Back when Crazy Taxi first hit the arcades, it pulled in quarters like a Coke machine in the Mojave. After appearing first on what would eventually be Sega's final console, the Dreamcast, Crazy Taxi is making the rounds to all the other next-generation machines, thanks to Sega's new third-party developer status. It's nearly completed for the PlayStation 2, and now it's on its way to the GameCube.
At its heart, Crazy Taxi is a fast-paced taxi driver simulation that goes well over the top. As you might expect, the primary object in the game is to pick up customers and take them to their destination to score points. The player is awarded fare and tip points based upon how quickly and maniacally he or she delivers the customers. Performing crazy moves is another way to build up points. Just driving closely to a car gives you a crazy through bonus, while performing the crazy dash, the crazy drift, and the crazy slide also contributes to your point total. And if you link your slides, drifts, and dashes, you are awarded combo bonuses.
There are two different play modes in Crazy Taxi: an arcade mode and the crazy box mode. The arcade mode lets you choose one of two different cities and then hit the streets to make some loot. You may then choose to either play by arcade rules, where each fare adds more time onto the clock, or play in three-, five-, or 10-minute intervals while raking in as many fares as possible. As you finish each work period, you are awarded with licenses depending upon your performance. The real challenge lies in getting the best license for each of the four playable cabbies. Getting the best license on the 10-minute setting is no problem, but doing it in three minutes will test the skills of the best player. The lack of multiplayer support in the Dreamcast version was disappointing, and it would be surprising if this feature made it into Crazy Taxi for the GameCube. Cooperative and head-to-head modes could be a real blast.
The most unique gameplay mode in Crazy Taxi is the crazy box mode. Crazy box consists of a series of minigames that teach you how to master every driving maneuver in the game. One game has you careening down a massive bowling alley while busting up pins with your cab, another has you practicing your braking on a massive network of boardwalks, and yet another has you flying off a massive ramp jumping for distance. Some of the crazy box minigames are ridiculously easy, while others can seem nearly impossible. You may play through the crazy box mode with any of the four cabbies, and once every challenge is completed, a secret vehicle is unlocked.
The graphics in Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast were impressive for their time but will have to be improved to compete with their peers on the GameCube. Even in the Dreamcast version, the taxis look excellent, and the reactions of both driver and passenger as you fly over cliffs or take tight turns are remarkably accurate. The two cities where the arcade mode takes place are monstrous. Not only are there different areas of downtown, but there are also highways connecting the inner city to the suburbs. There are almost a dozen real-world places to drop off customers--Pizza Hut, KFC, Tower Records, Levi's, and more are all located within each of the two cities. Pizza Hut has its vaulted roof and telltale red exterior, and KFC's drive-thru sign is exactly like the real thing. While the Dreamcast version of Crazy Taxi suffers from dropping frame rates and draw-in, the GameCube version should have no such problems. Both cities feature dense traffic and scores of pedestrians roaming the streets, looking for a cab, or running for their lives. While the sense of speed is strong in its Dreamcast incarnation, Crazy Taxi on the GameCube's hardware should be even quicker.
The right and left shoulder buttons act as the gas and brake in the Dreamcast version of Crazy Taxi, and the GameCube controller's analog shoulder buttons will likely be put to the same task. The crazy dash is the first special move that should be learned. It lets you gain a turbo boost and can be repeated at will. The crazy drift is another maneuver that is essential to success. It enables you to take tight corners while rolling up the bonus points. There are several other special moves, such as the crazy back dash and the crazy back drift, which are more difficult to perform but provide a nice depth to the gameplay and something to master for the experienced player.
If you aren't a big fan of The Offspring, you won't likely enjoy the music in Crazy Taxi. After you hear, "Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!" for the 20th time, you'll be glad that Sega included the option to turn the music off. There are loads of voice samples included in the game for each of the four cabbies, but the constant use of the word "crazy" can also be a bit grating on the nerves.
If the GameCube version of Crazy Taxi ends up being a direct port of the Dreamcast version, it should provide the same pick-up-and-play appeal it had before. If the PlayStation 2 version of Crazy Taxi is any indication, the GameCube version will likely have just that. Concrete information should be forthcoming at E3 later this month. Stay tuned.