Surely it’s not just me that goes through phases of obsession with a selective genre, medium – I don’t know – food even? Playing any of the Assassin’s Creed series gets me into the zone for ancient Egypt or Greek Mythology or even the Golden Age of Piracy, for example. A few months ago, I was into cyberpunk. Not because of the upcoming game with a title I forget, but t’were the likes of Katana Zero, Akane and Neuromancer by William Gibson. The latter was on sale, and no, it’s not a game (though one exists).
Perhaps it isn’t a phase and just an eye for something that piques my interest. I saw a trailer for a game called Neo Cab on the Nintendo eShop. Something appealed to me. I’m not sure what it was – most likely the narrative structure as it looked very much character-driven and dialogue lead. The download has been in my catalogue for a couple of weeks, so I decided to give it a go as I was clearing up my memory card space. No embarrassing internet history there, thank you very much.
Your first client is a photographer whom you meet in the desert. They are also heading into the city for work. Coincidently, he is doing work for the corporation Capra – Lina’s former employer. She was fired as they replaced all their drivers with automated bots. Lina clearly has some baggage with this, and no doubt this will play throughout the story as you encounter Capra on numerous occasions by the time you meet with Savy. Savy gives you a gift called a Feelgrid. It’s essentially a futuristic mood ring that displays your emotions in a range of four colours with varying intensity. In the red, and you’re raging – in the blue, and you need to take a break. This obviously is a decent plot device as the next passenger I picked up noted that she was ‘pressing my buttons’ as the wristband flashed red. Not good in the wrong hands, however…
You play Lina, a taxi driver who has reconnected with her best friend as the two have decided to make amends, following a heated falling out some time ago. The skinny is, Lina is moving into the city, Los Ojos, with the friend, Savy, and on the way will pick up some fares to fund the trip.
When in the cab, the viewpoint is that of Lina in the foreground, with her ride in the back. They verbally spar, and you have the option to select your response which will have an effect on both the direction of the conversation and your rating as a driver. At the end of each trip, passengers will give you a score out of 5 that is then registered under your profile. Lina is an employee of Neo Cab, and company policy is to get a ranking over 4. When you start, Lina has an average of 4.9. As she says in conversation, it only takes one person to have a bad day, which could effectively damage your livelihood.
It’s not that Neo Cab is fast-paced, but you don’t have to press any buttons for the dialogue to progress, though if you’re impatient, you can speed it up. The conversation is natural and at just the right pace. Still, should you have any distraction in the real world, forcing you to look away from the screen, you could potentially miss your cue. Additionally, there weren’t any opportune moments to save other than hitting + or putting the Switch to sleep. Sorry ol’ girl. Whether there is a save function later in the game or it’s autosaved, I don’t entirely know. Either way, you’re only interaction is to select the next fare or what you will say next. No getting out of the car or interacting outside of the vehicle that I can see thus far.
Visually, it’s gorgeous. Lina reacts according to her mood and the responses you select and is a really decent protagonist – so much so that I will be unlocking the game. There isn’t any spoken dialogue as it is all text. Still, it very well complemented by the nuanced animation and continuous score that appeals in this cyberpunk world. And cyberpunk it is, in every way. Here are the ingredients: a plate of neon, set in the future, an evil corporation (Capra), a group of rebels against the evil corporation (Radix), and of course the fashion sense metamorphosed with human and machine. It paints a fitting picture, and the way the story ended in the demo had me wanting more. The best way I can summarise it thus far is The Wolf Among Us, with a hint of The Red Strings Club. But only a little. Once I buy it and play it further, expect a full review.