Cabby from Hidden Games is the iPhone game breed between Crazy Taxi and Atari's arcade Lunar Lander, that will remind you of the 90's Air Taxi. In this game, you are a taxi driver in a future where cars fly. As in every moon lander game, you've got limited fuel, landings can be tricky and the cab company counts with your skills to complete your shift without crashing your car.
Cabby has no tutorial and nobody needs it. This game concept has been used so many times that it is hardy going to surprise you. Fans of the genre like me, will be happy to discover that Cabby doesn't disappoint, making a solid entry in the App Store.
Game controls are easy to pick up and learn how the car reacts to different thrusts. The user can control the right/left with the left thumb and up/down with the right one. There is a button as well to release the landing gear to protect the car when touching the ground. The difference with the rest of the moonlanders is here you have to transport passengers from one place to another, instead of simply collecting them. Small icons will indicate where the passengers are waiting to be picked up and they will mark the stop they wish to go.
The game plays very smooth and it is easy to work out strategies to use less fuel. With practice I learned that one must be extremely careful with the obstacles, a simple touch against a wall or landing too abruptly will make your car explode… and the passenger and driver will fly away! The landing platforms are not always very big, and some of the cars will fit only by inches.
The graphical aspect is definitely a hit. Hidden Games has decided to go for a 8 bit pixel look, that is increasingly becoming popular in the App Store. You only need to see the success of Hook Champ or the upcoming Depict. This pixel art is used in game menus, in game controls and menubars and some details in the game. Cabby also sports 3D scenarios and vehicles that mixed with smart zoom effects brings this game to life. I dare to say that the scenarios are crafted to the level of Rolando 2. They actually remind me a lot of those, since some of the missions are set in a fantasy world with narrow tunnels, under water navigation and of course, some levels on a spaceship (not in the moon though!). The last levels combine all three gravity settings (air, water and low gravity space) and it can be challenging to control the changes. The length of the game is fair, and I was pleased to see that I finished all the levels, since some couldn't get much harder. I counted nine taxi stops in one!
Standard vehicles are a futuristic take on traditional New York taxi and London Black cab. The result feels to me like driving a Blade Runner spinner. I have only managed to unlock the Lond Botus "Exotic vehicle", similar to what you know as a Delorean from Back to the Future. I've seen in the iTunes screenshots an A Team van, and I'm really curious to see what other cars are there to unlock.
There are two game modes: Arcade, to aim for the highest score. Career to earn cash and unlock the goodies. You can choose to play 9 tracks, that are shorter than the game and can be repetitive. I'm waiting for some iPod integration of simply the possibility of playing my own music on the background. The game effects, mainly customers talking to you, can get repetitive as well. When I drove the black cab, customers would call me "mate" the English way, which I found fun. Some female voices are rather spooky.
I have the feeling that Cabby devs have tried hard with the controls, but perhaps making a sleek interface, they've ended up with tiny control buttons. It annoying at first, but then I got used to it and it is perfectly playable and enjoyable. I have noticed that sometimes controls with right and left thumb won't register at the same time. This is you can't thrust up and forward simultaneously. This must be a bug and went back to normal relaunching the app.
I got the sensation that Cabby could give more background information or plot, since they have created a cool pixelated future, they could add some story to the game experience. I am missing as well some integration with iPhone social networks, and could be a good addition in a future update. The icon is correct but there is much room for originality and improvement.
Cabby has some small flaws but gets my highest recommendation for any iPhone retro gamer. I honestly think that Cabby could be priced higher and at 59p/1$ it should be yours. If you think the controls might not be for you, you get the Lite version that has a lot of replay value itself and it includes my favorite city level.
UPDATED with a screenshot gallery here