Review by Popcorn
"Fast, yellow and quite, quite mad"
Ah, the life of a taxi driver; strategically joining impossibly large queues en route to your customer’s proposed destination, perennially chewing on near microscopically-sized cigarette stubs, and mumbling seemingly endless lines of random small talk at your passenger until they grudgingly unload their hastily-constructed replies in an effort to make you just shut the hell up. Surely it was only a matter of time— and not, say, insanity— before some bright spark decided to make a game out of it.
Crazy Taxi is the result. Thanks to some ray of godly light, however, gameplay does not entail driving around traffic-packed capital cities in a smoke-filled cab of stereotypical proportions. Instead, it features a lot of speed, a lot of black and yellow chequers, and a noticeable lack of traffic jams. Crazy Taxi is your average taxi running on uranium.
The idea behind Taxi, like— as the game reviewing cliché goes— all good arcade games, is a simple one. As one of four drivers, each with their own unique taxi, your goal is to first seek out a customer, take them to a certain point within the city, and then drop them off, whereupon you’re paid. This must be completed within a certain amount of time—i.e., before your client becomes impatient with your sloth-like services and jumps out of the taxi with a cry of ‘You suck!’.
It’s the space inbetween points A and B that makes CT such an amazing game to play. The smaller the amount of time your customer spends travelling between points, the more time can be used for serving other customers— thus making the use of shortcuts essential for achieving the bags of cash you so badly desire. You’re also awarded tips for pulling off certain impressive manoeuvres, like jumping off a raised piece of road or narrowly escaping collision with another vehicle. Combos can also be achieved by executing multiple stunts without crashing.
It’s never difficult to find another customer in the chaos, as they come thick and varied. All of them are amusingly portrayed, with the priest congratulating a job well done with ‘you’re one hell of a driver!’ and old women beating you with a handbag should you perform unsatisfactorily. Your driver even replies with his or her own witty repartee, such as, er, ‘yeah, yeah, I’m going!’ or ‘shut up and let me drive!’— or, when congratulated, with ‘I can do better’. Once a customer has been acquired, a directional arrow appears over your vehicle, pointing you down the streets needed to be traversed in order to complete the journey. In effect, it acts as an in-game navigator.
It’s in the levels themselves that Crazy Taxi takes most of its pride. Both cities— that is, the original arcade offering and the all-new home-only one— are exquisitely designed, and really do give the impression of being living, breathing places. This is entirely down to the impossibly large number of nice touches that the designers have seen it fit to add: fully-functioning tram, train and subway services (whose tracks can be shared by plucky cabbies), the appearance of well-known shops and restaurants like Pizza Hut and KFC, and sprawling spaghetti junctions filled with amazingly modelled traffic— complete, of course, with hovering police helicopters and massive articulated lorries— all add up to form increasingly impressive play areas which really will take weeks of play to explore.
The other method of play featured in Taxi is the hellishly teasing Crazy Box mode, the gaming equivalent of a demon temptress. You’re presented with a collection of mini game-style challenges, which range from driving at high speeds off ski ramps and delivering passengers through heavy traffic, to the harder missions like Crazy Bowling and Crazy Zig Zag, the later of which asks you to navigate a fiendishly-constructed, fenceless, Z-shaped pier within a time limit and without falling into the sea. The thing with these challenges is the feeling of confidence they manage to cast over you— oh yes, you start off thinking you’re going to do it this time, and then you’re dumped into the water with a horribly mocking splash. And then you have another go, because you’ll do it next time. It’s great.
But, in contrast, there are problems with Crazy Taxi. The biggest of these concerns the erratic nature of the second city’s directional arrow— unlike its brother, during travel it points you through buildings rather than down the next turn-off. This works in the overhead-viewed world Grand Theft Auto but not in 3D, because you can’t see what’s directly behind and in front of you, and what’s on the other side of buildings. The original city’s arrow works so well by pointing you in the right direction but also allowing you to make your own shortcuts— without stopping the game’s natural flow, but leaving ample room for skill and tactics to be employed. In the original city, however, this system is shattered, leaving in its place what would be better described as an ‘expert’ mode. In any case, the only way to see success in the harsh world of the all-new city is to learn its layout by heart. You can’t help but feel that it would have made more sense to include the arrow’s incompetence in a harder mode, rather than forcing the player to accept it.
The second mild problem in CT is over some of the customer positioning— sometimes you’ll find yourself dropping off a customer, picking up another one, taking them back to the original customer’s starting location, and then on and on until you realise you’re simply looping a short circuit repeatedly. This, unfortunately, can halt the game’s ‘rhythm’, something which Taxi owes much of its endless fun to. My third and final worry concerns its soundtrack. While I happen to be a huge fan of The Offspring, who provide music along with the incredibly similar-sounding Bad Religion, I know that a lot of people aren’t, and the fairly limited selection of tracks played will probably start to grate for some. Still, fans will have a lot of like here.
Despite all this, Crazy Taxi is 100% good, honest fun, and you won’t find anything else like it. This is Sega at its coin-operated best.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/02/01, Updated 09/02/01
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