Forget the bad rep that Martin Scorsese gave taxi drivers because Sega bucks the whole “psychotic loner” stereotype that has plagued these noble people with the release of Crazy Taxi. Remember all those nights you dreamt of being a taxi driver? The thrill of the road, the uniqueness of the passengers and the exhilaration of getting to the passenger’s location as fast as possible while performing the sickest stunts is what being a taxi driver is all about. While I may be romanticizing the profession a tad, I’m not doing it nearly as much as Sega did. They created a game revolved around taxi drivers. While it isn’t exactly a taxi sim, Crazy Taxi can be a lot fun if you’re in the right state of mind.
The basic premise of Crazy Taxi is this: you get to be one of four cab drivers and your job is to pick up passengers and take them to their destination in a certain amount of time. Beware the product placement. Usually the destination is some generic area, but occasionally you have to drop off your passenger at the local KFC or Fila clothing store. This adds a bit of realism to an otherwise outlandish game, though I did have an inexplicable urge to have some of the Colonel’s crispy strips while playing. Each time you deliver a passenger, you get more time and money. If you weren’t quick enough then you don’t get any added time. If you don’t even get the passenger to destination, he jumps out and doesn’t pay you a nickel. When you run out of time you’re ranked based on how much money you earned. With the exception of the Crazy Box mode, this is the essentially what the whole game consists of.
It sounds simple, but it’s also is a bit deeper and more entertaining than first expected. Learning the layout of the two stages is a challenge, but it’s ultimately rewarding. Getting a high score is a lot easier when you learn all of the short cuts. Special moves can be executed to make more money, so there’s excitement to be had as you narrowly avoid oncoming traffic to bring the cash. The most useful special move is the crazy dash, which speeds up your car and makes you drive “crazy” fast. The more you weave in between cars, the more money you get. Hitting the numerous ramps found around town can net you a few bucks. All kinds of strategies can be used to get the highest score possible. Arcade ports aren’t known for their deepness, but beneath Crazy Taxi’s shallow exterior is a satisfying amount of depth.
A new feature that wasn’t in the arcade is the “Crazy Box” mode; a collection of stages with sometimes wacky objectives. Some of the stages serve as a tutorial, but some truly test your taxi skills, such as the nigh impossible level where you have to knock down an obscene amount of bowling pins. Most of these stages are fun, but some are just frustrating. I’m not even sure if some are possible to beat without hours upon hours of trying. At least it was nice of Sega to add stuff to the console version.
The beauty of the game is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. Breaking traffic laws is no big deal, and neither is hitting other cars. The car physics are delightfully unreal. Not only do the cabs never flip over or show damage, but they can tip over a bus and plow through a lane of cars like a tank. Some may scoff at these improbable events, but I find them enjoyable. My inner sadist is disappointed how the cab innocently passes through pedestrians without harming them whatsoever. Maybe they could add hit and runs to one of the sequels and call it “Grand Theft Taxi” or something. Or maybe not.
The graphics are colorful and smooth, but I haven’t seen so much slowdown on my TV since I watched The Matrix. It really hurts this game’s fun factor. Almost every time I rode off a ramp, the game bogged down for a few seconds. Passengers and the drivers all look very distinct, but you pick up identical looking passengers frequently, and usually they all want to go to the same location. Unnecessary repetition is something that should be avoided when making a videogame.
Talking about repetition, the two courses look almost exactly alike. They borrow way too many textures from each other. On the plus side the cities are enormous, with lots of great-looking landmarks. Pop up was a small problem with most Dreamcast launch titles but fortunately the effects aren’t very detrimental on Crazy Taxi. Occasionally you end up hitting a tree or something you didn’t see until the last second, but this is rare. I do chuckle whenever a disgruntled customer tries kicking my cab.
When I first heard The Offspring tunes in this game my thoughts were “Hey, not bad. It’s some of their better stuff.” Then after playing for about 30 minutes and hearing every song in the game about 3 times, I was fed up. About 6 songs are in this game, half done by The Offspring and the other half by Bad Religion. Each song is about 2 and half to 3 minutes long. You do the math. There’s no excuse for having such a small selection of songs. I would have rather heard cheesy Japanese “metal” then hearing “All I Want” at least two times each round I play. It’s best to play this game with the music turned off. At least the voices are done well. The 4 drivers each sound energetic and crazy. The passengers usually say something humorous whenever you freak them out by doing a few stunts. Passable voice acting is somewhat of a rarity for most Dreamcast games, but Crazy Taxi proves Sega doesn’t strike out on every game.
Despite the Crazy Box mode and two somewhat similar cities to play in, Crazy Taxi wears out its welcome far too soon. Like that Wendy’s commercial, I found myself thinking “Where’s the beef?” There isn’t enough variation or things to do despite having a huge city to explore. The music, the destinations and even the gameplay eventually became repetitive. Since the game is cheap, I still think it’s worth purchasing. Crazy Taxi is one of those games you play for maybe for 15 minutes a week. It truly is fun, lighthearted fare. It definitely isn’t a bad game, but with less slowdown and more stuff to do it could have been the craziest game around.
Seven out of ten