Crazy Taxi was a game only Sega could create or have the nerve to develop. Such a strange yet simplistic idea caught the imagination of many and influenced countless other games. Still not everything was perfect with the original, for it was an arcade conversion yet the sequel is designed purely for home consumption – more of the same or something else?
This time the game is set in the Big Apple which for a change is as sun-drenched as the West Coast setting of the original. Landmarks and famous buildings are included such as FAO Schwartz, Statue of Liberty, City Hall, Central Park etc but the highlight is the excellent level design. The two levels on offer are massive, full of variety and the inclusion of the crazy hop forces you to think on several levels. Once opened you can use skyscrapers to perform some mind-blowing feats and if the traffic is grid locked you can easily take to the underground. The first game was an almost go anywhere experience but here that motorway below or above you can be easily reached with a press of a button. Taking to the skies or the underground is often advised because as expected in New York and in Crazy Taxi 2 the traffic is intense. The Around Apple level Manhattan plus the option to drive across one of two bridges to the surrounding suburbs – it is really that big. The Small Apple is based around central park and is obviously smaller but with an emphasis on blocks, short straights and plenty of traffic!
The music is similar to the previous game and will no doubt irritate and pleasure an equal number – that’s what the music volume is for. Overall I do think that this does offer a much better pop-punk mixture but if you’re looking for hip hop or country, it isn’t for you. Hitmaker have included a replay mode that you can save and then replay through several angles and while its fun it only lasts for 2 minutes. It’s a shame that a full replay of your cabbie efforts could not be viewed at the end of a hard days work. One of the most enjoyable yet often-frustrating sections of the original were the mini games that developed the necessary skills needed to achieve those big scores. Here they have returned in the form of the Crazy Pyramid, which as you complete each level builds up to form a pyramid. The higher the level the more difficult the games but this time Hitmaker have included bonuses for good performance. Each level that you complete will open up an additional area on the game map for instance the section involving the subway. Of course it’s easier said than done because anyone who lost their composure on the bowling challenge in the original will be driven round the bend by some of the challenges on offer here.
Even though the original characters are hidden in the game waiting to be unlocked I cannot help but feel disappointed with the four newly created characters: Slash, Iceman, Cinnamon and Hot-D might sound like members of a nu-metal band but New York cabbies? I know we’re talking fiction here but each one of them looks like they’ve been plucked from the West Coast and dropped off in New York! However the fares that you collect on your travels (especially multiple) are excellent and they move around and say more in the cab than in previous version.
Crazy Taxi 2 looks better but only marginally so than the original Dreamcast version but the most obvious thing after a few seconds is the speed. Hitmaker have done wonders here and the slow-down that marred the original in places is a thing of the past. I’d made the mistake of playing the painfully slow Sony PS2 conversion before playing the sequel and people if you don’t have a Dreamcast by now then do so! It’s all the more impressive when you consider the range of vehicles and pedestrians that you zoom past. With the levels such as they are it would probably have been too much to ask for a pop-up free game. New York with its large buildings no doubt caused Hitmaker new problems in comparison to the earlier California setting. While it does not prove to be drawback or spoil the enjoyment of the game, at certain stages it can be very obvious. Perhaps the machine has been pushed to its limits here.
Crazy Taxi 2 is very much a mixed bag of improvements that are hit and miss. Certainly the multiple passengers are an excellent addition but you do need to be wary of the arrow. It always points to the nearest destination for anyone of the 2-4 fares on board and because it does not fix on one it will often jump around causing you to lose valuable time. More so than ever you need to know the layout of each map and perhaps as an admission of the problem, Hitmaker have kindly included maps of each level complete with landmarks.
For some the options will prove disappointing for here you do not have the option to change the time setting, traffic or time difficulty as you did in the original. This version is without a doubt more challenging but then you realise the answer. Hitmaker have shifted towards tricks and combos, fares may be harder to come by but using your skills you should more than make up for any shortfall. If you can overcome the problems associated with the arrow then multiple fares are the way to achieve big scores, the more passengers increases the times factor. The only problem I have with this is mainly down to the Crazy Hop, not because it’s a bad idea, far from it, but this move is achieved by pressing one button – not much skill involved in that is there?
Minor gripes aside this is a worthy sequel and a must have addition to any Dreamcast owners collection. It may not be the longest game you’ll ever play but the increased difficulty factor and collection of mini games adds depth that most fail to offer. Hopefully Hitmaker can include a multiplayer element in Crazy Taxi Next bound for the Microsoft Xbox. Excellent.