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Sonic Speed Review: Crazy Taxi(XBLA)

December 1, 2010

After Sonic Adventure making a splash in the digital download scene, there’s a little title known as Crazy Taxi, a classic game which burst onto the scene in the arcades and in the early Dreamcast years. It’s concept was simple enough, to play an average taxi driver and drive people around, sounds boring, right? Well, Sega and  Hisao Oguchi proved everyone wrong, this title was sucessful, it spawned a couple of sequels and was ported onto many consoles and PC and now it arrives on XBLA and PSN as a downloadable title, cortesy of Sega Studios Shangai who have also worked on the earlier Sonic Adventure port. It’s an 11-year old game so how does it fit into today’s gaming world of endless FIFA and Call of Duty sequel in a saturated market? Read on.

The premise of Crazy Taxi is a simple one, you pick one of four cabbies, Axel, Gina, BD Joe and Gus, each with their own set of advantages, though honestly during gameplay it makes very little difference. After you pick a cabbie you hit the road and start picking up costumers, one at the time, and drive them to their destination. They have specific colors which indicate the length between your position and your destination(green means very far, while red is very close), during which an arrow will point to the location and when you stop, depending on the time you took, you get paid and get a tip. Once the timer runs out, you are ranked according to the fares you have collected and the numbers of passangers served. It’s simplicity at it’s best and if it wasn’t for that good ol’ Sega magic it would be a very boring game. But it’s not, it’s a fun and crazy ride as you make sharp turns, make your way through heavy traffic and occasionally cause mayhem, as you race to get those fares you so desire.

And when you get down to it, there’s more to it than just driving around, you have to know how to pick the best customers which will boost your fares and get the maximum amount of playtime out of it. And the game is jammed packed with extras, such as the Crazy Box mini-games, an original course that wasn’t featured on the original arcade version. This digital download port includes leaderboards and true widescreen(albeit expanded), unlike Sega Studios Shangai’s previous effort, however this particular port has some questionable issues, which I will go into detail in the next paragraph.

First, father time has not been too kind to Crazy Taxi, the character models in-game look very blocky and hideous, to be honest, it does provide a certain level of quirkyness to the mix, but the low-res textures in both the buildings and the other cars make it look bad, even the in-game fonts could’ve benefited from some minor visual upgrades. Pop-up and draw distance issues abound and a lot of clipping issues, I would bitch about the insane physics but honestly in a game that features a Taxi cab that seems to have been built by that insane driver from Death Proof, why bother?

I have already gotten into great detail about the audio presentation in my earlier impressions, but it’s worth noting that most Crazy Taxi fanboys will likely not feel the same way with the lack of Bad Religion and The Offspring soundtracks because when you think  of Crazy Taxi, the first thing that pops into your head is this:

While one or two songs from the various indie bands(Total Chaos, Pivit, Too Rude) that are featured are decent, the rest is largely forgettable and doesn’t quite “click” as much as the original soundtrack. We can blame Sega for not having the foresight to re-license those early songs, however, you will be happy to know that you can use custom soundtracks allowing you to put those songs back in, so if you have a The Offspring Greatest Hits album lying around, it’s the next best thing.

Despite it’s core gameplay being fun and adictive, because you progressively get better at the game and there’s always that feeling of wanting to play one more time, just to get an even higher score and with leaderboards, there is the extra incentive to do better each and every time you step on the gas pedal. However the graphic and audio presentation are underwhelming and Sega Studios Shangai’s nonchalant attitude towards addressing those issues add a huge weight to the final score that can’t be overlooked and Crazy Taxi’s hefty 800 MSP price tag can be a little too much, so to whom I recommend this?

If you’re a long time Dreamcast fan, chances are, you already bought it, downloaded it and got dissapointed by the overall quality of this port.  The complains I’ve heard are legit and I would normally recommend dusting off that Dreamcast, that many of us, have stored in the closet or attic. However, these days, setting up the machine again only for sporadic playthroughs of Crazy Taxi and shelf it afterwards, is just not worth the hassle. In that sense, the game might be worth the price tag.

For the people who never played Crazy Taxi, this would be a great introduction and I would certainly recommend trying it as even non-gamers(or the Wii crowd) can find this quite appealing and fun. If you fall between those categories, that is, you’re a gamer and you never played or shown any interest towards this particular franchise or never liked it to begin with, don’t bother.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 18, 2011 12:06 am

    Man, I used to play this all the time on the Dreamcast. I downloaded the XBLA demo but couldn’t get over the lack of Bad Religion and The Offspring. It’s just not the same without the original soundtrack.

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