NOTE FROM LB: Having rediscovered video gaming (because I’ve ended up owning a gaming laptop that I love…and almost can afford), I fully intended to write a full review of the game Neo Cab, which is being released this week, and which without a doubt is the deepest, most subtle exploration of humanity and characterization I’ve ever encountered in a video game.
As luck would have it, however, Sam Machkovech of ArsTechnica.Com had already done it. So…here it is!
Neo Cab is the dystopian gig-economy Crazy Taxi we’ve always wanted
by Sam Machkovech
Before I go into how much I really like the new video game Neo Cab, I want to speak to the clever new way that some people can pay for and enjoy it.
Last month, I gave a nod to the video game Gears of War 5 as a no-brainer reason to throw a few bucks at Xbox Game Pass. Instead of paying $60 and going into the game with high expectations, you could jump into the XGP subscription service at a promotional rate, sample the variety of Gears 5 solo and online modes, and get out unscathed, if not quite entertained.
This comes to mind when I recommend Neo Cab as a perfect bonus for the new, $5/month Apple Arcade subscription service. Do you own an iOS device and want an awesome, not-too-long game that leans into the limits of a tablet or smartphone? Neo Cab is arguably the coolest game outside the subscription service’s premiere deluge of quick-burst, twitch-and-tap games, and its brief, genre-blurring impact is easier to suggest within a reasonably priced subscription.
The other option, a $15 standalone purchase, adds just enough friction to a universal recommendation. (It’s this version I tested, launching this week on Windows, Mac, and Nintendo Switch after an Apple Arcade exclusivity period.)
Though the game swims in incredible atmosphere and hinges on a cool premise—you’re a gig-economy taxi driver in a dystopian future, determined to uncover a mystery—this isn’t a steering-wheel drive through busy streets. Think of Neo Cab as “Emotional Conversation Taxi,” not the arcade classic Crazy Taxi. The result is one of the most unique and self-assured games of 2019, but its niche appeal is worth minding.
How many years in the future does Neo Cab take place? It’s not entirely clear. Some of its citizens’ faces are smothered in high-tech headsets, which generate “augmented reality” grids of data or cover people’s faces with “digital beauty filters.” (That seems a bit more futuristic than even a folding smartphone.) And the game’s dense, handsome cities resemble the neon-lined vistas of your favorite far-future sci-fi. Yet the populace of Los Ojos relies so heavily on smartphone apps and handing data over to massive corporations that its conversations could easily be copied and pasted from the year 2019….