Maybe I imagined it, but there seems to have been a bit of a thing about games noticing the economy in the past little while. Whether it’s bigger, open world games adding it in as an optional cash earner on the side, or smaller indies like Night Call calling upon you to balance not starving or losing your job with solving a murder. But my favourite example of what I’m deciding to describe as a craze is Neo Cab.
In Neo Cab you play as Lina, one of the last human cab drivers, arriving in a near-future city in the USA. Los Ojos is a sort of LA, sort of San Fran town, with the setting very close to being fully blown cyberpunk but not all the way there yet. It’s sort of nowpunk, I suppose, with the expected shady corporate mass surveillance plot ongoing.
There are loads of little touches and things you have to balance (money, the battery life of your car, your missing best mate, sleeping, and so on), and the people you drive around are a very interesting mix. If you pick them up over successive nights you learn more about them, unlock a bit more of their stories. A woman meeting an online paramour for the first time. Another staring down the barrel of divorce. A couple on a first date. Two tourists who’re convinced you are, in fact, a robot.
But my favourite bit is the Feelgrid system. You get a mood bracelet that doesn’t just change colour when you’re hot or cold – it actually does read your mood. White means you’re zen. Perfectly balanced. Blue is deep sadness. Red is anger. Yellow is a bit more playful. And your mood also locks off or opens up different dialogue options. Lina being angry might offer a sharp insult as an option, but lock off something more neutral or polite.
And there goes your star rating, eh?