Neo Cab is set in a neon stand-in for San Francisco and features one of the last human cab drivers as its protagonist. Its tale of trying to get by in an AI-driven world might have been a little heavy handed, but in truth, Neo Cab is so beautifully judged the satire never gets in the way of the people at the heart of the story.
And cabs are perfect for video game stories, all those short journeys packed with heightened social challenges. In Neo Cab, you’re not just one of the last human drivers out there, your humanity is accentuated by a bracelet you wear that gives everyone around you a clear sense of your mood.
This is the perfect little detail for a game about managing things – managing your cab and your electrical charge and your money, but also managing your professional life and your social life, as a newcomer to the big city with hopes of your own. And then there are the people you drive around, the stories you find yourself forced into the depths of, and the interactions you need to navigate to escape with a relatively happy client and a healthyish star rating. People ask things of cab drivers, and that bracelet you’re wearing gives away an unhelpful amount of information. Elegant writing picks at this again and again: can you do this job and stay true to yourself?
The presentation of Neo Cab is extremely chill, but the game itself, for me at least, is pure wincing panic. Every new passenger fills me with anxiety. Every tug on the main narrative charges me with a jolt of dread. Neo Cab takes you five minutes into the future, then, and the meter is running.