Lina is on her way to the big city. She wants to reconnect with her best friend and continue building her business. However, quicky her friend disappears and things get frantic for Lina as she tries to juggle her passengers and the dangerous world of Neo Cab around her.
Neo Cab is a narrative adventure game where you take on the role of Lina, an Uber-style driver who owns her own business in a neon near future called Los Ojos where human drivers are held with some scepticism. Tech giants are out there trying to eradicate human drivers seen as a danger by some in society.
The main mechanic in the game is picking up passengers, talking to them and learning about their stories before dropping them off again for a little money and trying to keep your rating above 4 stars. The life of a modern-day cab driver. Passengers won’t make it easy for you – I had one guy who got in the Neo Cab drunk, was immediately sick in the back of the cab and then refused to acknowledge it even happened. He blamed the previous passenger and spent the entire ride debating its existence. To top things off he gave me 1 star! The cheek.
Technology is front and centre in Neo Cab as it tells the story of a future we’re not too far away from ourselves. Early in the game our best friend Savvy gives us a gift that tells everyone our mood in a glowing colour – all in the name of openness and transparency. Red means your angry, blue means sad, green means chill and yellow means positive.
Throughout the game you have to manage your mood, making sure you’re not on the extreme of the scale. Get too tired, or hungry then your mood is likely to swing to the extreme and this will affect your interaction with passengers. As well as giving a visual representation of how Lina is feeling, this can also disable some options when talking to passengers. It’s a nice mechanic in the game and the colourful artwork that goes along with it fits into the Neon world well.
Capra is the big back technology company in the game simulating Amazon/Google/Facebook in the real world. You’ll have political and social debates with passengers, but don’t push it too far as your star rating will be negatively affected. The story of the big evil corporation isn’t a new one, but this feels close to reality her and asks us to consider the relationship we have with technology and perhaps what the outcomes will be if we trust a single entity with our data the way we do now. Much like TV shows and movies that have explored the same space, Neo Cab offers us a glimpse into the near future… do we like what we see?
Neo Cab tries to cover a lot of topics throughout the relatively short game. The gig economy, capitalism, consumerism, conservation are all covered but it felt like the subjects were skim read rather than covered in depth.
The graphics and sound in the game are very good painting a picture of a near-future that doesn’t seem too far away. Somewhere between Fifth Element and Blade Runner bathed in pinks, purples and blues the world of Neo Cab comes to life in a gorgeous way. The writing is thought-provoking and compliments are art style and audio in painting a world that these characters inhabit. It’s a well put together package that invites you in and grabs hold immediately.
In summary, Neo Cab is a fun adventure and is a nice take on the narrative mystery adventure game. The topics covered in the game feel relevant and fresh, without feeling too far fetched to feel irrelevant. The writers could have perhaps chosen to go in-depth on a topic rather than rush through many, however, the game is worth checking out and is a nice indie surprise.
Developer: Chance Agency
Platform: Nintendo Switch, macOS, iOS, tvOS, iPadOS, Windows 10
Release Date: October 3rd 2019