This review was originally created in June 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Following in the tradition of classics like Muse’s Space Taxi (1984) and Sega’s Crazy Taxi (1999), Starbear: Taxi takes the mundane task of conveying passengers from one destination to another for a fee and makes it fun. Like its predecessors, Starbear: Taxi accomplishes this feat by setting its action in an outrageous world with quirky passengers and crazy obstacles to overcome.
The time is 3064 A.D., and Starbear is fresh out of “hibearnation,” which is a nice way of saying unemployment. Starbear needs to deliver as many busy bears to their desired destinations as possible, all while avoiding whatever the pesky raccoon bandits – and rush hour traffic – throw at him. As you might expect from its title and this description, Starbear: Taxi doesn’t take itself too seriously. The bright visuals, funky animations, silly sound effects, bouncy music, and miniature environment all exude cuteness. Fortunately, there’s nothing cloying about this aesthetic. It’s just good, clean cartoon fun, reminiscent of a more juvenile take on the world of the Jetsons.
Interestingly, you don’t control Starbear directly. Instead, when seated or standing, you use one Vive controller like a remote control. Think of Starbear’s taxi like a little RC flying saucer. The main challenge here is using this control scheme to carefully move Starbear between each pickup and drop off point. Each passenger, who is tethered below the taxi and further affects its balance in the physics-based flight model, has their own requirement, be it something simple like going from point A to B, or picking up a series of honeypots.
As with a real world flying RC vehicle or low end drone, staying in control is easier said than done. The first several play sessions you’ll likely have difficulty just moving Starbear’s taxi to the Start portal to begin the game, let alone consistently pick up and move passengers. Fortunately, while practice can probably never make perfect here, you can definitely improve your score between each play session. And, as an extra scoring incentive, as you reach higher and higher point thresholds, you’ll be able to unlock more content.
Of course, the wily raccoon bandits who want to knock you out of the sky and take your earnings, as well as the natural environmental obstacles, also add significantly to the challenge even if you do get a good handle on the controls. Perhaps the most insidious challenge of them all, however, is the aggressive time limit. As you try and rise up the ranks of the leaderboards, running out of time will likely remain your most consistent adversary.
Starbear: Taxi is the kind of gaming experience that really shows off how fun a VR-first design can be, helping transform what could be a pedestrian concept into something magical. It really does feel like you’re remote controlling a little bear’s taxi in a miniature world that you’re overlooking. With its just one-more-try gameplay combined with the added incentive of seeing more of the crazy characters, quirky animations, and new ways to find your progress impeded, Starbear: Taxi makes for a must-try experience.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars.