Review by Relle

"Hey, there's a pedestrian walking on MY sidewalk!"

I can't even count how I've put into Crazy Taxi. Seeing as the clock counts down instead of up, it makes accurate timekeeping difficult. The only thing I remember is sitting down to play a game and when I woke up, George Bush was president. You gotta take some bad with the good, I guess.

Crazy Taxi runs on a very simple premise: you drive a cab. You pick up passengers. You take them to their destinations before time runs out. If you do a good job, you get a little bonus.

Oh yes, did I mention that to accomplish this, you drive off-road, swirve into oncoming traffic, smash up tables and chairs, drive on the sidewalk, take a trip into the sea, and leap off ramps, all in an effort to reach the destination in the craziest and most dangerous way possible? I'm sure I did.

That's the real draw of this game. It has no rules besides the most basic laws of cabdriving: get a fare, get them to where they want to go. That's it. The rest is just a distraction. Like the fifteen cars on the freeway all coming toward you. A distraction. The signal lights and stop signs. A distraction. The pedestrians who think they can walk on the sidewalk like some kind of sidewalkers. Distractions. And road paste.

It's all very simple. You drive into a colored circle that indicates a hailing fare. You stop, they get in, you zoom off into the sunset, all the while crushing the neighbor's cat under your wheels. The distance a fare wants to go is indicated in the color of their circle: red for nearby drop-off points, yellow for medium distance, and green circles indicate someone who typically want to go across town.

Quite possibly my favorite part of this game, and the reason I put so much time into it, are the various jump opportunities. The city maps were mainly modeled after San Francisco, so you not only have an indestructable, unstoppable, and very fast taxi at your disposal, but a number of high hills, jump points, ramps and other paraphenalia that will give you more air than Michael. It is nothing less than thrilling to speed head-on toward a raised bridge that angles off in such a way that no ordinary car could jump it...but you can. And as you sail through the air and come crashing down in the marketplace below, the only thing on your mind will be, "I wanna do it again!" Time permitting, you can, as much as you want.

To be honest, this may get old for some people. I, on the other hand, enjoy repetitive activities as long as they're enjoyable. Which fully explains why I still play this game. Well, that and I can't beat my high score from three years ago. Maybe I'm getting slow in the thumbs...

So you're driving along, delivering fares, performing stunts that would get you arrested and possibly hanged in some states, and all the while there comes a pulse-pounding beat by Offspring from your speakers. It's one of the better soundtracks I've heard and fits the game like a glove. The downside? Low track count, extremely repetitive if you happen to have been playing for a long stretch of time. Still, it does give an extra bit of oomph to the game that would have otherwise been missed.

Now, because this game focuses on insane driving and pure speed, you are, of course, rewarded for off-the-wall activities. The crazier you drive, the higher the tip from your fare will grow. It's a simple matter of launching off ramps and getting good air, or swerving into traffic and missing other cars by inches or less. More dough is dished out for taking on the oncoming traffic and finding that tiny space between two incoming semi trucks that can accomodate your cab. The more near-misses you accomplish, the more tips you receive and the higher your bankroll grows.

In total, there are two maps to drive, explore and otherwise destroy in your quest for the almighty dollar. While that may not sound like much, getting used to the maps and finding the best route to take for the various fares is a challenge in and of itself. The first map is actually rather circular, and the right set of fares can take you in a loop from the starting point and back again. Or, depending again on the fares picked up, you may just tool around in a certain area, going back and forth between pick-ups and drop-off points.

The second map is less of a loop and more of a test of nerves. There are more high hills in the second map, which is also home to the raised bridge I love so much. Screw the fares, I want to jump that bastard! Anyway, it's all very well detailed, giving off a sense of what the now and sadly defunct Dreamcast was capable of. Real-world shops appear in the game's locales, including Pizza Hut, KFC, and other real franchises that have been transferred over to video game form. It's a nice touch to hear your passenger scream as you barrel down the street past Original Levi's.

There's some pop-up that can occur when you're speeding through the city streets faster than the game is usually able to handle, but it's of an acceptable level (meaning it doesn't happen so frequently or so horribly that the game becomes unplayable). There is a rare moment when traffic can suddenly appear out of nowhere and screw you out of a long chain of near-misses, but again, it's infrequent and not game-breaking.

Outside of the main game modes there are a series of challenges called the Crazy Box. They start out as simple tutorials to introduce you to the game's mechanics, then get into tests of skill taking place in off-the-wall situations, from getting 30 near-misses in oncoming traffic to using your cab as a bowling ball to net a strike off of giant bowling pins. These little games won't take many tries to beat (well, some might give you reason to break the game disc into little bitty pieces) but they, like the main game, keep score, so if you're a fan of breaking your own record just for the sake of doing so, they can keep you busy for a while.

Even years after the Dreamcast has gone the way of Sega's stake in the gaming hardware industry, the old DC's games continue to impress in terms of originality and sheer fun factor. It's always a great surprise to find such a game that takes a simple premise and turns it into something amazing. It started with the first platformer's relatively uncomplicated idea of getting from point A to point B and has since evolved into a more involved form of gaming. Thus, it's always a treat to go back to a time when games were simple, fun and engaging, without the need for extras or online multiplayer. So hearken back to a time of simplicity, and enjoy a game of Crazy Taxi.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/29/04

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