The original Crazy Taxi was one of my favorite Dreamcast games a decade ago, and since that system’s death, the CT formula has provided me with countless hours of enjoyable on the original Xbox and most recently on the PSP. Now, it has arrived on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network for $10, and delivers a largely successful port that suffers from a few problems - some were avoidable, others weren’t due to licensing deals expiring. Fortunately, the core gameplay is intact, and offers up enough fun
The main unavoidable changes in this (and the PSP) incarnation involve the stripping of pretty much everything licensed in the original. Fans accustomed to Pizza Hut and KFC will have to make due with the generic Pizza Parlor and Fried Chicken Shack instead, but similar color schemes for the locations and logos make this a pretty seamless change. If you didn’t know that isn’t how things were originally, you probably won’t be bothered by it in the least since you don’t know what you’re missing, and long-time fans should get used to the change very quickly. While the CT series is one of the few that really benefited from product placement, the lack of it doesn’t hurt the overall game at all.
Beyond the real-world locales, CT was also known for its limited, but perfectly-fitting soundtrack with the Offspring and Bad Religion. That music had to be removed, and since it was such a huge part of the overall experience, it could be pretty damning. Fortunately, workarounds involving system play lists allow players to bypass the hideous default soundtrack pretty easily. The PSP version featured the same licensing problems, and solved the music issue with a perfectly-executed custom soundtrack that replaced the in-game music flawlessly - even showing you the titles and allowing you to scroll through your play list as you played. Here, you can do pretty much the same thing, but the integration isn’t quite as seamless and you’ll have to tinker with the sound settings to get the sound effect and music volume where you want them. Still, it’s worth having to navigate a few extra menus to avoid hearing the default music. If you’ve got a greatest hits disc of the Offspring and Bad Religion readily available, you’re set to enjoy the game as it was originally intended.
For better or worse, pretty much everything else is nearly exactly like it was a decade ago - you’ll still zoom around town delivering as many customers as you can to their destinations while avoiding head-on collisions and racking up bonuses for insane driving until time runs out. The core gameplay is still incredibly addictive and the controls are as responsive as ever. Both the 360 and PS3 pads are far more comfortable to use than the DC’s, so in that sense, its controls are more enjoyable to use and less cumbersome.
Veteran players will now have online leaderboards to conquer beyond the quest for a CRAZY license at $20,000 and beyond (which I was only able to earn once in the DC version), while new players will find that their addiction can only be satiated with an increased score. Then you’ll get that increase in score, and try to not only beat it, but due so in less time (either using arcade rules and watching a clock or limiting yourself to the 5 or 10 minutes the game lets you play), and then you’ll try to beat the score with a new cabbie, and so on. Getting the higher-level licenses can only be done by memorizing the city to at least a reasonable degree, and mastering the techniques that allow you to stop exactly where you want to and increase efficiency so when you drop one passenger off, another can quickly replace them, which makes long-term play more rewarding.
The graphics haven’t been overhauled aside from a new widescreen perspective, which I’ve got mixed feelings about since CT 3 basically included the first game’s arcade version in it, but also improved the visuals. If Crazy Taxi 3 could improve the graphics, and add in CT 2’s crazy jump and multiple passengers to the arcade city, then it seems a bit absurd to not include those features as optional bonuses in this version. Sonic Adventure features the GC version’s enhancements as an optional download - I’d settle with that being done here because the CT 2 additions changed the dynamic of the game in a largely positive way. One completely negative change is the massive increase in pop-in for vehicles and environments. You can head down a hill, see a car in your path, plan to avoid it, then have it disappear, resulting in you changing your direction slightly and then have that car reappear out of nowhere. Not only is it visually annoying since it immediately throws you off, but it can easily result in you hitting a vehicle head-on through no fault of your own. This also happens with environments, but doesn’t affect the game as much, but it’s still annoying. I’m surprised they didn’t iron these issues out before releasing it, because they can really get in the way of having fun.
Despite its flaws, for $10 (or $8 for PS+ members), this isn’t a bad deal since the core game is still a blast to play and replay thanks to its addictive nature. The loss in licensing doesn’t hurt as much as one might think, and despite over a decade passing since the game’s initial release, its gameplay has stood the test of time. However, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea even then, so newcomers will want to try out the 360’s trial version before buying. Series vets will want to download it as soon as possible.