The Big Con Review — Oceans ’97

The Big Con is a nostalgic throwback to the 1990s that does not attempt to replicate the defining look or play of ’90s games. This is a thoroughly modern adventure game, with an isometric look, hand-drawn graphics, and a resolute refusal to mine references from LucasArts point-and-clicks. The Big Con takes its cues not from what we were playing in the ’90s but what we were watching.

The debut game from developer Mighty Yell reminds me a little bit of Night in the Woods, but if, instead of talking animals, Night in the Woods had starred ’90s teens rendered in the Nickelodeon’s Doug art style, complete with the primary and secondary color skin tones that lended characters like Mr. Dink, Skeeter Valentine, and Roger Klotz their memorable designs. In this NickToons-inspired look, and in the decade-specific trappings of its narrative, The Big Con builds a setting that feels both true to the era, and heavily influenced by the art that era produced. In translating its inspirations, though, the game brings with it a sense that you have seen this all before. It’s derivative, but going through the motions of this familiar story is still, at times, a lot of fun.

Our heroine, Ali, is a teen who works in a video rental store owned by her mother, Linda. As the story begins, we learn Linda is in deep financial trouble–to the tune of $97,000 and some change–with some very bad people. Despite Linda repeatedly telling her not to concern herself with the finances, Ali is committed to raising the money and saving the store. But coming up with close to a hundred grand the legit way proves challenging. Luckily for Ali, there’s a new kid, Ted, passing through town who’s happy to teach her how to pickpocket. When Ali proves to have a knack for it, Ted dangles a new possibility in front of her: Travel to Las Venganza–The Big Con’s version of Sin City–and pull off one con job big enough to pay off most of the debt. They’ll pick up the rest by nabbing wallets along the way.

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