When I first saw a trailer for Neo Cab, I knew right away it was a game I wanted to review. A cyberpunk setting paired with synthwave music looked like my style of game. Not only is Neo Cab an awesome game to look at, but its incredible narrative and unique cast of characters make it an impressionable experience.
Neo Cab is an emotional adventure filled with prosperous character development and a captivating story. Its exposure of artificial intelligence presents a future that we may not be too far from today.
Neo Cab is available for purchase on the Nintendo eShop for $19.99.
Neo Cab starts off with your character, Lina, moving from the simple town of Cactus Flats to the bustling metropolis of Los Ojos. After going through a fallout with her longtime friend Savy, the two have reconnected and made the decision to move in together.
Shortly after arriving in town, Savy has gone missing. With no place to stay and little money in her pocket, Lina has no choice but to continue her job as a Neo Cab driver. As Lina sets out to find out more information on Savy’s disappearance, she meets several interesting passengers that shed some light on some of the political development that is happening in the city.
Los Ojos is a city of automation. There is a strong push towards driverless cars, which is a noticeable obstacle to Lina who literally makes a living driving people around. At the head of all the artificial intelligence is Capra, a company that strives to have complete control of Los Ojos. Lina encounters several citizens who embrace the ideologies pushed by Capra, as well as individuals who attempt to disrupt the large corporation. The interactions Lina had with her passengers was one of the biggest highlights of the game.
Each passenger you encounter is unique and original. Some passengers were merely inputted into the game to provide a break from some of the conflict Lina was going through, while others played vital roles in the game’s plot. My favorite part about picking up passengers was the anticipation of not knowing what kind of person you were about to interact with. It was entirely possible your next customer was going to be friendly and polite, or belligerent and difficult to talk to. Regardless of the topic, I was surprised by how consuming each conversation was. Neo Cab was such a joy to review for that reason. Even after putting down the game, I found myself pondering on the perspective the characters had on technology, relationships, and life in general.
The real peak of Neo Cab is how the story reflects true life. Today, technology seems to be advancing at an extraordinary rate. The topic of artificial intelligence is a real one and several people find themselves wrestling with skepticism or acceptance of a computerized society. Neo Cab borrows this real-world dilemma and displays how it could be taken to the extreme.
I was absolutely enthralled by Neo Cab’s story. Chance Agency did an excellent job at creating a captivating experience, while at the same time providing an unnerving social commentary.
Being a narrative-driven video game, Neo Cab’s gameplay consists primarily of choosing dialogue options. Each night starts off with Lina getting into a car and bringing up a map of Los Ojos. After you choose which patron you would like to pick up, Lina drives to their location and you’ll eventually find yourself engaging in rich conversation.
It should be noted that at no point do you get to drive in Neo Cab. Every input you make in the game is deciding what you want Lina to say. I appreciated the decision to leave gameplay to strictly conversing with the other characters. It allowed me to focus on Lina and really tap into her personality. I love a video game that connects me to the protagonist as much as possible.
Neo Cab is a game all about decisions. Each dialogue choice you choose could impact what happens in the game. Say the wrong thing and it may have consequences later on. It should be no surprise that Neo Cab has different endings depending on which path you took. I definitely believe I scored the best ending on my first playthrough. I enjoyed going back to see what other endings were available, but to some people, that might feel tedious.
Lina receives reviews as a Neo Cab driver. If your rating drops too low, you could be deactivated and barred from picking up customers. During conversations with passengers, I made a conscious effort to read their emotions so I wouldn’t accidentally say the wrong thing and get a poor Neo Cab ride review. This was sometimes difficult since Neo Cab does not have any voice acting. Deciphering one’s mood or inflection is difficult when it’s just text.
I did experience some annoyance with the driver rating score. Later in the game, you come across premium passengers that can only be picked up if you hold a five-star rating. Due to a poor interaction with a customer, I had my rating drop by a small margin. I didn’t worry too much since all you have to do is score a handful of five-star ride ratings and your overall score would make its way back up. Unfortunately on night four, I pulled up the map to see my only passenger available for pick up was a premium member. With no other passengers available, I was literally stuck from advancing any further. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate choice by the developers or a possible technical glitch. Regardless, I was quite irritated with having to access an earlier save state and make different decisions so I wouldn’t encounter the road block.
Early in the game, Lina receives a bracelet from Savy that can detect what kind of mood she is feeling. Think of it as a mood ring, but with a lot more colours and a lot more emotions to choose from. It takes the saying of “wearing your emotions on your sleeve” to a whole other meaning. The bracelet played a role in how you responded to the passengers. If the bracelet shined green, Lina was in a “good” mood and had an easier time engaging with other characters. If the bracelet turned blue or red, certain dialogue options would be restricted as they contrasted with how Lina was feeling. I was amused by the concept, but I felt Lina’s bracelet would change far too frequently. Lina is going through an emotional moment in her life, but the drastic mood swings seemed a bit frantic.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
The aesthetic of Neo Cab is best summarized as cyberpunk. It’s clearly a futuristic setting, filled with the design palette of the 80’s. Shades of blue, purple, and pink make up a lot of the characters clothes and that style seems to make its way onto the streets of Los Ojos. The developers made the decision to go for a more cel-shaded look for the characters and I believe it matches up well with the rest of the game’s design.
Throughout my entire playthrough, I only encountered one real technical issue. While Lina had her phone pulled up for a text exchange, the game came to a slow chug with frames dropping at a noticeable rate. After the scene concluded, the framerate jumped back to normal. I encountered similar types of scenes that had no problem staying at a steady frame rate, so I’m not entirely sure why this bug popped up when it did. I didn’t let this technical fallacy impact my review score for Neo Cab since it is entirely possible other players won’t come across it.
While driving around the city, sometimes the camera will pan to shots of the streets and buildings. I did notice a bit of draw distance issues, with certain objects and structures popping in and out. That being said, it is such a small blemish that I believe most people wouldn’t even notice it.
Like so many other aspects of the game, Neo Cab’s sound design is mesmerizing. As a big fan of lo-fi beats, playing Neo Cab was almost therapeutic. I absolutely loved the sound of synth noises, backed up with electronic music. The background music also accurately matched what was occurring in the game. If there was ever tension for Lina, the music would pick up in pace to show rising conflict.