When the video clips for the Dreamcast were first circulated around retail circles last summer, the brief video of Crazy Taxi raised eyebrows, with smooth yet detailed graphics and the sounds of The Offspring thumping away. That clip was enough to make me go down to my local arcade and find out just what this game was all about. After about an hour (and some $10 later), I was hooked; Crazy Taxi was addictive and flat-out fun, and I could only imagine what the Dreamcast version was going to be like. Could it be that I could play the arcade game at home and still get the same adrenalin charge that I got while at the arcade? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast is a must-play experience, and may even remind some old-school gamers like myself of the times when getting the high score was the object of the game and loving every minute of trying.
Crazy Taxi follows a seemingly simple premise; as a virtual cabbie, you must pick up passengers and bring them to their specified destinations as quickly as possible. That's where the simplicity ends, however, and where the craziness begins, as heavy traffic, random obstacles, and the ever-ticking clock become your enemies. Just as in the arcade, this ride is a timed excursion, and as time ticks down, you'll find yourself scurrying to pick up passengers and frantically trying to drop them off while holding no regard for public safety. The good news is that there are two ways to add precious seconds to the clock; first, you get extra time when you pick up passengers, and second, you get a time bonus depending on just how fast you can bring your passengers to where they want to go.
Graphically, Crazy Taxi is nearly arcade-perfect. The action speeds by at a fairly consistent 60fps (although slowdown creeps in at times) and there is life-like detail everywhere you look, from the taxis themselves to the different destinations that you go to, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken (really!) or the local Heliport. There are two different cities that you operate in. You can choose the Arcade mode, which contains the city from the arcade game in its entirety, or you can choose the Original mode, which has an entirely different city layout complete with new features, like an open drawbridge which you have to jump across. The passengers are all nicely animated, too, and have personalities all their own, from the punk rocker to the priest. There is sporadic pop-up from time to time, but this really doesn't detract from what's going on, as cabbies are too busy watching the road.
Crazy Taxi keeps the same soundtrack from its arcade big brother, with tracks from Bad Religion and The Offspring. I can almost guarantee that after a Crazy Taxi play session, you'll have the "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!" from "All I Want" in your head. Unfortunately, as players get better and the games last longer, the soundtrack loops consistently. If you're not a punk rock fan, you'll be driven crazy in no time. Sound effects are also pretty good, with metal-crunching collisions, squealing tires, and standard engine noises. The sound bites from the passengers are clear-sounding, and at times can be pretty funny. The best line comes from the priest when he tells you that, "You're one hell of a driver!"
As with any arcade game or arcade conversion, gameplay is paramount to the game's success, and Crazy Taxi delivers great gameplay in spades. With a little practice, you'll be driving your taxi like a pro, weaving in and out of traffic and even pulling special moves out of your bag like Crazy Dashes and Crazy Drifts. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you learn the ins and outs of the control scheme and rack up some serious fares, it's definitely rewarding. The replay value of Crazy Taxi is infinite, as the overall objective is to get the highest score possible. There isn't an ending, and you can't "beat" the game. Crazy Taxi pushes its players to become better, and that's a challenge that has been lost in video gaming for the most part for a long time. It's too bad that there wasn't an online "World Ranking" option, like for Sonic Adventure, so that cabbies could have bragging rights worldwide.
Overall, Crazy Taxi is not only a must-play game for the Dreamcast, but it also is a rock-solid purchase that shows off the arcade capabilities of the Dreamcast console. Imagine a $5000 arcade machine in your home for the mere price of $50! The conversion is that good and should not be passed up by any Dreamcast owner. The minor graphical flaws and looping soundtrack do very little damage to this game's 5-star rating, which is well-deserved. Now, where's my Jambo Safari, Sega?
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