The concept of the game is so simple, anyone can play. Your order of business as a cab driver is to cruise what looks like the streets of the San Francisco commercial Bay Area, picking up potential customers and delivering them to their desired destination. You can select from four different crazy cab drivers, each with their own custom tailor-made yellow taxi. Interestingly enough, there are no hindu cabbies as stereotypes commonly dictate. ;) Each vehicle handles the same. No special attributes, or variations in speed or manuverability. Therefore, you're left freely to select accordingly to your game's alter ego. The drivers are either grundge or surfer type Californian young urbanites. You can even play as a female cabbie, my personal fave ;).
Driving the taxi itself is so much fun it should be illegal, much like the driving in the game if this game was real life. First of all, you'll be traveling down the course faster than any of the other cars. Thus, you'll be cutting in and out like a madman. Picture cars switching lanes all of a sudden without warning, plus oncoming traffic that keep alert for and avoid when switching onto the opposite lane. You want to cut through a side-walk, park, across a plaza or ride up stairs with your taxi?? Don't give it a second thought, just floor it. Hey, anything to get to that destination faster, right?? With the whole zaniness of the game, you'll have your cab doing stunts in no time, and stunts are actually important. Such will give your passenger one heck of a roller coaster ride, where they will give you tips depending on what you do. The more you cut off other cars or use ramps to fly across cars, the higher the tip and the more money you earn, but more on this in a bit.
One of the first things you'll notice as you watch the action on screen is how lively everything looks. The stage begins with tight close-ups and camera pans across your taxi, showing off your wheels. Like in any real city, there are people everywhere, although not everyone is a customer. The scenery is a site to behold, it looks like a real place in the real world and not something a game designer made up. Everything is modeled in 3D and texture-mapped with intricate detail. One of the features that make the town you're driving through scream "realism", are the real life franchises present in the game. You'll notice stores like Tower Records and Tower Records, KFC and Pizza Hutt. These are modeled exactly like their real life counterparts. And yes, customers will ask will ask you to take them directly to these places by name. Its incredibly fun to hear a passenger say, "Take me to Tower Records, hurry!!" in full character voice.
The gameplay itself in Crazy Taxi consists of making as much moola as possible on rides. Thus, you should look for passengers with the longest ride times all across the city. Each passenger has a different-colored dollar sign hovering above their head. Depending on the color, the location where the customer will be dropped off will be closer to your location or farther away. Green dollar signs are the farthest destinations, yellow the second farthest, orange is pretty close and red is a hop, skip and a jump; the closest. Now it's not that you don't ever want to pick up any of the customers closer to you, depending on your game time clock, you can use shorter rides to get you extra time when needed. This will be a crucial technique that will allow you to stay in the game as long as possible collecting money from customers. There will also be a green arrow pointing in the direction where the customer wants to be dropped off. It's very useful if you don't know your way around the city streets, but you don't necessarily have to follow it unless you get lost. The fastest way to get to your destination is through the use of shortcuts. Therefore, you'll need to remember where all the locations in the city are. Once you know where everything is, don't hesitate to use those shortcuts to get from point A to B. Your passenger will thank you for it. ;)
Speaking of such, depending on how long it takes you to reach your destination, the passenger's reaction will differ. If you want your passenger to be happy and give you a big tip, be speedy and furious in your driving. Remember, you're not driving Miss Daisy here. If you're slow or take too long because of bad driving, the passenger will be hostile and po'ed, kicking the side of your taxi and yelling, "You suck!!" Hillarious!! :)
Technique is an intrical part of earning passenger tips and bonuses. Again, the way to do this is by giving them a little thrill ride whenever possible. There are numerous kinds of different techniques. Depending on what you perform you can receive a Crazy Through, Crazy Jump and Crazy Drift. If you perform these in sequence, you'll earn a Combo Bonus and a nice pile of sweatty cash to add to your wallet. Be careful, though, just one accident will ruin your chance of earning a bonus.When the game's over, the cash you earned will be displayed and you will be graded on how well you did, very much like Top Skater, if not exactly like it. Needless to say, getting a high grade is nothing short of a miracle. The game is unquestionably hard.
Control is basically, the wheel of your taxi you use to steer, foot pedals for gas and brake, and also a lever to your right which you use change gears from forward to reverse. This lever is necessary to get the hang of since you need to stop to either pick up a passenger or drop him off at every destination. Sometimes you'll need stop on a dime and avoid going past the drop off area which will be highlighted in the game. There is some force feedback in the steering, but normally its pretty smooth unless you have an accident and crash into something. All in all, the game handles very well. Its funny how in games like these, you suddenly forget the basics of driving! ^_^ At one point I had to drop off a passenger at Pizza Hutt; well my driving and handling of the pedals was so bad on that play that when I hit the brakes and stopped the cab, I had climbed up a small hill and crashed smack onto the Pizza Hutt sign in front of the restaurant. I can imagine the passenger's reaction, and then my cabbie's obvious one-liner, "Well, we're here!!" :)
Taking a brief look at the game's music, Crazy Taxi boasts a alternative/punk rock soundtrack, but unlike most games, the tracks are not some generic guitar rifts. Crazy Taxi features the music of such popular bands as Offspring and Bad Religion. You'll be jamming t the lyrics as you skid across streets and jump from the second floor of a multi-level parking garage. One thing I must mention is that the taxis are pretty much indestructable. They take absolutely no damage no matter how hard you pound them or smash them onto buildings. Talk about taking a beating! You can crash you car into anything and it will never be trashed, and although that aspect is in no way realistic, its perfectly valid for this type of game. Crazy Taxi is not a racing game, where such things would hinder you from winning a race. The only obstacle you'll be racing against is time.
In conclusion, I find Crazy Taxi to be one of the most fun game you'll enjoy playing. Overall, the graphics, music, gameplay, and the atmosphere of the entire game depicts AM3's degree of development; it doesn't feel like a rushed product. If you have the opportunity, try out "sit-down" cabinet; (which is the one I've personally played) for added realism. One of the highlights about Crazy Taxi is that it's on the Naomi board, which is essentially a Dreamcast.
In the same fashion that games like PowerStone, House of the Dead 2 were ported to the Dreamcast, expect a perfect translation to drive into your living room when the home version is released. Perhaps the only problem drawback about a home conversion is that the game is really designed for the arcade. Therefore, a lot of that "arcade feel" may get lost in the translation. There is a stage in the arcade which demonstrates this reasoning. Personally, I feel that the home version would require an extra stage or added bonus to compensate for that reduction in the arcade's atmosphere. Let me stop right there before this turns into a review of the Dreamcast version, a game that hasn't even come out yet. :) See? I had to find something negative about this game, even if I had to go off on an unfair tangent. Truth is, there's nothing negative about Crazy Taxi. A game so fun that it's well...crazy. ;)