Review: Starbear: Taxi
An adorable little puzzler that’s great for short gameplay sessions.
Few videogame developers have an actual noticeable style in respect that you could see a screenshot and know who created it, even if you didn’t know the title. One studio that definitely does fall into this bracket is Funktronic Labs, with a bold cartoon aesthetic that almost comes straight out of 60s sci-fi. This was clearly seen in its first virtual reality (VR) title Cosmic Trip, and that same design ethos has made its way to VR experience number two, Starbear: Taxi, making for a loveable arcade puzzle experience.
With a cute little story about futuristic bears flying around in cars across a sci-fi city, Starbear: Taxi has that feel of cartoons like The Jetsons. It’s instantly simple and easy to jump straight into, only requiring one controller to pilot the taxi, using the trigger for thrust while tilting and twisting the controller operates the side to side and forwards/backwards movement.
If you’ve ever played titles like Crazy Taxi then you’ll know what to expect, you’ve got to pick up a fare and then drop them off to a designated location as quickly as possible. Each time you start the core game you’re given 60 seconds to make as many pickups and drop offs as possible, with each one adding a few extra seconds to the time. Due to the nature of Starbear: Taxi’s design if this was all that was offered it would get pretty repetitive and boring quite quickly. So to mix things up there are different fares available, standard point A to B, fares where you have to grab honey on route, or ones where you need to grab honeycomb whilst a massive swinging ball tries to alter your direction.
Whilst this is all occurring there are hazards to avoid just to make things difficult. Turrets will appear firing heat seeking rockets, while massive red spikey balls will spin around honey pots to make their collection that bit more difficult. Get hit by any of these and you’ll lose your fare and the points that it provides. As the main goal is to score as much as possible in the allotted time to get a leaderboard ranking.
As nice as Starbear: Taxi is to look at with detailed locations that you can lean right into, the gameplay is that frantic that you don’t really get time to appreciate it all. The control scheme seems relatively simple – and it is – but it’s also devilishly difficult to master. A slight twist or lean the wrong way and that little flying taxi just wants to shoot off into oblivion. Subtlety is the name of the game here, playing it over and over again to achieve those small accurate movements.
This isn’t a videogame that’s been designed for long gameplay sessions, in fact Funktronic Labs has designed it around drop in and out short durations. Alongside the main game there are two other modes to unlock if you score enough points. Challenge mode is essentially the same as the core experience with one change, you only have one life. While Bullet Hell does away with the taxi element, pitting you against an onslaught of projectiles. Both modes may offer a slight change to proceedings but they feel more tacked on rather than anything actually worthwhile.
Starbear: Taxi skirts a fine line quirky VR puzzler and short tech demo. Thankfully it leans more towards the former, offering an amusingly addictive experience that can actually draw you in for some time. It’s not on the same level as Cosmic Trip yet for those after a quick and simple time killer its ideal.