Crazy Taxi owned me. Hard. The gimmick of advertisement as recognizable architecture and homely West Coast mall punk did little to deter me from logging serious hours into what, at the time, was the perfect blend of destructive freedom and addictive high-score number crunching that only Katamari Damacy and its sequel have since matched. However, a quick log-in to GameTap reveals that the game, released on the Dreamcast in 2000, has aged very poorly, feeling clunky, unpolished and incredibly limiting in the shadow of new-generation open world experiences. Emergency Mayhem, an unabashed Taxi clone released in 2008 for the Wii, manages to feel even clunkier and more unpolished and limiting than the fossil it draws inspiration from.
Taking place in Crisis City, a hotbed of criminal activity and utter chaos apparently based on the nicer areas of Baltimore, your job as an “Emergency Hero” is to whip the city into shape by putting out garbage fires and inflating flat tires. Events are triggered by driving your automobile (a police, fire or rescue vehicle) into giant flashing circles and consist of either hurrying to a specific point within a time limit or playing a motion controlled mini-game. These mini-games are awful.
Whether it’s struggling with the finicky pointer while disarming a bomb or violently thrusting the Wii-mote into your crotch to pump up a flat, they are all a chore. These segments never elevate past the point of being angry, stupid flailing and the modicum of skill involved lies in finding the exact position you need to be in so that the game registers your movements. It serves as the poster boy for everything detractors of the control scheme were afraid the library would devolve into; a series of forced mini-games involving straining, unresponsive movement not worth the blisters it’ll put on the average gamer’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-stained hands.
Driving segments, controlled with tandem remote and nunchuck, feel reminiscent of scooting about in an R/C car and are just as clumsy and neutered, lacking any sensation of authentic speed. The linear levels combined with few, poorly designed shortcuts only help to drive this home. This would be merely stupendously boring if not for the unrelenting, Weeble pedestrians which instead make jetting about stupendously infuriating. Running around as if on fire, you desperately wish for their heads to smash against your windshield before hitting the concrete but, alas, they just respond to your attempted vehicular manslaughter with a disgruntled snort, going about their mindless seizing as if nothing ever happened.
But it’s not all sour grapes. The simplistic, pseudo-cel-shaded graphics are benign enough while the soundtrack is at least somewhat varied. And given the vehement hatred the developer has for the player, I guess I can count myself lucky that upon opening the package, HIV-infected blood wasn’t sprayed directly into an open wound. Maybe. At least that would’ve given me an excuse not to play this complete failure of a game.