Cartoonish, lovely time management game with an unusual heroine.
Remember that animation movie Cars by Pixar? Or this quirky and entertaining casual game Airport Mania? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, GabCab, a new time management game by Reflexive and quasi follow-up to Airport Mania, might be right up your ally. In a similar, charming style this game takes an amusing look at the taxi business, providing smiles, challenge, and a way above-average playtime.
In GabCab you are in control of Gabby, a good-natured taxi whose whole life consists of taking customers for a drive to their preferred. The game consists of 98 levels, separated into 8 different locations, such as Smallville, Ski City, Euro Town, or the Beach Resort. For each level the player is can earn up to four stars depending on the finished score, and new locations get unlocked by earning those stars. After finishing the 98 levels the player is even able to earn a fifth star for each level, which doubles the already impressive playtime. Admittedly, the levels do not really change during the second playthrough, so this feature will mainly appeal to perfectionists and very avid fans.
Gameplay basics are easy to learn and to explain. In each location Gabby will be faced with a different layout of buildings, for example a pizza parlor, a school, a cinema, an airport, or various shops. On a regular basis customers will pop up in these buildings with a thought bubble indicating where they want to be driven. Gabby’s task is now to pick up and deliver those customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
While driving you have to refill Gabby’s gas tank, postponing that task for too long results in an annoying manual refilling that costs time and patience of your customers. Customer types vary in patience and tipping. The Millionaire for example has a very low patience but tips highly, while Grandma neither minds to wait, nor tips that much. One of the many laugh-out-loud details is the Grease Monkey, who has a low patience and tips with gas.
To spice things up, GabCab features a great variety of purchasable upgrades and power-ups, that can also be sold again later on if needed. Power-ups can be purchased as often as you want to, but you are restricted in how many you can use per level. Turbo speed will make Gabby drive faster for a short while, and the Hot Spot power-up will double the tips at a building of your choice. Hilariously, the Advertisement power-up changes the favorite location of all customers for a set period of time. (Whether or not it works through hypnosis, the game doesn't explain!)
Upgrades include better gas tanks, seats, engines, and tires, as well as particularly quirky helpers. The shuttle will pick up customers to the airport, while the limo only cares for the transport of the Millionaire. The icing on the cake are improved tips-collectors, such as the magnet, that will simplify the otherwise increasingly cumbersome task to collect tips.
The graphics of GabCab are cute and cartoonish, and are very similar to those of Airport Mania. Quirky customers that are easy to distinguish in looks and behavior, as well as lovely details such as the Simplz Zoo and a Costume Chaos shop (nods to two past Reflexive games) as buildings only add to the game’s atmosphere. A large variety of awards and the numerous ratings you can reach in each level are motivating and welcome additions. All those aspects along with the number of levels, replayability, and convincing upgrades make up for a wonderful time management game.
In contrast to the automatic routing, helper cabs tend to get in your way and pick up customers that you might have other plans for too early. Fortunately that happens only rarely, so that it doesn't get too frustrating. Combined with the frantic use of power-ups in later stages, this could have been just plain annoying, but fortunately the developers thought of that and balanced things out by the addition of the magnet power-up, which at least makes collecting tips a manageable and automatic task.
Another word of advice: don't be turned off if the first couple of levels seem to drag. The challenge does pick up quickly.
GabCab is definitely an entertaining game, highly original, and proving how to make a real stand-out sequel. The game does not simply improve the experience of Airport Mania, it creates a totally new experience that still resembles the other game enough to satisfy older fans and newcomers. GabCab receives four stars and a recommendation from us, so enjoy the ride.
- Amazing replayability. Dozens of awards. Interesting integration of purchasable upgrades and power-ups that allows various strategies. The automatic routing works generally well. Adorable graphics.
- Helpers tend to get in your way. Using power-ups can be complicated at times. Rather slow pace at the beginning.