“Here we go! It's Crrrrrrraaazy Money Maker! Ooooops … erm … I mean Crazy Taxi”
If you walked into an arcade in about 1999, you would have seen the Crazy Taxi cabinet. It was almost everywhere. The fast-paced gameplay would eventually speak to the speed freak within all of us. I spent many of my precious pounds picking people up and dropping them off while attempting to find the quickest route through a busy city in Crazy Taxi. The phrase “Crrrrrrazy Taxi” alone would often catch my highly-tuned sense of hearing (tuned to video game themes in arcades - it made locating them easier), and off I'd wander to find out where, in the maze of machines, my fix was.
The arcade version of Crazy Taxi is all I'm really familiar with, I never had a chance to play the home version of the game - and that's probably a good thing, there's no reason to ruin the nostalgia, after all! Whether you loved or hated any of the versions of Crazy Taxi there's no denying that it defined a genre. The modern waypoint arrow was all but invented by Crazy Taxi. Yes, Sega even attempted to patent it at one point. The game (and its waypoint arrow) has been brought back to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network and is available for your gaming pleasure right now. I bet you're wondering what I thought of it aren't you? Well, I suppose I'll have to tell you then.
The arcade-like feel of the game is the first thing you'll notice upon start-up. The modes, the leaderboards limited to three characters ("AAA"), even the music - it all screams “ARCADE.” The game is as simple as driving passengers from point-to-point within a time limit; performing stunts, like jumping off of tow-truck ramps, add tremendously to the chaos of the city by adding alternative routes. There's nothing much else to do in Crazy Taxi once you've tired of the main game mechanic. That thought was immediately apparent to me when I first started the game but, to be honest, it's still fun. The handling of the cars feels well thought-out and I had no real steering issues at all. My one big gripe with the whole control scheme was the gears. For years now, in racing games, the right trigger on the controller has been accelerate while the left trigger has been brake or, if you've already stopped, reverse. Crazy Taxi implements gears into the cars which can get really confusing when you accidentally drive into a wall, instinctively hold down the left trigger to reverse, and then find that nothing's happening because you haven’t put the car in reverse first. Gears are absolutely essential to keep hardcore gamers happy - just not in an arcade game. It seems overly confusing for what is meant to be a 'true' arcade racer.
I was taken aback to find that Crazy Taxi was full-screen on my TV; I half-expected to see it with bars on the sides of the screen in emulation of the good old 4:3 arcade standard. The graphics and gameplay have stood the test of time - while they're nothing spectacular, obviously, it's certainly playable and very reminiscent of the arcade. I've seen games that came out much later than Crazy Taxi and on later consoles look a lot worse than this, so they really are to be congratulated on that. Well, the original development team should be anyway.
With so many other possible games coming out at this time of the year, it's hard to recommend that anybody goes out and buys Crazy Taxi. On top of the fact that it's ten years old (and most fans will have it on older systems), my problem lies in the fact that it's, at heart, an arcade game. One that expects you to be feeding it money. The sense of loss felt from messing up a turn you paid for, combined with Crazy Taxi's addictive nature, yields a strong "I'll do better next time" feeling that rapidly empties the pockets of any gamer. However, take the money bit away and there's no point to keep playing except to get a higher score, and if none of your friends are playing it because they all also played it ten years ago, it's hard to see the point.