Review – Neo Cab

One of my favorite things about indie games is the amount of diversity and variety between titles and genres. Naturally, certain themes may overlap a bit from time to time, but for the most part, this is the realm in which developers can truly express themselves artistically. That being said, I am a bit surprised that 2019 has graced us not one, but two interactive, investigative taxi-themed titles. The first is Night Call from MonkeyMoon, which is a noire crime drama set in Paris. Despite its dark and quirky experience, it still felt lacking in substance. Now we have Neo Cab from Chance Agency and Fellow Traveller, which provides a similar concept with a wildly different look and feel.

Set in a seemingly not-so-distant dystopian future, Neo Cab focuses on Lina, one of the last remaining human taxi drivers. Her journey starts as she moves from her home in Cactus Flats to the bright automation metropolis, Los Ojos. Lina is eager to move in with her long-time friend, Savy, with whom she had a falling out with a while back. The plan quickly falls apart as Savy blows her off for the evening and then disappears all together. Stranded in the dazzling yet unfamiliar city of Los Ojos, Lina must survive by taking fares (called paxes), finding places to sleep, and keeping her star rating high, all while investigating leads as to what happened to her friend.

Neo Cab

Lina keeps a diary like a twelve year old girl.

Los Ojos is home to a number of interesting people, which Lina will have the chance to interact with as she drives them around the city. This is probably the biggest difference between Neo Cab and Night Call. While Night Call has a lot of moody or weird people you meet along the way and talk to, their overall interactions typically have little to do with the overarching murder investigations. It seems like they are more just random encounters for the sake of being zany. This leads to much of the game feeling like unnecessary filler.

Neo Cab on the other hand, still features many bizarre people and conversations, but each of these interactions seem to have a point. Los Ojos is an almost fully automated city, which is about to pass a new bill called Sophie’s Law. This law will make it illegal for humans to operate vehicles. Naturally, this idea has Lina very concerned as this would put her out of a job. This issue has many of the citizens of Los Ojos divided. Some agree with the law and feel that humans are too unpredictable, while others feel that large corporations are trying to crush our last bit of humanity. It’s a scary thought and one that is becoming a potential reality in our lives, which makes the whole underlying narrative of Neo Cab even more engrossing.

Neo Cab

What seems to be the problem, Mr. Roboto?

In addition to driving around and picking up paxes, Lina must be aware of her vehicle’s energy supply, amount of money, and her star rating. If she slips below a four star rating for too long, the game is over. If she runs out of money or power for her car, the game ends. Luckily, I found it next to impossible to fail at any of these, even when I tried to do so out of curiosity. It does add to a more genuine experience though.

There is another interesting gameplay mechanic in Neo Cab: the Feelgrid. The Feelgrid is a bracelet styled device that changes colors depending on Lina’s mood. She gets this from Savy at the beginning of the game in order to keep Lina more honest about how she is feeling. This can directly affect the way Lina interacts with her customers. Certain dialogue options will be made available or unavailable depending on Lina’s mood, so answering questions that each pax throws at her becomes very strategic. This keeps each engagement even more compelling.

Neo Cab

They’ve upgraded from mood rings to mood bracelets.

There are also several different endings in Neo Cab, which I was not aware of at first. In my first playthrough I got what I can only assume is the “bad” ending. It makes a great point and left me feeling letdown, which is the intention of the developers. So I went back and played through the game again. This time I interacted with other characters I hadn’t gotten to previously and made different choices. In doing so, I was rewarded with what is most likely the “good” ending, which left me feeling much more satisfied. I have to give them credit for creating a game with such great replayability. I really didn’t think there would be that much to this small indie game.

The visuals are beautiful in Neo Cab. The whole game has a cyberpunk style and cel-shaded look that fits the setting and tone perfectly. The colorful lights and futuristic gadgets create a beautiful world that is trying to distract from the broken society and seedy underbelly of Los Ojos. The animations are a bit off-putting at first, as the facial expressions just sort of morph from one to another. You get use to it after a while, but it seems like a weird design choice. There’s no voice acting in Neo Cab, but the electronic musical score is a wonderful accompaniment to the different tones of the game.

Neo Cab

I wonder if this is how every cab driver feels.

I must say that even though I was already looking forward to playing Neo Cab, I was still pleasantly surprised with how deep and entertaining it is. The characters are rich and complex, and I had a wonderful time getting to know them and finding out what makes them tick. If you are interested in playing a psychological, investigative, taxi-themed thriller, then look no further than Neo Cab.

 

Graphics: 8.5

The stylish cyberpunk, cel-shaded look fits the whole feel of the game well, despite some strange morphing facial animations.

Gameplay: 8.0

While Neo Cab is mostly just clicking on different dialogue options, there is a lot of strategy involved in the decisions you make.

Sound: 8.0

No voice acting and very minimal sound effects, but the score is very well done.

Fun Factor: 8.0

I was surprised with how complex the characters are and how evocative the overall narrative is. There’s quite a bit of replayability in this game as well due to vastly different outcomes.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Neo Cab is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Neo Cab was provided by the publisher.

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