I started writing what I thought was a post about Crazy Taxi. I was writing for ages before I realised I’d gone off on a complete tangent and hadn’t actually got to the game yet. I do that occasionally. As a result, I will soon be posting a long piece about gaming in general. It really is something to get excited over, believe me.
But, back on track with this one – Crazy Taxi 1 & 2.
Crazy Taxi is exactly the “Pick up and play” game that I love. It’s a classic arcade dream. It’s filled with bright colours and frantic movement that is guaranteed to catch the eye if you’re walking past. As soon as that disc hit my Dreamcast and the bright yellow start screen appeared, I was hooked. Then, just in case I had missed the bright yellow screen and car sounds, a wacky voice says “Hey, hey! Come on over and have some fun with CRAAAZY TAXI!” and I thought You know what? I bloody well will!
When it comes to games, I do like an epic. I like a compelling story. I like over the top, long cinematic cut scenes, along with free exploring gameplay so I can do things in my own time. They’re the sort of games I can really settle in to and they grip me so I won’t want to put the control pad down. Crazy Taxi is not this. If you want a story then “You’re a taxi driver” is about as much as you’re getting. Crazy Taxi falls into the other type of games I love, short and sweet. It is the sort of game that if you only have fifteen minutes, you can get one game in. But at the same time, if you have six hours, you can play for six hours and the time would just fly by. The FIFA and Pro Evo games fall in to this for me as a football fan too, but it terms of sheer fun in one single game, Crazy Taxi wins purely on the chaos that gets crammed into one game.
It’s the beauty of arcade games that a lot of games these days don’t have. You start with a plan and as the time in the game goes on, it gets more and more frantic, your plan goes out the window, you start to panic, then the time runs out and all you can think is Damn…I was going well then…I’ll have just one more go.
Crazy Taxi is such a simple concept. You’re a taxi driver and the aim of the game is to pick up and drop off as many people as you can within a time limit. Some customers want to go short distances; some want to go longer distances; and as the game goes on, the time limits get harder and harder until you eventually run out and what you’ve earned is your score. Simple.
You start off by picking either “Arcade” mode or “Original” mode, which is basically a choice of two different areas which are very much similar to California, particularly San Francisco. You can also choose to between Arcade rules, or working for 3, 5 or 10 minutes. Of course, you choose arcade rules because that’s the only mode that counts in the real world and when you’re comparing your scores to your mates. The only time you choose any of the others is if you’re taking it in turns with your friends, so then you pick ten minutes so you get a good go.
Then you pick your driver. Unlike many games now, there aren’t endless characters and cars. There are four. You’ve got Axel, who looks like a surfer dude with bright green hair. There’s B. D. Joe, a cool guy with shades and a bucket hat. You’ve got Gena, with long red hair and a tight top with tight jeans. Then, finally you’ve got Gus, an older gent who looks like he could quite easily be a mob boss on holiday. I obviously went Gena because, ignoring the fact she’s a video game character, she’s fit. If she was a real woman, I so would.
The places you could go in the game were brilliant. There are obviously the generic bus stations and police stations, but there’s blatant product placement as well. You had passengers wanting to be taken to Pizza Hut, Tower Records, the FILA shop, KFC etc. I know things like this are not supposed to make you like a game, but it did add to my enjoyment seeing recognisable places. I know, I’m an advertiser’s dream.
With that being said, it should be no surprise that thanks to the ridiculously good soundtrack, I am now a massive Offspring fan. They provided the music along with Bad Religion and their fast paced sound perfectly complements the gameplay. I own every album. But before Crazy Taxi, I’d never heard a single track.
As I said in my previous “Shenmue” post, I won’t go into the details of gameplay. If you haven’t already played the game, then you should find a copy and play it. It is dangerously addictive. I love how it’s such a hard game to master, yet it isn’t annoying or frustrating trying to learn. You find yourself starting to plan routes just to shave the extra few seconds off. I’ve not played the Crazy Taxi arcade machine a lot and when I did play it, I was bloody awful. However, I would love to get my hands on one (if you have one, contact me). I had the Dreamcast version and I can’t advise strongly enough that you get a copy of it. I feel that the chunkier Dreamcast control pad just adds that bit of extra chaos and a bit less control that stupidly adds more to the game, unlike newer console control pads. Unfortunately, later versions also don’t have the original soundtrack or the product placements thanks to problems with getting the rights and I feel the game loses something without these.
I loved everything about Crazy Taxi and I wasn’t sure how the people at SEGA could improve on it. Then they brought out Crazy Taxi 2 and it became obvious – more than one passenger at a time. Genius. When that was brought up in the brainstorming meeting, they must have just stood up and gone “YES!” and hit the pub. A winning idea. A quick change of scenery and characters and they had a great sequel (but they took Gena out! I was gutted!). But to me, after this, that was it. Crazy Taxi is a Dreamcast game to me and always will be. Other console versions are just not the same.
Besides all this, there’s one overwhelming reason why this is one of my favourite games. I love this game simply because, on the Dreamcast, I was “The Best”. I was the Dog’s Bollocks. I’ve never been “The Best” at a game before this. When I was a kid, online leaderboards were a pipedream. The only way you could really tell how good at a game you were was from consistently beating your mates.
I thought I was “The Best” at Track and Field. Not real Track and Field, obviously. I mean the Playstation version. My fingers were ridiculously fast and my wrist movement was exemplary (possibly due to the fact that as a teenager, I wasn’t exactly popular with the ladies). I always thought I was “The Best”, until I was challenged by a friend of a friend. On a hot summer’s day, I sat in a mate’s garage, ready to put it all on the line. With all the boys I knew in attendance, I took part in a high class contest that will span the ages…and I fucking lost on the canoeing. I still dispute that loss. I practiced on a different version of the game which never had canoeing and no-one would tell me how to do it, because they all wanted the other boy to win. He knows I had him. How he can look himself in the mirror every day knowing that he won in the way he did is beyond me. Saying that, God only knows what his parents were thinking overhearing “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING? I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING? OH, WAIT, I’VE GOT IT NOW! YES! OH YES! COME ON! COME ON! YES! YES! I’M NEARLY THERE! JUST A LITTLE MORE! ARGHHHHHH! FUCK!”.
No such dispute with Crazy Taxi, I am “The Best”. There is no doubt about it. I have beaten everyone. In the immortal words of Bret “The Hitman” Hart “I’m the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”. I will take on all comers. If you think you can beat me, then step up and I will put you right back in your place. I will now quote the great Ric Flair “To be the Man, WOOOOO, you gotta beat the Man!” and I’m the Man.