Crazy Taxi

This is a review I can’t approach without some serious bias. Crazy Taxi has been a fascination of mine for years. It’s one of the first arcade cabinets that I ever played and I still look for it whenever I visit an arcade hall today. Owning a console port of the game was something that I wanted for a long time. Now that I have it though, I feel like I may have ruined some of the magic.

For those who haven’t heard of Crazy Taxi before, a quick introduction. First released in arcades in 1999, Crazy Taxi is a high-speed, 3D racing game set in a large, open-ended city. You play as one of 4 cabbies and your objective is to pick up clients, who then have to be delivered to a location somewhere in the city. You play on a constant timer, which is only replenished when you pick up someone new and get to them their destination. The faster you completed the job, the more extra time you are awarded.

Additionally, getting people to their destination fast awards you with more money. You also get extra cash for performing stunts and driving recklessly, which is all added together at the end of a round. The game then gives you a grade based on how much money you made and this is then saved to the scoreboard.

This premise is kept basically the same for the console ports, though with some enhancements. For example, you can play by the arcade rules or choose to play for a set amount of time—up to 10 minutes. I preferred to just play the game like the arcade, but it’s nice to have the option. You also get to pick between playing on either the original map (Arcade Mode) or on a new, reworked map exclusive to the port (Original Mode). Both are fantastically-designed worlds that are fun to drive through, so I frequently alternated between them.

You also have the so-called Crazy Box, which is a challenge mode separated from the main game. Each of its stages has an objective that relies on you using some of the game’s more advanced maneuvers. Stuff like turbo boosts and drifting. These moves and the tips Crazy Box gives you can then help you out in the main game as well. I like that these are optional though. They are neat trials for those who want to attain greater mastery of the game’s controls, without making casual players feel like they need to learn this stuff. Compare and contrast that to the notorious, mandatory tutorial of the first Driver game.

As nice as these extras are, Crazy Taxi is still an arcade racer in heart & soul. Playing it in an actual arcade hall is like an event. It’s only a few minutes long, but it’s a real thrill that sticks with you. Being able to grind out sessions of the game over and over again on the Dreamcast lessened that sensation a lot. Even with the new map, you kinda get tired of the game after a few back-to-back rounds of it. It’s best enjoyed if you only fire it up occasionally, though that kind of counteracts the convenience of having a port to begin with.

Being able to play so much of the game also brought to attention some of its flaws. The controls feel too rigid and your taxi is absurdly slow to accelerate from a standstill. Getting the cab moving feels like you’re wrangling it free from the mud every single time. It takes actual seconds, which are seconds you don’t really have. The boost move does help here, but only if you intend to take off in a straight line forward. Your car also has a tendency to get stuck into walls if you drift into them, or get stuck driving sideways for a while. Collisions seem to freak the physics out in general, with unpredictable results.

If you don’t have an arcade near you, then Crazy Taxi on consoles is a pretty good alternative. It’s likely not a game that you’ll be playing all the time though and the handful of challenge stages don’t add too much staying power either. It’s a game you’ll fire up from time to time whenever the itch for Crazy Taxi returns. Fortunately, that is something that happens to me quite frequently.

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