It’s quite incredible just what a big beast the video games market is today. However, one sector which has never quite made it big over here in the UK is the arcade. You can still find a small amount of them which vary in size but don’t nearly mirror the breadth and depth compared to those in the far east.
However, one game which did cut through was Hitmaker and Sega’s off the wall racer Crazy Taxi, where you had to screech though traffic to pick up and drop off your fares as quickly as you could. It was ported several times, and made its way to the GameCube in 2001 as a European launch title.
Arcade mode was top of the bill, allowing you to tear around the streets of a San Francisco inspired city (the trolleys were a dead giveaway). You could play for 3, 5, or 10 minutes at a time. Fares would be signalled by a dollar sign above their head, which would be in one of three colors to denote how far they needed to travel. Your overall clock would tick down throughout, and you would work to a secondary fare specific clock every time you picked one up.
You could choose between four different drivers, each with their own car and sometimes irritating catchphrases. It was then up to you to use your time as profitably as possible – the sandbox environment meant you could tackle any fare in any order. Stopping within their circle would prompt your fare to hop in, and a helpful green arrow would appear at the top of your screen to direct you to your destination.
However, once your time ran out your run was finished. There were hundreds of fares looking for a ride, and as a result each playthrough would flow differently. This also meant you would need to make some decisions on the fly in order to successfully complete as many fares as possible before your time ran out. There was, then, something of a subtle tactical element to the gameplay.
Crazy Taxi was an awful lot of fun, and thankfully there were no consequences for your reckless driving. Your car could withstand any and all damage and pedestrians would always manage to just about leap out of your way. Grabbing air and weaving through traffic would net you some extra cash from your fare too, as well as smashing your ETA.
The soundtrack also brings back memories for me, striking a similar tone to games such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Punk rock bands such as The Offspring and Bad Religion provided the perfect backing tracks to the on and off road madness.
The problem with this port of Crazy Taxi is that it didn’t do much to expand on the arcade version. There was an original mode too, but this was essentially just a larger map with greater distances between destinations. Once again you could only play for a maximum of 10 minutes. As a result I rarely played this mode and much preferred the arcade experience.
“Crazy Box” tried to add some value by way of challenges, but you could speed through the twelve on offer in no time at all. These were a collection of simple tasks, such as reaching the flag, popping balloons or picking up a series of customers against the clock (which if we’re being honest wasn’t any different from the main game).
One thing I always wanted was an endless mode in Crazy Taxi, where successfully completing a fare would top up the overall timer. I was curious to see just how far I could go, but sadly the time limit was always there to constrain me. The most frustrating thing is that a couple of years before, the PC port included just this. Unfortunately, elements of games missing from their GameCube versions was a trend that would continue, but that’s for another day.
Some have tried, and failed to mimic the brilliantly balanced gameplay of Crazy Taxi – most notably Taxi Chaos which released earlier in 2021. However, the original didn’t need to be expanded or evolved in subsequent releases because there is something special about the original that is lost even when slightly changed. However, experiencing this on the GameCube was, and most probably still is, the most expensive way to do so. Failing that, an XBLA Xbox 360 version is available from the Xbox Store.
Let us know your Crazy Taxi memories by getting involved in the comments.