Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
With this Thanksgiving winding down, it means only one thing. No, not shopping for the best new games out there (that I still need to review, actually.) But travelling on congested highways to get away from those vacation spots you called home for the past week.
With this in mind, I doubt anyone would object to the driver of the Crazy Taxi (or maybe they would). One of the favorite arcade games in it's hayday, Crazy Taxi was a first rate port that was well sought after during the Dreamcast release. It is interesting, because the game took a premise that, on paper, seemed boring and repetitive, and made it fun and fresh enough to warrant a small series of the games.
The gameplay is simple. You pick your driver (basically an avatar, all the cars drive the same) and pick up people on the streets who flag you down. They tell you where to go, and you follow an arrow trying to get there as fast as you possibly can. The object to keep fares going so you can get a class A liscence.
Thats it. No real challenge, except for driving through people, cars, trolley ways, glass, and rooftops to get to your destinations. The game has four modes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and arcade mode, which is basically 1 minute in a loop. There is really not much here. I guess the goal was to "wow" you with the stunts you can do in the game; standard stuff like going off ramps, doing spins in the air, and the like. This makes the game more fun, as well as adds some strategy in a sense, because it may be faster to jump over the highway than go through it, if you can. It does wear thin, however, thin to the point where it becomes boring to even try.
The game looks decent though. Like most Dreamcast games, the graphic capabilities of the disk system show the potential for 3-D in 2000. The character models are smooth and fluid, although they do make repetitive, sim-like movements. The game also has the biggest advertising campaign that I have ever seen. KFC, Levi's, the Gap, Burger King, and a bunch of other retail stores make cameos as passenger locations to drive to. It is quite funny, actually, to see these franchises in pixelated form. Even more surprising that SEGA was allowed to do this, considering most corporations are fickle about showing their labels in video games.
Sound wise the game is ok, but could of been better. We have a decent soundtrack from then-popular bands The Offspring and Bad Religion. But there are maybe eight songs in the game at a time, so it's very thing. Sound effect wise it's pretty good. Bad voice actors screaming at you to not hit that car and to watch where your going as you head down a San Fransisco-looking trolly track.
Overall, Crazy Taxi is a good game that is unfortunetly not aging well. The arcade classic and Dreamcast port was a good fare at the turn of the millenium, but now it is ripping you off if you have to pay full price. It's a shame, because the game has a ton of charm and is worth a play around with some friends for some good old arcade fun. Look for this if you have to, but don't be surprised if it's not what you remember in terms of gameplay.