As a '90s kid, The Big Con floods me with so much childhood nostalgia. From the brightly colored backgrounds with abstract shapes that bring back memories of MTV, to a shop that exclusively sells plaid clothing, I can't stop smiling every time I come across a fad I fondly recall from my younger years. Developer Mighty Yell takes you back to the '90s as a teenager called Ali, who gets swept up in one very rad crime-filled adventure. You'll pick pockets, swindle people in shopping malls, and hustle your way through trains and hotels to get your hands on more cash. And sure, they say crime doesn't pay… but when some sleazy loan sharks claim your mother owes them a little over $97,000 in just two weeks, and the very fate of the family's video store is at stake, swiping some moolah might just save the day.
After you overhear those uncool loan sharks drop this bombshell, there's absolutely no way you can just go to band camp and forget about it. After all, Linda's video store is at risk… How can you go away and play the trombone at a time like this? So, naturally, Ali ditches the plans her mom made for her and goes on a bit of a crime spree instead. With the help of a fellow teen called Ted, you first learn the ropes of a good con, starting with pickpocketing the locals nearby.
Whenever you sidle up beside someone, a little wallet icon will show you how much money they're carrying. The more money they have, the harder it is to successfully steal it. The actual mechanics of pickpocketing are simple: When you decide to take someone's dosh, a bar with a marker will appear, and you have to let go of the button you're holding down when the marker is in the purple zone. If you miss it, the person you're trying to steal from will catch you in the act. As I go about pickpocketing all of the unsuspecting townspeople, I start to rake in a decent amount of money… turns out this can be quite lucrative when I do it well.
But you won't just steal pocket change to cover that sizable $97,000 debt. There are also many different ways to get other people's money in The Big Con. As you explore an area, you can come across an ear symbol which indicates that you can eavesdrop on someone. This can present you with valuable information about an item someone's willing to pay a large sum for or point you in the direction of something worth taking. Every time you stumble upon a new way to make money, it's recorded in your notebook for you to refer back to.
At one point, for example, I overhear someone say they left their video rental card in their girlfriend's purse, who just so happens to be in the changing rooms of a shop nearby. I immediately spy a chance to be a little bit sneaky. Once I head over to the changing rooms and pretend to be their other half by mimicking the way they spoke in the video store, the girlfriend willingly hands over her purse and I make some easy money. Another way to get cash is from the many different themed collectible items you can come across in each location. They're often amusing little nods to the '90s, and they can be sold to a pawn shop owner who's always after a different kind of quirky collection.
With some puzzle-like elements to the crime-related escapades, the cons start getting a little more elaborate as I progress through the story, which keeps me entirely invested. There are plenty of fun and wacky ways to weasel someone out of their cash, and I find myself enjoying every moment of Ali's newfound career as a teenage con artist. Of course, The Big Con isn't just all about the crimes. Sometimes you'll have the chance to help out the locals. In between stealing wallets and grifting people, I give advice to an aspiring comedian and even try to convince someone to give up smoking - there's a lot of '90s-related humor packed into Ali's adventure that constantly has me smiling.
When you speak to different characters, you can often choose your own responses in the shoes of Ali, and again, there's so much humor in the dialogue, too. I'd be remiss if I didn't express my appreciation for the one and only Rad Ghost. The skateboarding ghost who sports a backward cap and shades may well be a figment of Ali's imagination, but the cool apparition is always there to cheer you on... And when you're a teenager heading out into the big wide world to do crimes, it's always good to have some encouragement.
From chuckling at the conversation I just had with the raddest of ghosts, to finding myself goofily grinning at an excellent pair who look like Wayne and Garth from Wayne's world, there are so many conversations that make me laugh, and many neat little references that bring me joy. With a lot of love and appreciation for trends of the decade in The Big Con, it truly is such a delight to discover everything in Ali's world. If you're looking for a fun adventure that pays homage to the '90s in the best way possible, you won't want to miss this.
The Big Con is out now on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.