Review: Crazy Taxi (GCN)

All the fun of the fare?

SEGA has a brilliant track record in arcade driving games. OutRun, Daytona USA, SEGA Rally, Hang On; many older readers probably have fond memories of dropping coins on quick races on games housed within some oversized cabinet complete with steering wheel and pedals... before subsequently emptying their wallet of many more coins as the phrase, "just one more go" was uttered countless times in front of an ever lengthening, tutting queue. Then in 1999, SEGA took the idea of driving fast against the clock, replaced the linear race track with an open-world city and Crazy Taxi was born.

And it was fun; a lot of fun. Careening around sprawling networks of roads in a (for some reason, open-top) taxi while attempting to pick up and drop off as many customerrs (and thus rake in as much money) as possible before the timer reached zero was an endearing concept that saw many Crazy Taxi arcade cabinets gobbling up huge quantites of coins. In 2001, SEGA and Acclaim Studios Cheltenham brought Crazy Taxi to the GameCube.

The core gameplay remains as entertaining as it ever was. The taxis all handle in the manner you'd expect them to in a game that demands snap decisions on which route to take or whether or not you should try that risky short-cut you spotted last time, with games rarely longer than ten minutes. This doesn't sound like an awful lot, but Crazy Taxi has always been about repeated attempts at memorising road layouts and customer locations and scraping a few more seconds and dollars together in each go, accomplished by performing near-misses with traffic and executing manoeuvres like dashes and drifting. This is fine if you only plan to play in short bursts, but extended play reveals the inherent shortcomings in incorporating Crazy Taxi's philosophy into a home console game.

The main issue here is that of content, or lack thereof. Crazy Taxi on GameCube is actually a port of the Dreamcast version of the game, which had an extra city for players to race around as well as the Crazy Box; sixteen minigames designed to help players practise the aforementioned advanced driving techniques. The GameCube version also features this content, but offers anyone who played the Dreamcast version to death absolutely no additional extras on top of the new city and minigames. And in a game that was already criminally low on content for a console title anyway, that's just not on. Repetition will rear its ugly head in no time unless you limit yourself to an hour or so a day, which wouldn't be the case had SEGA and Acclaim taken the time to craft a handful of GameCube exclusive cities and additional minigames.

The depressingly blatant "that'll do" approach permeates every facet of Crazy Taxi on 'Cube. Presentation-wise, the game hasn't undergone any visible polishing. The graphics are still vibrant, clean and do the job adaquately, but Crazy Taxi was once used to show off the Dreamcast's processing grunt, whereas the GameCube is capable of substantially more, so the lack of any visual upgrade is disappointing. More music would have been a good move as well. Everything included suits the pace and vibe of the game brilliantly — although how much you'll enjoy it depends wholly on your opinion of mid-Nineties era Bad Religion and The Offspring songs — but there's just not enough of it and even if you're a fan of both bands you'll probably tire of the paltry selection of tracks pretty quickly. Your best bet is probably to mute the TV and crank the volume up on your tunes of choice.

Conclusion

Crazy Taxi is undeniably fun to play in short bursts but ultimately falls foul of its arcade roots, which is a shame because some new cities and Crazy Box minigames would have worked wonders. As it stands though, while SEGA attempted some additions to its other GameCube port of the day, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, Crazy Taxi saw no such attention lavished upon it and reeks of a lazy port.