“Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom.” – George Orwell
Developer: Chance Agency
Released: 3rd October 2019
Price: £11.39 – £17.99
Platforms: PC, Mac, Switch, iOS
Available on: Steam, Humble, Nintendo, Apple Arcade
Engine: Unity and Ink
Neo Cab is an interactive fiction and emotional survival game. Players take on the role of Lina Romero, a rare human taxi driver in a world overcome by automation, as she embarks on a new life in the city of Los Ojos. With her friend and only lifeline suddenly missing, all she can do is drive, choose passengers (PAX) and how to engage with them. Lina must keep a perfect rating (and in turn her job), balance her emotional needs with the needs of her customers and listen to their stories whilst trying to understand her own.
Whilst Neo Cab is a visual novel, it utilises a range of gameplay mechanics such as resource management, maintaining ratings, earning ‘Capra Coin’ in addition to the vast array of meaningful choices to be made. The player must use the Neo Cab app to navigate the city and choose PAX to connect and converse with until reaching their destination, each has a different story to tell and may even help Lina along her own path and discover what happened to her friend.
When it comes to the PAX, wrong choices could cost Lina star rating, tips or even her job, making dialogue and action choices instrumental to the game experience. Frustratingly, there were a number of times where preferred options were either not present or unactionable due to Lina’s emotional state (indicated by wearable technology called a ‘Feelgrid’), or made unavailable due to the unclear repercussions of a previous choice. This felt wholly appropriate in some instances but outed the illusion of choice in others.
Narrative and Styling
Neo Cab is a tapestry of interconnected stories from a mix of characters including a quantum witch, an unorthodox doctor, and a photographer amongst the variety of abhorrence that make up some of the other NPCs. The stories and the game as a whole elude heavily to Big Brother and have themes of capitalism, corporate corruption, as well as identity, relationships and trust.
All the characters and their tales are eclectic and believable, with excellent writing that draws the player in emotionally. It is interesting to compare the emotions shown on Lina’s Feelgrid to those felt by the player during different encounters and quite indicative of how immersive and evocative the experience can be.
The game has a clean aesthetic with sharp lines and a colour palette dominated by shades of blue and purple dotted with contrasting reds and neon shades creating a strangely beautiful dystopian environment with a cyberpunk feel. There is no voice acting in Neo Cab but this does not impact the overall delivery too much due to the effective writing. The music is subtle and somewhat futuristic, it adds to the atmosphere without being overbearing in its repetition.
Overall, Neo Cab is a suspenseful narrative experience, harbouring intrigue through plot twists, unexpected stories and a refreshing mix of additional mechanics and game styles. The game will take around 5 hours to complete but boasts plenty of replayability with its different PAX options across the six days, as well as dialogue branches, action choices and achievements making it great value for money and very easy to recommend!
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Or for more dystopian gaming, take a look at our Pikuniku and Orwell reviews!