Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Retro Review: Crazy Taxi

It’s not very often that my Dreamcast is used for much else than Sonic Adventure nostalgia, and recently I’ve decided to break out some old Dreamcast games that I never played much of as a kid. Among those is the original Crazy Taxi, the classic arcade port that was fairly popular way back in 2000. I never played it much then, because, well, I was just 4 and I sucked at it, and thus I don’t have much nostalgia for it. So, looking through my vast collection of games, its yellow and black-spotted disc caught my eye, and I wondered if it would be worth playing again. I thought “Why not?” and popped it into my Dreamcast. Considering the game’s nature, I expected to enjoy myself for a little while and quickly get bored, but to my surprise, this 11-year-old arcade game is still highly addictive.

(Also note that this is the first in a series of what I’m calling “retro reviews,” in which I look at an older game from a modern, non-nostalgic perspective.)


In Crazy Taxi, you must drive a taxi (wow, I would never have guessed) around in an open-world city and pick up pedestrians, after which you must get them to their destinations within the time limit – through any means possible. To transport the passengers to their destinations (and get tons of money), you are going to have to completely disregard your safety as well as that of your passenger, boosting through traffic, driving through oncoming traffic, jumping off of ramps, driving along the rooftops…yeah, you see where I’m going with this.

The whole point of the game is to collect as much money, which acts sort of like a “high score”, as possible. Before starting one of the game’s two areas, you are allowed to adjust the time limit to suit your preferences. A game can last for just three minutes, five minutes, or ten minutes. If you choose to play by the arcade version’s rules, you start out with fifty seconds on the counter, and you get more time whenever you pick up pedestrians and when you drop them off at their destinations. During the time limit, you must make money by picking up pedestrians and delivering them to where they need to go, and the faster you do so, the more money you get. You can also get money by sustaining “combos.” A combo will automatically start if you keep from hitting an obstacle or another car for long enough, and you also add to the combo by drifting and jumping off of ramps. Be aware, though, that passengers have their own time limits, and if you take too long to get them where they need to go, they’ll jump out of the cab in frustration. When time runs out, you are graded on your performance based on how much money you received.

And…that’s the entire game. No, really. Well…there is the “Crazy Box” mode where you can play extra challenges, and it’s pretty cool, but it’s honestly not very much. Also, there are only two playable areas in the entire game. Needless to say, it’s a very shallow game. Combine that with the VERY poorly-aged graphics and, under normal circumstances, it would be very hard to recommend such a game. And yet it is so fun and addictive that it doesn't even matter.
Seriously, this is a game that, shallow as it is, is going to keep you coming back for more constantly. It is tons of fun to just go back through, challenge your scores, and just enjoy the over-the-top action. In addition to that, it’s fun to pick up pedestrians you didn’t the last time through and see if you can get them to where they need to go in time, and there may even be areas of the two cities that you haven’t seen yet. Of course, that’s not to say that the gameplay is perfect. There are times when the taxi almost seems to get stuck for a few seconds, most often if you try to turn from a complete stop while offroad. It doesn’t happen too often, but if you’ve got someone in the back of the taxi and time is ticking, it can be pretty annoying. Still, this game was released in the year 2000, and it's still very addicting in the year 2011. And that’s saying a lot.

Oh, and did I mention that (on the Dreamcast version only) the entire soundtrack is made up of songs by Bad Religion and The Offspring? Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a fan of either of those bands, and even if you outright hate them, you can’t say it doesn’t fit the game. YAH YAH YAH YAH YAH!

Pictured above: The soundtrack to youthful rebellion. Or reckless driving. Whichever.

In conclusion, Crazy Taxi is a cheesy, over-the-top joyride that makes up for its lack of depth with its enjoyability and addictiveness. It’s not a game I could recommend for full price, but as old as it is, it’s unlikely you could find any version of it that costs that much anyway. Of course, very few people these days own Dreamcasts, but the game has been ported and re-released a good number of times. The most recent re-release of the game has been the XBLA version (and it’s only ten bucks!), but considering how shoddy the XBLA port of Sonic Adventure was, I would caution against taking chances with that one. Personally, I would recommend the PS2 version, as it seems to be the most well-received port aside from the DC version.

And with that, I’m off.

Score: 7.5/10

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