Neo Cab immediately caught my eye when it was first revealed in 2019. It’s a visual novel where players take on the role of Lina, who is a cab driver in a future where automated cars have become the norm. Besides driving customers to their destinations and having conversations with them along the way, you’re also in the midst of trying to solve the mystery behind your friend’s disappearance.
Thus far, I’m really liking what I’ve played. However, there’s one production quirk that I still find jarring every time I step into my car: the lack of voice acting.
Voice acting in visual novels is not a requirement. Most visual novels I have played don’t have it, including my all-time favourites in the Phoenix Wright series. Instead, they usually use some sort of beep or sound to denote when a person is talking.
What makes the lack of voice acting odd in is the fact that the game features a more cinematic presentation. From the multiple camera angles in use to the animating 3D characters, it looks like a game in the style of Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Life is Strange. When characters in those games talk, we hear their voices and their lips move in sync.
None of that happens in Neo Cab. Instead, users are treated to still lips and silence as the text fades into view. You don’t even hear any beeps or sounds to denote when a specific person is talking. All you hear is the background music.
I can take a good guess as to why the game behaves this way. It’s an indie game that probably doesn’t have the budget to afford full voice acting, especially considering how much dialogue the game has to offer. Nevertheless, seeing such a “lifelike” visual presentation without voice acting to match is incredibly jarring to experience.
In spite of this quirk, I’m really enjoying it. The dialogue between characters is fantastic and I’m very curious to see where this mystery takes us. However, I do feel like this production decision is going to be a deal-breaker for some. Pairing this type of graphical presentation but not having voice or any sort of sound to denote dialogue almost feels like the game is in an incomplete state while also pushing into uncanny valley territory. For the time being, I’m trying my best to look past the lack of voice acting in order to enjoy the experience that Neo Cab does offer.
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