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PSP  header logo

The Con

For: PSP

Don't bet everything on it

Product: The Con | Developer: Think & Feel Inc | Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive | Format: PSP | Genre: Fighting | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), sharing one cartridge | Version: Europe
 
The Con PSP, thumbnail 1
Like bread and butter, money and fighting have a relationship that goes back a very long way. Far further back than video games and beat-'em-ups, as it happens. And it's something that clearly hasn't escaped developer Think & Feel because it's combined the two in The Con. In a genre that has traditionally evolved with the speed of a wounded mollusc, this innovation is as jarring a wake-up call as using a defibrillator for an alarm clock.

The Con's core premise, then, is to marry a gambling system with a fighting dynamic, the former of which is easily the game's strongest point. Not least because the betting allows for an impressive amount of flexibility (or conning, if the clue in the title wasn't quite obvious enough). Aside from putting some money where your mouth is, you can set a delay that your runner has to observe before placing your bet, and during this time you can then stage a comeback con – pressing L leans your fighter into your opponent's blows as well as pulling your punches, both of which contribute to pumping the bets' odds in your favour by making it look like you're going to lose.

You have to be careful not to overdo it – the crowd isn't composed of fools – but you can judge how convincing your act is thanks to a gauge, and fight back accordingly should it look like you're facing a communal beating after the fight. And, of course, the moment your bet is in at the inflated odds, it's time to unleash hell on your competitor anyway.

This, along with the ability to 'take a dive' to further boost your income, adds a level of strategy not typically found in brawlers, but also introduces risk and unpredictability, which enhances tension and your sense of engagement.

Further complexity is introduced in the form of a fighting crew whose stat progress must be managed (in between fights it's crucial to balance rest, training and hospitalisation in order to maximise their performance), as well as a shop offering the usual selection of items, some of which enhance a fighter's ability as well as their aesthetic credentials.

In terms of substance, then, it's difficult to criticise The Con.

And you wouldn't want to, not when picking the game's fight model apart is far easier, unfortunately. While various combat styles are offered by the various characters (and additional moves are unlocked as you progress through the game), in practice this does not hide the simplicity and limitations of the system employed. Soon enough every new bout feels no different from the last, the mechanical nature of the kicks, punches and throws seriously affecting the game's long-term appeal.

A shame too that an opportunity for some diversity was missed by not including a playable form of the training mode – it wouldn't have improved the combat, true, but it's the kind of little touch that could have helped lift the entire production.

Granted, there's more to this game than just the Story mode, but when the other offerings – namely Arcade, Time Attack and Survival, or even the ad hoc multiplayer and gamesharing options – all focus on the combat aspect and therefore the game's fundamental flaw, it's a blow The Con finds it almost impossible to get up from.

That's not to say you can't expect some enjoyment from Think & Feel's game, just that it won't last as long as you would want it to, or indeed as long as it deserves to given the robustness of the betting dynamic. If partnered up to a similarly strong fighting system, this would have made one hell of a union. Perhaps an against-the-odds sequel will do just that.
 
The Con
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 30 March 2007
The gambling introduces a fresh and very welcome dynamic to the beat-'em-up genre, but such innovation is dealt a low blow by a mediocre fighting engine
 
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