I may have been late to the Dreamcast party, but not to the Crazy Taxi soiree. I thoroughly enjoyed the PC port and then the real thing years later, when I was finally able to procure one of the fantastic little systems. And it’s just speedy, frenetic action through and through. It’s one of those few gems that was obviously designed to devour as many coins as possible from your pocket at the arcade. Now that it’s available on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, there’s no reason to have to play at a machine or pick up the original…unless of course you want to have the entire experience. Unfortunately, this full-priced port is little more than a slapdash cash-in, devoid even of the memorable music that helped make it what it is. It’s a shame that I can’t recommend it, at least in this format, because this is an instant favorite and one that you’ll keep coming back to.
The core experience is simple. Choose a driver, then hit the city streets in order to pick up passengers. Once you find one, you’ll need to get them to their destination of choice within a reasonable amount of time. The faster you get there, the higher your fare. And the crazier your drive, the more money you’re going to make. This means zipping through traffic without any inhibitions, near-misses with other drivers, hitting ramps, and pulling off sick moves. Drifting also pleases your customers. These passengers are insane, and just want to have as much fun as possible on the way to where they’re going. It’s so fast-paced you barely have time to blink if you’re going to make a respectable amount of money. In a nutshell, pick up and drop off passengers at locations scattered throughout the city, all the while risking your life and theirs in order to make the big bucks. At the end of your session, you’re graded based on your performance. Sound shallow? Oh, it is. But it’s oh so addictive.
Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the easiest game to control. The taxi itself feels very awkward, making hairpin turns and the slightest movements, such as swerving between traffic, more difficult than it should be in a game where you have to drive like a maniac. It’s too sensitive, and often you’ll find the clock out of time before you can make a respectable amount of cash. Putting the taxi in reverse is a pain as well, as you utilize two separate buttons to drive and reverse, only complicating the experience further. If you plan on going far at all, or mastering any of the challenges, you’ll need to quickly get accustomed to this bizarre control scheme, which is more frustrating than anything else. While you’re stuck getting used to braking and changing from forward to reverse, the clock continues to tick away, wasting precious time and sacrificing all that sweet cash you could be making. At the very least I thought this could have been improved upon, but alas, this was not the case.
Arcade mode puts 50 seconds on the clock for you to amass as much money as possible. When you pick up a passenger, you extend your time limit and are given a new one to reach the destination. It’s a constant race against the clock to pick up and drop off your crazy patrons. Original and Arcade modes are played within different maps. Should you choose to opt out of the initial 50 second time limit, you can “work” for 3, 5, and 10 minutes to see what you can accomplish in a longer period of time rather than a frantic rush to keep making bank. If you need something a little different, you can tackle the Crazy Box missions, short challenges that may seem initially innocent and simple to complete, but can be deviously difficult. At least it adds a little variety for when you tire of attempting to pass the same objectives in the main modes over and over.
Unfortunately, that’s about all this port offers. It’s extremely barebones and isn’t augmented in any discernible way aside from the fact that it’s presented in 720p and fitted for widescreen displays. To add insult to injury, the game’s iconic soundtrack has been horribly butchered, removing music from The Offspring and Bad Religion, leaving nameless punk rock drivel to drone on through your speakers. Fortunately, the obnoxious yet somehow endearing announcer is left intact, as are the chatter of your passengers and the same familiar sound effects as before. And as crisp as these classic graphics are, there’s nothing to drool over. It’s obvious that as many corners were cut as possible for this release, and it really shows.
Crazy Taxi is a game best played on the Dreamcast or at the arcade. If for some reason you don’t have access to either, I wouldn’t suggest dropping the cash on this pitiful port, even if it is convenient. There’s absolutely nothing new here, beyond trophies and achievements. In fact, it’s less of a game than it has ever been since some of its most memorable music tracks have been stripped away. As a Dreamcast classic Crazy Taxi is worth a purchase, but this barebones port is not. Unfortunately, this looks to be the way of the future, so before further Dreamcast favorites are stripped of their heart and soul, I’d suggest buying the system and seeing them in their full glory before you’re charged an extra five dollars for a new mode or costumes you could have found in the original for free.