Crazy Taxi is like a wonderful time capsule. It captures the best part of the ‘00s in perfect stasis: the part that was basically still the late ‘90s. It was a time when we celebrated the identity of being an asshole. Consumerism was both rampant and celebrated. Wait, that all makes it sound awful. Maybe it was, but in kind of a funny way. And although the developers probably didn’t intend it to be, Crazy Taxi encapsulates all of it.
My first experience with the series was Crazy Taxi on the GameCube. Acclaim ported the Sega arcade title right when Nintendo’s first disc-based console was fresh on the shelves. There wasn’t a lot to play at the time, so I wound up playing everything. I have some great memories of playing Crazy Taxi with my mother. One of my favorite arcade experiences was playing the game on an actual sit-down cabinet. I think I got an A Rank. I was rusty.
It’s weird that modern ports of Crazy Taxi are so hard to come by. You can get it on PC, but it doesn’t have the licensed music or the rampant product placement, which actually takes from the experience. The most definitive way to play the games still seems to be back on Xbox with Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller.
Take me to the Original Levis Store!
While the concept of Crazy Taxi is arcade as heck, only the first Crazy Taxi was truly designed for the format. Crazy Taxi 2 remains exclusive to Dreamcast, and while Crazy Taxi 3 would make it to the arcade, it was first developed for Xbox.
Rather than just be a straight sequel, Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller is more like a definitive edition of the trilogy. New to it is the Glitter Oasis city based off Las Vegas, but it also includes the West Coast area from Crazy Taxi and Small Apple from Crazy Taxi 2. Missing are the console exclusive level from the first Crazy Tax and Around Apple from Crazy Taxi 2. So, not everything is accounted for, but you get the best of the first two games, with a third level added. The “Crazy Hop” from Crazy Taxi 2 is included, and the older two levels are reworked to take into account the new features.
Crazy Taxi 3 also looks a lot slicker than the other console ports. I’m not one to normally comment on a game’s UI, but damn, that’s a nice UI. For some reason, they added reflections to the edges of UI panels, and it just looks neat.
Yo, I need to get to Flavor Town!
The downside is Glimmer Oasis runs like an eel. At least it does on the strip. It’s kind of weird that it has problems with the one area that is completely new to the game. You get into the city proper, and it begins to chug into slow motion. That would be kind of cool if this was an actual feature, but it’s definitely just the hardware struggling. I guess they just couldn’t stand to turn down the glitz.
Joining the eight drivers from the first two games are a new set of four. They are: Some guy, Bixbite, Mrs. Venus, and Guy Fieri. They actually fit right in with the other obnoxious mix of personalities from the other game.
Initially, the drivers are locked to the maps from the game they appeared in, but if you play through Crazy Box, you can unlock the ability to play them anywhere. Crazy Box is a series of mini-games that teach you advanced skills from the game. They can get pretty intense, pitting you against a tornado or on moving platforms. While they don’t change the fact that the core game is what you’re there for, they can be a fun palate cleanser.
Are ya ready!?
If you’re unfamiliar with how Crazy Taxi works, your parents and I are both very disappointed in you. Essentially, you play as a cab driver with social anxiety. Rather than take the scenic route to run up the fare, your job is to barrel through traffic and pedestrians to deliver your passenger in seconds, rather than minutes.
It’s a rather bizarre world where someone doesn’t just need to get to Pizza Hut, they need to get there right now, and they care little for the lives of anyone using adjacent sidewalks at that time. It’s constantly chaotic. Your car drives like it runs on Pixie Sticks, and gravity has called in sick. The world’s physics are bouncy, your car is indestructible, and, don’t worry, everyone has really great insurance.
You race against the time to pick up fares and drop them off as expediently as possible. Longer distance passengers (marked by green circles) pay better, but people who just need a lift up the road (red circles) are quicker to pop off and have a greater chance at awarding more time on the clock. Using the standard rules, you need to keep delivering people under schedule to increase the extra seconds you have. It’s like urban Out Run in a smellier car.
Pizza and fried chicken
Underlying Crazy Taxi 3 is an awesomely repetitive soundtrack by The Offspring, Bad Religion, Brian Setzer, Methods of Mayhem, and Citizen Bird. They’re all generally locked to specific tracks, so Glimmer Oasis has more of a rockabilly soundtrack, whereas West Coast is pop-punk. There are way too few tracks, but the tempo and sound of each one are spot on. Ask anyone who has put in significant time on Crazy Taxi and they’ll tell you that “All I Want” isn’t a song by The Offspring. It’s a song from Crazy Taxi.
Newer ports of any of the Crazy Taxi games tend to omit the licensed soundtrack, as well as the product placement. Product placement is a generally insidious intrusion into a video game, but retrospectively, it’s part of the series’ charm. People in West Coast aren’t going to just “City Restaurant,” they want to go to Pizza Hut. They want to go to KFC. Seeing someone demand quick transit to Tower Records is just something that doesn’t exist anymore, since the chain went bankrupt in 2006. At this point, it’s earnest kitsch, but even at the time, it was really amusing how blatant the product placement was. It’s kind of become an inextricable part of the Crazy Taxi series’ personality.
The series didn’t necessarily die after Crazy Taxi 3, but it’s definitely a lot more sporadic. The 2007 PSP release of Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars was technically the last “new” game we got, but even then it was just a compilation of Crazy Taxi 1 and 2. Since then, Sega has been more interested in tapping into the disgusting mobile market with Crazy Taxi: City Rush and Crazy Taxi: Gazillionaire. Just writing that leaves a bad taste on my fingers.
Sega really needs to get their cabs in gear and give us a proper remaster. I’d take a new game, as well, but an updated port of Crazy Taxi 3 would do just fine. Bonus points if they included the missing console cities. 2022’s post-secondary simulator Two Point Campus gives you a Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller arcade machine that you can give to your students. Sega obviously knows that the game exists (or, at least, Two Point Studios does). So, that’s step one down.
For now, I guess Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller is just another reason to keep my Xbox plugged in. It’s perhaps the best way to make some cuh-raaaazy money these days. Yeah… yeah, yeah, yeah… yeah…
For other retro titles you may have missed, click right here!