Crazy Taxi (series)
The Crazy Taxi logo
Genres Score attack, racing Developers Hitmaker Publishers Sega
Crazy Taxi is a series of score attack racing video games that was developed by Hitmaker and published by Sega. The first game appeared in arcades in 1999 and was very successful, prompting Sega to port the arcade version to their Dreamcast console in 2000. It is the third best-selling Dreamcast game in the United States, selling over a million copies. The game was later ported to the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and PC with sequels also appearing on the Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation Portable systems.
Each game has the player assume the role of a taxi driver who must accumulate money by delivering passengers to their destinations in the fastest time possible, earning tips by performing "crazy stunts" before the time runs out. The franchise has been recognized for its innovative gameplay design which is easy to learn but difficult to master, its use of in-game advertising, and its soundtrack music provided by the bands The Offspring and Bad Religion. The core gameplay mechanic has been patented by Sega, leading to at least one lawsuit over similar gameplay in The Simpsons Road Rage, which has since been settled out of court.
Crazy Taxi and its sequels are score attack games that all employ the same fundamental rules and mechanics. The player controls one of several taxi drivers in a fictional city, looking for fares and then taking them to their destination in the fastest time possible. The player must perform this while time still remains on an overall gameplay clock. Passengers looking for rides are indicated by an overhead marker that is colored to represent the distance to their intended destination. The color marker ranges from red indicating short trips, to yellow for intermediate distances, and to green indicating long ones. When a passenger is picked up, the player is awarded additional time on the countdown time. Furthermore, a second countdown timer is started, representing how quickly the passenger needs to be at their destination. While a passenger is in the taxi, a large green arrow is shown on the player's HUD that points in the general direction of the passenger's destination to help guide the player through the map.
The player can use special "crazy stunt" moves such as drifts, jumps, and near-misses, and consecutive combos of these, to earn extra money from the passenger during the trip. If the destination is reached in time, the player is paid based on distance driven with a possible time bonus based on how quickly the destination was reached. If the passenger's countdown drops to zero, they will exit the taxi and the player will be required to look for another fare. The game continues in this mode as long as time remains on the clock. Once the clock reaches zero, the game is over, and the player is ranked and rated based on the total earned.
Unlike other arcade games, the player cannot continue from where the previous game ended. The game cannot be played indefinitely; while there are hundreds of potential passengers to pick up and deliver, there are only a limited number of fares in the game. The various passengers scattered throughout the city will randomly appear and disappear throughout the game, but once one is picked up that passenger is unavailable for the rest of that game. The core gameplay in the series has been praised as being "deceptively complex"; as stated by the IGN staff for their review of the Dreamcast version of Crazy Taxi:As you progress through the game's ratings scale by picking up and delivering passengers as quickly as possible, you will slowly but surely realize that there is much more to the game than getting from point a to b.—IGN Staff, Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast) Review
Starting with Crazy Taxi 2, the gameplay included the ability to pick up a party of passengers, each having a different destination. The number of passengers in the car multiplies the tip bonuses earned from stunt driving, while the total fare can only be earned once the last passenger is dropped off in time. Additionally, Crazy Taxi 2 introduced a new stunt move called the "Crazy Hop" that allowed the player to make the taxi jump to clear some obstacles or reach higher drivable surfaces.
The console games have also featured a set of mini-games that require the player to meet a certain objective using one or more of the various "crazy stunts" within the game. Some of these test the player's handling of a taxi, while others are more exaggerated, such as taxi bowling or pool. Some mini-games require the completion of others before they can be accessed.
Prior to each game session, the player can pick one of several drivers and their associated cars; each car/driver has slightly different performance relating to factor such as speed and turning, that impact the game.
The original arcade game was developed by Hitmaker as a variation from then-current arcade titles. Crazy Taxi producer Kenji Kanno noted that the time extension on gameplay was a breakaway of the current "100 yen for 3 minutes" that persisted at the time for arcade games, and rewarded players with longer playing times by performing well in the game. In addition to providing a game that could be played in short sessions, Kanno wanted a game to explore the "daily life and routine" of a taxi driver. In the development of the Dreamcast version of the original arcade game, the developers included a larger map in addition to the arcade one, as to create a feeling of "being lost" and allowing home console players to have fun "learning the town". Mini-games were developed for this version as to "let the player play longer if he improve[d] skill" by offering challenges that were both fun and educational. Over one hundred different ideas for mini-games were developed by the team but then pared down for the Crazy Box mini-game challenges for the game. The addition of the Crazy Hop in Crazy Taxi 2 came about because the development team noted that "...in New York - where the basic landscape is quite flat - we had to create 3D space by letting the player drive on the buildings" and "We added the Crazy Hop to let the player hop around the roofs of buildings to make short cuts".
Hitmaker had tried to develop an on-line version of Crazy Taxi, to be called Crazy Taxi Next exclusively for the Xbox, which, besides multiplayer game modes, would have included night and day cycles, each with a different set of passengers and destinations, while reusing and graphically updating the maps from Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 2. Ultimately, both multiplayer and day/night cycles were dropped and work on Crazy Taxi Next was transferred to Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, which included some of the nighttime driving concepts suggested by Next.
Kenji Kanno has noted that the gameplay in the Crazy Taxi series has otherwise not "evolved" with each new game "because basically the whole point of the game is to have a lot of fun in a short period of time, and it's a very concentrated game. So instead of trying to evolve the series necessarily, it's more like taking that concept and putting it in different places—seeing how it works."
Through the series, the cities used within the Crazy Taxi games have been influenced by real-world cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Las Vegas. Certain versions of the Crazy Taxi game include in-game counterparts of real-world businesses, including Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, FILA, and Tower Records; these were often destination targets for the passengers. Although this is one of the most prominent examples of product placement in video gaming history, it is generally looked upon relatively favorably amongst gamers, perhaps because it gives a sense of realism to the fictional cities in the game. These establishments have been replaced with generic businesses in later games due to licensing difficulties.
The soundtrack of the Crazy Taxi series has typically been licensed hard rock and punk rock music. The arcade and initial home console versions include selections from punk rock bands The Offspring and Bad Religion, though these have been removed in both the Game Boy Advance and the PlayStation Portable remakes because of licensing issues. In the case of the Game Boy Advance Catch a Ride, the game uses instrumental music instead of recorded songs.
Sega applied for and was awarded U.S. Patent 6,200,138–"Game display method, moving direction indicating method, game apparatus and drive simulating apparatus" – in 2001. The mechanics in the "138 patent" describe an arcade cabinet similar to Sega's previous arcade game Harley-Davidson & L.A. Riders (1997), but also describe the arrow navigation system and pedestrian avoidance aspects that were used in Crazy Taxi.
In 2001, Electronic Arts and Fox Entertainment released The Simpsons: Road Rage, which has been labelled a rip-off of the Crazy Taxi formula by game reviewers. In this game, the player controlled one of The Simpsons characters as they drive about Springfield, taking passengers to their destinations in the same manner as Crazy Taxi. Sega sued Fox Entertainment, Electronic Arts, and developer Radical Games Ltd. over infringement of the 138 patent. The case, Sega of America, Inc. v. Fox Interactive, et al., was settled in private for an unknown amount. The 138 patent itself remains valid, and is considered to be one of the most important patents in video game development today.
Crazy Taxi (arcade)
The arcade version of Crazy Taxi was released in 1999, and featured only the San Francisco-inspired map (known as "Arcade" in the first console game, and later as "West Coast" in sequels). The "Standard Version" arcade cabinet included a cockpit seat, steering wheel, a gear shift lever (for forward and reverse gear) and a brake and acceleration pedal; a more compact "Naomi Cabinet Version" also existed without the cockpit seat. The arcade game was one of the first to use the Sega NAOMI hardware processor, which later would be used in the Sega Dreamcast, and was unveiled as part of Sega's exhibition at the 1999 Amusement Operators Union exposition in Japan.
Crazy Taxi (console)
The console/home version of Crazy Taxi was released for the Dreamcast on January 24, 2000. The Dreamcast and the cabinet arcade version share nearly identical processing hardware, and porting the game to the home console was only made difficult due to the limited internal memory size on the Dreamcast. Sega used Crazy Taxi to show the power of the Dreamcast's graphical processor, capable of maintaining 60 frame/s throughout play. In addition to the arcade map, this version included the Los Angeles-themed city (entitled "Original"), as well as additional mini-games ("Crazy Box") that can be used to hone the player's taxi handling skills. The new map, much larger than the arcade version, was designed to let the player experience the feeling of "being lost" and allow for exploration, something that could not be done on the arcade version, as well letting "the player enjoy all 3 dimensions."
Once Sega left the hardware market, other companies began to take up some of the franchises, including Crazy Taxi. Acclaim brought the game to the PlayStation on May 21, 2001 and GameCube on November 18, 2001, while Activision and Strangelite ported the game to the PC in 2002; only the PlayStation 2 port was more successful than the Dreamcast version, and the rest didn't do as well. Currently, the Dreamcast version of Crazy Taxi can be played through emulation via Gametap on PC systems.
Crazy Taxi 2
Crazy Taxi 2 was released for the Dreamcast on May 28, 2001. The game introduced four new characters, two new maps inspired by New York City ("Around Apple" and "Small Apple"), and added two gameplay features: the mechanics of collecting multiple passengers from a single spot, and the "Crazy Hop", allowing the taxi to clear traffic and certain obstacles with short jumps. Additionally, the "Crazy Box" mode in the first game was expanded into a "Crazy Pyramid" mode.
Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller
Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller was released for the Xbox on July 23, 2002, and later released as a PC title in 2004. The game reuses the original arcade map modified to allow the use of the "Crazy Hop" introduced in Crazy Taxi 2, one of the maps from Crazy Taxi 2, and a new map based on Las Vegas ("Glitter Oasis"). The game adds an additional four characters to select from. The game allows the player to unlock other modes of transport besides the taxi, including a stroller, a pedal bike and a carriage. The mini-games in Crazy Taxi 3 are featured in a "Crazy X" arrangement. An arcade version, entitled Crazy Taxi: High Roller was created in 2003 using the same three maps as the home console version.
Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride
Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride was ported to the Game Boy Advance by Graphics State and distributed by THQ, and released on April 8, 2003. This version is fundamentally the same as the Crazy Taxi console versions, featuring the San Francisco and Los Angeles-themed maps but with a smaller selection of mini-games, adapted to play on the portable device using the Graphics State "Rush" engine. Specifically, while the city and streets are rendered using 3D graphics, the taxi, passengers, and other traffic are represented by sprites in order to work on the limited GBA hardware. Richard Whittall, creative director for Graphics State, noted that Catch A Ride was "about the most technically challenging game you could do on a handheld machine" at the time of its release.
Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars
Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars was developed by Sniper Studios with support of members of original Hitmaker Crazy Taxi design team in Japan and released for the PlayStation Portable on August 7, 2007. The game effectively is a port of both Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 2 to this system without any changes to the gameplay, but lacking the in-game advertising and the original soundtracks. While the game includes its own soundtrack, the player can use their own music stored on the PSP; as noted by Jeff Hasson of Sniper Studios, "for those hard core fans that must have The Offspring playing, they have that option with the Custom Music Player." The player can also record up to a minute of gameplay footage that can then be shared with friends. The game includes a multiplayer feature over the PSP's ad-hoc wireless system, allowing players to vie for fares within the same map, including the ability to steal passengers from another player. Multiplayer games such as time trials or "C-R-A-Z-Y" runs (a variation of the game "Horse") can also be played sharing a common PSP, with each player taking turns within the game.
Game System Metacritic Game Rankings Crazy Taxi Dreamcast — 90% (41 reviews) PS2 80/100 (15 reviews) 79% (46 reviews) GameCube 69/100 (20 reviews) 70% (39 reviews) PC — 56% (6 reviews) Crazy Taxi 2 Dreamcast 82/100 (18 reviews) 83% (36 reviews) Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller Xbox 69/100 (33 reviews) 69% (59 reviews) PC — 49% (1 review) Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride GBA 48/100 (14 reviews) 47% (15 reviews) Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars PSP 65/100 (20 reviews) 67% (16 reviews)
The original Dreamcast version Crazy Taxi was one of the best-selling games for the console. The game was the second largest selling Dreamcast game in the United States in 2000, selling nearly 750,000 units, and is the third best-selling Dreamcast game in the United States with over a million units sold. The game was praised for capturing the arcade flavor, and possibly exceeding it by making the controls and execution of the crazy stunts easier to execute. The game did suffer from "pop-up" due to limited draw distances, and loss of frame rate when a large number of cars were on the screen. Critics noted the lack of depth given that it was a port of an arcade game, some difficulties with the destination arrow, and the poor "Wolfman Jack" impersonation of the in-game announcer.
Crazy Taxi 2 was well received by reviewers with the new features helping to expand play from the original game, though some thought that more drastic changes could have been made in the sequel. Despite the addition of new maps, the lack of new gameplay elements caused Crazy Taxi 3 to be panned by reviewers. IGN noted in its review for Crazy Taxi 3 that "It's clear that the creative vibrancy that first imagined the Taxi series has waned considerably."
The ports of the original game to the PS2 and GameCube platforms are not considered as strong as the Dreamcast game. Both were noted to suffer from more "pop-up" than the Dreamcast version, as well as poorer controls, despite having the same gameplay features. Graphic problems plagued the Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride port to the Game Boy Advance; as IGN stated, "it's painfully obvious that the hardware just was never meant to push so much." Both PC ports for Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 3 also suffered from graphics problems.
The PSP ports of Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars have had a somewhat better reception than other ports. Reviews have complimented the game on the multiplayer additions and the ability to add a custom soundtrack – which led IGN to comment that "Including this should be a no-brainer, but many PSP titles don't" – but have noted some graphical glitches, the long loading times, and the lack of the original soundtracks for the games. The reviews of the controls of the game have mixed, with some praising the scheme on the PSP, while others have stated that the controls feel stiff and inconsistent. Gamespot's review noted that the gameplay in Crazy Taxi does not hold up well compared to more recent racing games across various platforms.
A Crazy Taxi segment is featured in the "Sega Carnival" track in Sonic Riders, including a hidden shortcut allowing racers to receive a ride from taxi driver Axel; a Crazy Taxi extreme gear can be unlocked as well. There is also a minigame based on Crazy Taxi in the Eyetoy game, Sega Superstars, in which players move around and shout to call one of the taxi drivers. B.D. Joe, who has appeared in most games in the series, has been confirmed as a playable character in the upcoming cross-series racing game, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. Sumo Digital's Steve "S0L" Lycett had to get approval from SEGA AM3 in order to use B.D. Joe in the game.
Beyond video games
Sega has attempted to branch the Crazy Taxi franchise beyond the realm of video games, with varied results.
In addition to the video arcade games, Sega Enterprises, Inc. (USA) created a Crazy Taxi themed redemption game which was released in 2003. The player had to roll their coin or token down the sloped playing surface past a moving taxi model in the center of the playing field in order to hit one of eight targets (representing passengers) at the far end. Passengers were worth different points, from which the operator would then set the amount of tickets to be won. The game incorporated music and sounds from the video games.
There have been two attempts to create a movie based on the Crazy Taxi franchise. In 2001, Goodman-Rosen Productions acquired the rights for the movie, with Richard Donner lined up to direct the film. Donner had stated "I loved playing 'Crazy Taxi,' and I realized immediately that it had the potential to be a big summer event movie." The movie would have been tied with other merchandise items such as t-shirts and toys, according to Jane Thompson, director of licensing for Sega of America. However, this initial attempt stalled due to an "absence of plot elements" according to Movie Insider. After this option expired, Mindfire Entertainment acquired the rights to a Crazy Taxi movie based on the game franchise in 2002, with an expected release date in mid-2003. However, since then, no further news on the film has been forthcoming.
In 2003, Sega entered a contract with DSI Toys to produce a remote controlled car in their "GearHead" line based on the Crazy Taxi franchise. DSI expected large financial returns from this, as well as a licensed DJ Skribble toy line, but sales did not prevent DSI from filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy later that year.
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