Developer: Chance Agency
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Review Context: I’m generally a fan of the narrative-driven dialogue choice games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. I can also be drawn to games that try to intertwine real life issues into a gaming experience.
Date of Playthrough: September 30th
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy.
Neo Cab, developed by Chance Agency, is a game that was on my radar since it was revealed during E3 2018. At first glance it was just an interesting taxi game, but upon further inspection as more information was revealed, the plot of being a driver in a city faced with automation while trying to find a lost friend became a game concept I couldn’t pass up playing. Neo Cab centers around Lina, a driver in the the automated cyberpunk city of Los Ojos, who finds herself conflicted in the middle of a political conflict surrounding automation as she is one of the last human drivers.
This is a narrative-driven experience where you will have to pickup passengers as a Neo Cab employee, similarly to how Uber or Lyft operate in real life. You are tasked to maintain a high star rating to maintain employment, but your personal goal is to talk with passengers and try to find your missing friend. As you meet and pickup passengers with different genders and backgrounds, it’s your goal to to keep them engaged and happy enough to get that satisfying five star rating at the end of the ride and maybe get a lead on your missing friend. While this seems difficult in theory, you do have a special gadget called a “FeelGrid” that contains color indicators, which measures your emotional state that can also be seen by passengers. The FeelGrid is an integral part of the NeoCab experience, as each color can alter how a conversation with a passenger can play out. Another key conversational element of the game are the facial expressions of passengers. You can see the faces clearly change moods during the course of a conversation, which really helps make the passenger experience more authentic.
The interface within Neo Cab is actually very well done, as there are menu choices like a journal that will contain key notes from conversations, a map where you can select which passengers to pickup next, a log of recent passengers and their ratings of you, and your Capra Cash (currency). Aside from the conversational element of the game, the other part of the gameplay is picking the passenger, managing your Capra Cash, and also managing the charge of your car to keep going or refuel if needed. The game also features some texting where you can text individuals and make conversation choices within the text, which felt very well simulated due to the timing of the replies. While it’s great that you have all of these tools to use, I never felt challenged to the point that I was ever close to failing my star ratings or losing enough Capra Cash to continue. Although the game is touted as a survival game, it only feels like that within plot of Lina starting with nothing and not the actual gameplay due to the easy difficulty.
Where Neo Cab shines the most are the different passenger personalities and interactions, plus the continuing relationships Lina will build with various key passengers that contribute a lot to the story. While most of the dialogue in the game is well written and reads like a real conversation, the lack of voice overs is a downside that really could have livened up the experience to take the game to the next level, especially for a game like this. Neo Cab is likely going to be compared to Telltale games with the amount of dialogue choices you have, but Neo Cab felt much less like it was illusion of choice. That’s not to say illusion of choice is absent, as there were certain conversations that I felt I was funneled into a decision with few choices. On the plus side, my favorite passenger experience was with two passengers on a date, and let’s just say that was the most enjoyable one for me in terms of choice! I generally liked the soundtrack, although at times I felt it called for a more somber tune instead of the rapid uptempo tracks you are treated to most of the game. The conversations with passengers are generally a decent length, but it was a key conversation right near the end of the game that really brought the game down for me. The ending of the game features a conversation that was long-winded and felt like it was going in circles to get me to pick a certain answer. While I have that criticism of the ending, Chance Agency does a decent job of tying the most important parts of the automation storyline you are engaged in together by the end.
After finishing Neo Cab, I didn’t feel challenged, but it was a journey that featured characters from many different backgrounds and genders in a cyberpunk automated world that really did feel like a rich experience. The beautiful graphics certainly helped, as I was impressed by all of the character models and the driving animation, not to mention the graphics and camera work if you get pulled over by LOPD. The automation theme of the game is abundantly clear and presented in a realistic relatable way to really get you to think about the consequences of activist actions and laws. I can’t say Neo Cab is a game I feel totally compelled to play again, but the automated save system (ha!) in the game is actually really well done and makes it easy to go back and re-play certain parts. Neo Cab wont be for everyone, as the game length is on the shorter side (4-5 hours) for one playthrough, but I at least recommend trying out the free Steam demo and if you like it you can continue your progress if you decide to purchase it.
Similar Games Liked:
Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 (PC)