Crazy Taxi Review
"All right, let's go make some crazy money!"
For as long as I can remember, one of the games I found myself playing in times that I was stressed out or feeling a little down was Crazy Taxi. There was just something about the game, being able to climb behind the wheel of a custom-made taxi and letting loose in a city filled with desperate customers that couldn't walk (seriously, they just stand around) and picking them up to make some mad scratch, getting from point A to point B and not letting anything -- pedestrians, buses, traffic -- get in the way. The game was an arcade favorite, and Sega did an equally impressive job porting it to the Dreamcast so long ago. Now it's returned for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and it retains the same kind of free-wheeling spirit of the original...even though a few things are missing.
With Crazy Taxi, you choose from four different drivers, including the zany B.D. Joe and the beautiful Gena, as you travel across the city, dropping off and picking up fares in the allotted time limits. See, once you snag a customer, you'll have a certain number of seconds to get them to their destination. Blow it or go the wrong way, and they'll become agitated and jump out of the cab (yes, while it's in motion). The quicker you get them to their spot, the more money you'll make. You can earn any degree of license over the course of the game, all the way up to a class S, the top of the line. With the original game, this meant competing with others in the local scoreboard. With this version of the game, however, you can post your highest collections through online leaderboards -- which opens up a whole new field of competitiveness. We welcome it with open arms.
But along with the main game (which you can play in Arcade or Dreamcast mode), you can also open up the Crazy Box, which features a variety of events from knocking down bowling pins with your car to popping balloons to competing in a ski-style long jump, where you'll have to clear a certain distance. These are fun, but become strenuously difficult right away. Make sure you've got your driving skills down before opening this box.
Nothing has changed in the Crazy Taxi mantra. Everything handles just the way it should, from your car's flippant handling to the ability of gaining an extra boost with a quick gear shift. It's a little awkward having reverse and drive placed on the face buttons (rather than the triggers), but no matter. You'll get used to it and find yourself flying off ramps and cutting off traffic in no time. The game remains a free-wheeling delight, after all these years of customer delivery.
However, some things have changed. The licensed venues of old (Tower Records, Pizza Hut) are long gone, replaced by generic ones. We're not sure if this was something in terms of the rights or not, but we do miss dropping off customers at the KFC. Maybe we're a little too nostalgic. Also, the soundtrack has been replaced completely. The Offspring ("Ya ya ya ya yaaaah!") are long gone, as are Bad Religion. The replacement tunes, mostly provided by The Juliet Hammer, aren't too shabby, but you play a game like Crazy Taxi expecting to hear the original songs.
Also, for some strange reason, the audio is cranked when it comes to cab effects. You'll hear the bang and pop of your vehicle as you fly over each ramp and land from it. We could've done without these, but you can manually adjust them in the menu. The other sound effects are great, including the whiny customer voices ("You know what you're doin'!") and their reactions as you drive.
But it's the visuals that will really hook you. Like the original, Crazy Taxi moves at a blazing speed of 60 frames per second, with nary a hint of slowdown. There are times when pop-up will occur, with sections of the city magically appearing out of nowhere as you progress, but that's just the nature of the original game at work. It looks splendid, and watching all these customers go crazy over your driving antics never gets old. Plus, this is a really wide open city to drive around in, and there's a surprise around every corner. Ever go driving through a mall? You will here.
Crazy Taxi isn't just a nostalgic trip, but also a wondrous stress reliever and an all-around entertaining game. After all these years, it's retained most of the components that make it so much fun, despite the new soundtrack and the missing blatant advertisements. We wouldn't dare miss this ride.