No mid-afternoon) to Las Vegeena. Okay, I’m misspelling it intentionally, but it’s another town with similar goals that just add more dollars needed to level up and move on.

During most of the game, I kept looking at what Ali was doing and thought, None of this qualifies as The Big Con. I was right, and there’s a twist that has Ali scrabbling to get back the money she stole fair and square before time runs out. In between all of this are side missions, a little unrequited love, Furbies, and a lot of “it’s the 90s” jokes.

Which is to say, I ended up liking The Big Con quite a lot. It’s not a great game, but it is a good time that introduces enough new ideas in each level to keep the whole story feeling fresh. It made the NPC side stories interesting enough that I went out of my way to talk to everyone, and it’s not often that I do that even for games I love.

The version I played was the Grift of the Year edition, which does bring one minor lament from me. It’s in the voice acting, or rather the style of it. While the text on screen is telling the full story, the voice actors are speaking one or two random words that having nothing to do with their actual dialog. I kind of wished that if the first version had been so successful, they would have pulled in the main cast for a proper reading of the script. It’s a big ask, and a minor gripe, but a few pivotal moments of the game were stripped of their urgency by having voice actors hum or whine a one word comment like “Anyway.”

In the end, I’ll give The Big Con 4 stars. It’s a nice narrative adventure that that doesn’t overstay its welcome and delivers a satisfactory ending without going overboard into a sugar-coated finale. I’d recommend it for anyone who wants a light-hearted comedy as a palette cleanser between grim-dark apocalyptic ARPGs.