Game Description: Crazy Taxi is a mad race against the clock and traffic. As any of four fearless cabbies, players are driven by a single goal: to rack up megabucks in fares and tips before their shifts end. Drivers pick up passengers and take them to their destinations by any means possible. It's a comic cab opera of collisions and decisions, where courtesy takes a back seat to coin. Crazy Taxi offers all the enthralling features that made it a must-play arcade and console game, including four different cabs and drivers, each with his or her own style and attitude, two expansive and interactive courses for extensive gameplay, nine minigames to challenge various driving skills, true driving dynamics, wild, mission-based gameplay infused with humor, and a rockin' soundtrack by Offspring and Bad Religion.
Stunning advancements in computer technology have given todays videogame makers a near limitless palette with which to indulge their imaginations. Such a creative climate has given birth to entire digital worlds complete with communities and social classes played by thousands of individuals over the Internet (i.e. Ultima Online). In other worlds, emotionally complex characters play out epic stories of love and war with movie-like production values (i.e. Final Fantasy VIII). All in all, its a far cry from the humble beginnings of videogames in the 1980s when they were played mostly at dingy arcades and the games themselves were simplistic, two-dimensional activities more akin to a fast moving board game. In stark contrast to todays complex productions, those past games were usually played with a minimal one joystick and one button setup where striving for the highest score (which came with bragging rights in the form of 3-letter initials) was the main goal (until, of course, when the machine was shut down for closing time and, thus, erasing all the records). Yet, even with all the evolutions in gameplay and advancements in technology, games of the present arent always superior to games of yesteryear. Old-school games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders maintain a level of joy and elegance that many of todays games still fail to capture. Fortunately for us, Segas latest release, Crazy Taxi, is a game of today that manages to look cutting-edge on the outside and maintains that old-school elegance on the inside.
Originally a stand-alone arcade game designed to be played at amusement centers, the home translation of Crazy Taxi is meant to be a short, but wild ride through a fictional city that somewhat resembles San Francisco. As the title implies, the object of the game is to pick up passengers, cab them to their requested destinations, and make the most money in the process. The actual amount per fare is tallied according to total distance traveled. Bonus tips in the form of extra time and money is awarded depending on how speedy the trip was and the number of high-flying stunts were performed in the process. A clock that constantly counts down dictates the frantic pace of each game. The game is over when the counter reaches zero. The only thing that can prolong an inevitable finish is to constantly pick up passengers and deliver them to their destinations with flash and efficiency. Though each game is generally short (lasting anywhere from 1 minute to 15 minutes, depending on skill) the constant need to cab passengers results in a unrelenting pace from the beginning to end of each game. The level of delirious action is only furthered by the light-hearted physics present in the game where speed is only minimally effected by gravity and head-on collisions with other cars will barely slow a player down. Like I was saying earlier, there isnt any real goal or ending in Crazy Taxi. The main idea is that continually performing well will keep the clock from reaching zero and make the most money possible during that time. Its a simple premise that is surprisingly addictive and fulfilling even after long-term play.
Credit the developers for creating a game that follows the old videogame adage of being "easy to pickup, but difficult to master." Crazy Taxi is a game that almost anyone can understand and enjoy thoroughly even after a couple minutes of play only. By utilizing glaring visual cues that indicate fare pickups and destinations as well as a compass arrow that constantly navigates the player to the appropriate destinations, Crazy Taxi is user-friendly through good design. Even regardless of skill and driving technique, anyone who can basically guide the direction of the car and press down the accelerator button will find themselves embroiled in all the wild, high-flying jumps, devastating car crashes, and furious action in a matter of seconds. At the same time, theres always room for improvement when it comes to playing Crazy Taxi. The assistance arrow will give a general direction for a player to follow, but more intrepid drivers will memorize the lay of the land and discover shortcuts or their own preferred routes around town. The developers also did an incredible job of making sure the cars handle with relative ease on basic level, but also included advance techniques like drifting and j-stops into the fold for those who want to kick their performances up a notch. These aspects of the game ensure an extra level of depth for anyone willing to commit themselves further and improve their final score totals.
While the gameplay may takes an old school philosophy, the visual and audio presentation in Crazy Taxi is on the forefront of todays hottest games. Technically impressive, the cities that one drives through look and feel like a living one populated with rush hour traffic, scurrying pedestrians, and bustling centers of activity. All the more amazing is how thoroughly smooth the animation is, with draw-in and slow-down occurring only minimally in a few trouble spots. As for the visual style of Crazy Taxi, its like a cartoonish and offbeat interpretation of American pop-culture that melds a tough and in-your-face New York City driving attitude with a laid-back sunny Californian environment. Players drive through commercial landscapes filled with real corporate brand names like Levis, Fila, and Pizza Hut that also happen to make up a bulk of the requested destinations. A similarly eclectic mix of styles is extended toward the characters that populate the world of Crazy Taxi. Players are given a choice between four drivers, each with a unique car that handles differently from the others. The choices are: a grungy surfer dude named Axel, an off-court Dennis Rodman-looking guy named B.D. Joe, a sexy redhead named Gena, and a fuzzy and beer-bellied gentleman named Gus. The passengers you pick up will also run a wildly eclectic and absurd gambit of personalities that range from a reverend going to the church to a punk rocker looking for Tower Records.
The sound effects and musical tracks stylistically keeps with the kinetic flow of the game. Back seat passengers will vocally cheer during high-flying jumps and speedy arrivals. On the other side of the token, expect a verbal lashing from them when you crash into cars or arrive at a destination too slow. The background music is composed of several tracks (complete with vocals) from an underground-sounding alternative grunge band. There arent many diverse tracks, but the ones available are very appropriate. All in all, while the overall presentation is a hodgepodge of different styles (all of which are recognizably American), being that the name of the game is Crazy Taxi, such an irreverent blend is consistent and works.
If there are any complaints to be made about Crazy Taxi, its the general lack of options. There are basically only three modes of play. Arcade mode is a faithful recreation of the stand-alone version while Original mode offers a unique city that is exclusive to the home version. The gameplay remains identical in both modes and there are also options that allow you to play for a fixed number of minutes rather than with the standard counter. The third and remaining mode is Crazy Box. Not only does this mode serve as a tutorial for advanced techniques like drifting and j-stopping, they also serve as obstacle course-like mini-games by themselves. Each mini-game has different objectives to accomplish and records are tallied to be be broken later. On the whole, while sparse, each and every mode offers a satisfying play. Especially surprising was the addictiveness of the Crazy Box mode. Yet, in the end, I still wondered what a different kind of Adventure mode (that wasnt based on beating the clock and perhaps had more of a plot or structure) would have been like.
Outside of the lack of extensive modes, Crazy Taxi is still an amazing game that I am still hopelessly addicted to even as I complete this review. It stands as a firm reminder that less sometimes really is more, which is something that many of todays games could benefit to learn. Though Crazy Taxi manages to learn from the past and incorporates those older theories, it still presents itself as a visual and aural benchmark for the next-generation Dreamcast system. Crazy Taxi stands as an amazing fusion between old school gameplay and cutting-edge technology.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Dreamcast version of the game.
I totally agree with Chi that Crazy Taxi offers an excellent arcade experience. Few games released on the consoles (aside from other arcade ports and retro games) have captured the energy and style of play that I have loved ever since stepping into an arcade and standing before my first arcade cabinet. As soon as I played Crazy Taxi, I got a familiar adrenaline rush and asked myself "why aren't more games like this made?" That constitutes my 8.5 rating. What knocked the game down from a possible score of 10 is the arcade nature of the game, which as in most arcade ports, doesn't do much for the games replay value or depth. Crazy Taxi's short focused goals and time limits are great for getting patrons to shell out buckets of quarters in an arcade during their lunch break; but when it comes to a player sitting on his or her couch, more variety of play is expected to hold a players attention.
Crazy Taxi'sgo-anywhere and go-through-anything policy made for a wild ride the first couple of days; but even that got old after going through the same old locations in the San Francisco-esque city you start in. Granted that AM3 added another city in this Dreamcast port, that still only brings the total number of cities you can drive around in to a whopping 2 (and to be honest, the second one isnt all that different from the first). There is nothing more disheartening than finding yourself going back and forth to the same destinations over and over again. If I really tried hard, I could find a guy on a rooftop or someone at the beach who wanted to go somewhere new, but given the game's time constraints, looking for these people was not time well spent. In addition to the new city, AM3 threw in some training/mini-games called Crazy Boxes. These little diversions ranged from simple freewheeling games to much tougher obstacle courses meant to both hone my Crazy skills as well as extend the replay value of the game. Initially, it worked and I spent quite a bit of time away from the regular game mode trying to beat these mini-games. However, after a short while away from the game, I was jazzed about getting back to playing it, but when I picked it up again, it felt a lot more shallow. Aside from the repetitiveness of the cities themselves, the Crazy Boxes could all be beaten in an afternoon or two.
The biggest irony is that so much work went into making the game feel complete or, at the very least, fulfilling. In addition to securing the rights to KFC and Pizza Hut (among others), Sega got music from The Offspring and Bad Religion to add personality to Crazy Taxi. After one listen of the opening music track, I knew that it was a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, there are only three tracks to listen to and after a while, their repetitiveness is a bit annoying. I would also have appreciated a delay in the games release if they had added some sort of multiplayer mode to the game. It seems that all Dreamcast developers, Sega included, are ignorant to the fact that the Dreamcast comes with 4 controller ports. Hopefully, they will add such a mode to the sequel.
I hope these two paragraphs spent discussing the negatives of Crazy Taxi didn't mislead you because as I believe this is overall a great game. The graphics are excellent, the cars are excellent, and the cities (although there are only two) are very detailed and full of life and the music absolutely rocks. I just felt that the negatives were glossed over by Chi and I wanted to prepare people for some of the flaws they'll come across. As it stands, Crazy Taxi is a great game to pick up, but it's all about the gameplay and not about story or anything else of the kind. If you understand beforehand that you're playing an arcade port, then you should be fine. Here's to hoping that Sega makes a game like this (but with more depth) again in the future because even with its flaws, Crazy Taxiis one of the many reasons to pick up a Dreamcast.
Disclaimer:This review is based on the Dreamcast version of the game.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Mildly Animated Violence, Strong Language
There are a few troubling areas for parents to note. First is the somewhat disturbing language coming out of the mouths of some passengers. Many of the younger passengers will let out a few minor profanities here and there during the course of a spirited ride. Dont be surprised when you hear an old granny or reverend yelling "you suck" or "that was one helluva a ride" either. Secondly, while theres no blood and pedestrians cant be run over, the game does encourage a reckless sense of driving with total disregard for human life and property. The fast and furious action is all in good fun, but some may not agree. I leave that for the parent to decide.
Dreamcast owners looking for the next must-own hit of the system should not pass on Crazy Taxi. Its everything the media is hyping it up to be and more.
Time-constrained gamers constantly burdened with work or a busy social life will appreciate how quickly one can pick up the game and play through a couple of rounds without a huge commitment of time.
Driving simulator faithfuls should be warned that Crazy Taxi is not realistic by any means. The developers have lightened the physics incredibly in order to make speed consistent throughout the game. These sim fans are better off with titles like Sega Rally and Gran Turismo 2.
Conversely, fans of arcade-style racing games who arent concerned with realism and prefer titles like San Francisco Rush or Midtown Madness will love Crazy Taxi.