Most people probably think of Sega’s Crazy Taxi as a Dreamcast game, but it was actually an arcade game first. At the time of its release, it was a fresh take on checkpoint racing games. Rather than simply following a linear path from point A to point B, or doing laps around a circular course, Crazy Taxi set you loose in an open world to make your own path. And true to its name, it was crazy.
The high concept is simple but brilliant. You’re a cab driver, you pick up passengers, and you take them wherever they want to go. And since there’s a clock continually ticking down, you need to get there as quickly as possible. Naturally, this involves some pretty crazy driving. Cut across a field, drive on the sidewalk, launch off a ramp, even crash through things if you have to (although that does slow you down a bit). If you get to your destination quickly, you’ll be awarded with bonus time.
Dropping off your passenger is also when you’ll actually collect your fare, which is the game’s method of scoring. Passengers with farther destinations are worth higher fares. Additionally, they award you with tips for pulling off tricks like drifting, jumping, and buzzing other cars. The more tricks you pull off consecutively, the higher the tips get. So, despite the general insanity of the game, the game actually encourages some finesse, and it’s possible to make some pretty impressive maneuvers once you master the controls.
But aside from the mechanics, perhaps the most defining aspect of Crazy Taxi is its presentation. The game never takes itself seriously at any time. Customers will complain when you drive too recklessly only to turn around and praise you for getting away with it. The voice acting, which includes a radio DJ that’s probably meant to be an imitation of the legendary Wolfman Jack, is wonderfully cheesy (and very “Sega,” if that makes sense). The original release of the game included several real businesses, including KFC and Fila, and a licensed punk rock soundtrack containing music by The Offspring and Bad Religion. The game’s personality fits the action perfectly, and it’s so strong that it nearly upstages the gameplay.
I’ve seen the arcade version a few times, and in fact, I know an arcade that still has it, but I’ve never actually played it. My experience with it comes from the Dreamcast port, which is essentially arcade-perfect. That version added several extra features, including an extra city map, and a challenge mode filled with wacky minigames. It was subsequently ported to several other consoles, including the PS2, GameCube and PC. A version of it was made available on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2010, but with all of the voice acting, and licensed businesses and music replaced.
There have been two sequels to Crazy Taxi. Crazy Taxi 2 was released exclusively for the Dreamcast, and Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller was initially released for the original Xbox and PC before being ported back to the arcade. There have also been a few spin-offs for handheld systems, and appropriately, the character B.D. Joe was included in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and its sequel.
It says what it is. It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s classic Sega. It’s Crazy Taxi.
Hardcore Gaming 101: Crazy Taxi – A comprehensive look at the series.