The Big Con Review — Oceans ’97
5 September 2022
The first game from developer Mighty Yell reminds me a little bit of Night in the Woods if instead of talking animals, Night in the Woods had been about ’90s teens drawn in the style of Nickelodeon’s Doug, with the same primary and secondary colour skin tones that gave characters like Mr Dink, Skeeter Valentine, and Roger Klotz their striking looks. The Big Con’s setting feels both faithful to the time and heavily influenced by the art that came out of that time, thanks to the NickToons-style art and the story’s specifics. But because the game is based on other things, it feels like you’ve seen all this. It’s not original, but it’s still a lot of fun to go through the motions of this familiar story.
It’s an excellent way to start a game, and the road trip format lets Mighty Yell show off many different places on the way to Las Venganza. Some of them are there for a reason, like a train Ali and Ted take to get to the west coast. Others, like a mall attached to a train station, are there to show how different things were back then. The art style is also nostalgic, with the fuzzy lines and squiggly dashes typical of cartoons in the 1990s. Most of the game’s characters would look right home in a Doug or Rugrats episode. Character-wise, secondary characters are also like cartoons. They have simple needs that Ali can help them meet. A working-class dad at the mall wants to buy his child a Burblo, which is just a Furbie with the serial numbers taken off. A rich dad who says things like “Save the money, spoil the child” already has one. The characters aren’t hard to understand, but how they are sketched out quickly makes you want to use your thieving skills for good. In the same way, the story goes in a predictable direction. However, like a familiar track in a racing game, The Big Con has a lot of colour along a path that has been travelled before.
Ali can also help people in optional side quests, often the same people she just robbed. The world of The Big Con is colourful, beautiful, and fun to explore, so these detours, which are often just simple fetch quests, work. The quests themselves aren’t unique, but they give you a reason to explore more of each level and talk to more people. Nearly every level has a concealed PIN or padlock with a number code. I didn’t find everything at any level. Therefore I may play it again to locate what I missed. These items aren’t necessary, but they made me want to explore each level, which I was glad about because each location had individuals to talk to and hidden money to locate. You can keep exploring or tell Ted to leave when you have enough money. I enjoyed being able to choose section length. You can lengthen or shorten each part.
In the end, though, The Big Con is all about its story, which primarily works despite the feeling that it has been told before. There aren’t many things in this game that you haven’t seen before. This makes the last few hours feel like expected pieces are falling into place, but the game has enough energy and style to keep it together. The writing isn’t very funny or clever, but the art style and story idea give it enough personality that I still had fun with it for most of the six hours I spent with it.
The Big Con is a nice trip down memory lane. Cassette tapes still need to be rewound, MTV still plays music videos, and the busy shopping mall is an excellent example of how much Americans spend.