Review by discoinferno84

"I left my heart in San Francisco..."

I was looking through a bargain bin at a local store a few weeks ago. Nothing looked promising, just a bunch of obscure games from the various systems. But then I noticed a bright yellow game case with the infamous “Player’s Choice” presented at the top. I shrugged and decided to give Crazy Taxi a chance. This game was condemned to a bargain bin because of a few problems, but Crazy Taxi is still an easy and fun game.

Crazy Taxi has no epic storytelling, brilliant cut scenes, or memorable characters. But with a game like this, those elements aren’t really needed. Crazy Taxi is no Grand Theft Auto. As the title suggests, you are a taxi driver. Your goal is to pick up customers, navigate through the busy city streets, drop the customers off and collect your pay. It’s that simple.

At least, it sounds simple. You are given the choice of four cab drivers, each with their own persona, taxi and minimal background story. But the choice of driver does not affect the gameplay; it’s really just a matter of your gaming preferences. You must maneuver the taxi along the huge city setting, picking up various customers along the way. You’re immediately thrust into the urban environment, with a clock ticking down your playtime. Luckily, the controls are easy to pick up for a beginner. The controls reflect the basics of vehicular transportation; brakes, acceleration, reverse and drive gears. The only problem I have is the lacking control. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with too many F-Zero GX sessions, but I found the controls of Crazy Taxi to be just a tad slippery. You change the direction of the vehicle via the control stick, but it takes some effort to make the taxi make an accurate turn. Fortunately, the accelerator and brakes work efficiently. With practice, you’ll be able to stop the taxi on a dime.

You can always spend your time just cruising the city streets, but your objective is to pick up dozens of pedestrians and get them to their destination as fast as possibly, thereby earning you more cash and playtime. The customers will be loitering around the various roads, with a large colored circle surrounding their area. You have to drive into the circled area in order for the customer to walk up to the car and get in. The problem is that if you’re going too fast or don’t brake in time, you’ll go flying past your prospective customer. Then you’ll have to spend precious seconds backing up and getting the passenger. It boils down to practicing your braking technique.

Once you’ve established contact, your passenger will yell out their destination. If you can’t understand what they’re saying, don’t worry. A bright green arrow will appear at the top of the screen to point you in the direction of the goal. The real issue is getting to that goal in a shortest amount of time possible. You’re navigating through the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco, one of the worst traffic spots around. However, your taxi seems to be invincible. You can literally mow down car after car as you make your way down the street. While this is appealing, it can still slow your progress considerably. You’re rewarded for your maneuvering skills and handling ability. You get tips for jumping down the hilly streets of San Francisco, narrowly missing other cars, and using your taxi’s acceleration to its fullest extent. In order to get rid of their customer, you need to drive to the destination highlighted in green light. Once you’ve successfully gotten to the destination, the customer will give you cash as well as bonus time depending on your performance.

There is a problem with this overall game setup, though. While you have dozens of customers eagerly awaiting your arrival, their destinations are always the same. After you’ve picked up the first customer and delivered them to the cable car junction a few times, the trip starts to get old. You’ll move onto the next customer until you’ve memorized their destination route as well, and then you’ll move onto the next. Eventually, you’ll have played these routes so much that you’ll know them like the back of your hand. However, standing in your path are dozens of vehicles trying to impede your progress. While you may be taking the same customer to the same place every time, the sheer number of obstacles allow for hours of driving practice. Once you’ve memorized your transportation route, your only initiative is to beat your top earning scores.

Fortunately, this game features the Crazy Box, a series of fun and addicting mini games. You can try to max out your acceleration to perform massive jumps, or you can try to deliver numerous customers with limited time or massive traffic jams. Like the regular arcade game, these mini games are easy to pick up and can get you hooked after a few tries. You can spend hours trying to beat your records on these fun and challenging objectives. The Crazy Box Mode makes up for the repetitive Arcade Mode.

Sadly, Crazy Taxi doesn’t take advantage of the Gamecube’s graphical abilities. This game is a Dreamcast port, with little or no improvements to speak of. You’re still traveling through the streets of San Francisco. I’m from this area, so I felt a sense of nostalgia and familiarity when playing this game for the first time. While the vehicles and buildings are portrayed in three dimensions, the use of color and light take away from the realism. The cars seem to be nothing more than brightly painted rectangles. Even the cell-shaded cab drivers look more like caricatures than realistic characters. The individual taxicabs were given the most graphical attention. The lighting effects of the car, the details of the chrome, and the unique license plate details make the taxis stand out from everything else.

Fortunately, the sound is well done. You traverse the dangerous roads while listening to the music of the group The Offspring. If you don’t like the music, you’re better off putting the television on mute and listening to your own tunes. The music booms throughout the game, and occasionally drowns out the other sound effects. The cars make realistic noises, like revving engines, screeching tires and car horns. The individual drivers and customers have unique voices, but they can be a little hard to understand with all the background noise. Overall, the sound stays on par with the graphics and contributes to an enjoyable gaming experience.

I found Crazy Taxi in a bargain bin for only twelve dollars. With its fun gameplay and addictive qualities, this game is definitely worth the low cost. But with that low cost come a few problems that can be an issue for some gamers. It boils down to what you want out of your game. There isn’t much in terms of deep gameplay or creativity, but it is balanced out by accommodating controls and basic gameplay. Just give Crazy Taxi a shot; you just might like it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/22/04

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