Seatbelts? We don't need no stinkin' seatbelts!
Imagine if you will a yellow cab on the streets of Anytown, USA. This cab is . . . special. Unknown forces have made this convertible cab, and its occupants, completely indestructible. This cab careens down the main streets, looking for fares and causing millions of dollars of property damage. Where would you go in an indestructible cab? Why, Kentucky Fried Chicken, of course!
Crazy Taxi is one of the most anticipated releases for the Dreamcast. This arcade hit has been ported to the Dreamcast perfectly, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Everything that the arcade had is in this game. Unfortunately, everything that the arcade lacked is in here as well.
The idea is simple. You drive a cab around a huge city, pick up paseengers, and take them to their destination in one piece. Plowing through traffic with reckless abandon, Crazy Taxi is the definition of an arcade racer. This is no sim.
First off, this game is hard. Even when you do really well, don't expect to be ranked above 10 on the high scores list. But while the game is difficult, it's not frustrating. In fact, making the game hard was a good thing for the designers to do, as it really extends the life of the game.
Every time I think the Dreamcast can't surprise me, it happens again. Crazy Taxi is no exception. The detail of the city is fantastic, from the signs on the buildings to the movement of the pedestrians. Where Crazy Taxireally shines is in the framerate. This game is faster than a rabbit at a greyhound convention. Because of the amazing framerate and the smoothness of motion, gamers can ignore the minor popup on the horizon and the disturbing lack of skid marks. Apparently your tires are indestructible, too.
The control is a little wily at first, but you get used to it after a while. Also, the special "Crazy" moves are tough to learn since they involve motions that you don't normally associate with a driving game. Once you get them down, however, the game becomes much easier. There is only one word in the English language that can properly define the gameplay: fun. Crazy Taxiis simply a blast to play. Picking up fares, racing across town, ramming into buses . . . it's all good. My only complaint is that there just isn't enough gameplay.
Crazy Taxi was designed as an arcade game, the type that encourages you to pump in quarter after quarter to continue. The most time you might spend on a game is an hour, maybe two if you had enough quarters. Once the game makes it to the home consoles, however, that type of design just doesn't work anymore.
Home console ports of arcade games need to have depth, and that's what Crazy Taxi lacks. Though they added an extra city for the home version, it's just a different layout using the exact same structures and textures. That makes a whopping two cities you can drive in. They also added the Crazy Box, essentially a really tough training mode. Are there special options if you win? No. Are there extra characters you can unlock? One, and only if you beat the Crazy Box. Don't get me wrong, the game is lots of fun, but it could have been so much more.
Same goes for the music. Using bands like Offspring and Bad Religion is great if you only play the game for an hour. But countless hours of hearing the same seven songs over and over will drive anyone nuts. Because they're popular bands and not just run-of-the-mill background music, it's hard to ignore the repetitive nature of the soundtrack.
Though it really didn't have an effect on the grade, I do feel the need to mention the advertising in Crazy Taxi. This game has, bar none, the best advertising I've ever seen in a game. Instead of making the sponsors overt, they slid them into the gameplay. One passenger might want to go to KFC, so you drive to a KFC building, complete with recognizable architecture and a sign to boot. Another might want to go to Tower Records or the Fila store. One might ask why a person would pay a cabbie $500 to go to KFC...personally, I'd pay that much to go in the opposite direction.
Crazy Taxi is a case where a great arcade game became a good home game. Though the game is a ton of fun, the serious lack of depth keeps it back from true greatness. Hey Sega, next time look into car upgrades, more cities, and some sort of two player. Then you'd have a classic on your hands.