It might drive you Crazy…
“Hey hey, come on over and have some fun with Crazy Taxi” are the words that greet you when booting up the game on your iOS device of choice. It’s a legacy from the original arcade unit, designed to attract passers by in the crowded arcades that line beach resorts the world over.
This line is pointless within the confines of our mobile devices of course. But it indicates at least that what we are getting is the original vision of this game, and not some half-assed port, or modernised sequel, that would serve only to rape our fond memories of 1999, when this game was originally released.
Crazy Taxi pretty much does what it says on the tin. You play as one of four Taxi drivers, where a San-Fransisco-esque city is your playground. You must pick up paying customers and ferry them to their destination. The faster you do it, and with the most flair (by drifting, jumping, avoiding traffic etc) the bigger the tip. However, fail to deliver your customer on time, or in a civilised manner, and they’ll jump ship, where you’ll lose your payment, as well as important bonus time to add to the ever counting down clock.
For those familiar with the GTA series of games, you will know that can do similar tasks as mini games by jacking a taxi in the game world. I’m not sure which came first (it could have been in the original top-down GTA2), but Crazy Taxi – as the name suggests – is the more adrenaline pumping of the two, where it’s all about breakneck speed.
The version on offer on iOS looks to be the same that appeared on SEGA’s Dreamcast console back in 2000. It contains the original arcade mode, plus 3, 5 and 10 minute options, complete with four playable characters. It also includes original mode, which plays the same way as Arcade, but with a larger map area, with locations more widely spread out.
For those of you who want some extra challenges there is also the crazy box. A collection of levels, each with a crazy objective. These included; popping balloons within the time limit, drifting over jumps, and even bowling with your taxi. They are a welcome distraction from the main game, and add a little longevity to boot.
Like the Arcade and Dreamcast versions, Crazy Taxi on iOS includes music by the Offspring. That California sound of the late 90s era perfectly fitted with SEGA’s colourful blue sky style of their games back then. Later versions of Crazy Taxi on PC, Xbox and Playstation omitted this, and instead each had alternative soundtracks. Fans will appreciate the Offspring’s return to the game. However, 12 years on I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing for the rest of us?
From a visual standpoint, the game is faultless at presenting it in its original form. It does look dated by today’s standards however, particularly other racing games. The downside to replicating the Dreamcast original means we also get the bad draw distances, hokey physics, and dodgy collision detection from back in the day.
I always say that with any port of a loved classic, it’s the controls, and how they are mapped to the devices inputs, that will make or break it. The controls on iOS do a good job, and almost let you experience this classic in the way it was meant, but ultimately they will frustrate. With the touch option selected, you turn your taxi by sliding your finger over left and right buttons on the left of the screen, and accelerate with up and down buttons on the right. The problem here is that too often you’ll accidentally slide your finger off the buttons, and plough head first into a wall, or topple off a jetty into the sea. The extra tilt option should alleviate this problem, but for me it just didn’t seem responsive enough. Boosting and drifting (dynamics essential to succeeding in the game) are also fiddly, and occasionally unresponsive, especially when it counts.
Overall, the Crazy Taxi iOS experience is not a patch on playing it in the arcades with a real wheel – nor on the many console iterations that followed. But there is fun to be had. Its arcade stylings are a good fit for iOS, where most players will be on the move and happy with its short burst gameplay. For newcomers to the series though, it might seem antiquated by today’s standards, and some may not understand its simplistic charm. One for the retro-heads only perhaps.