All right, all right, it's time to play some Crazy Taxi! Sega's premiere fast-driving, score-hungry taxi series has made its way onto iOS with Crazy Taxi City Rush, a free-to-play title that will drag you in with its quick pace and then turn you away with its underhanded practices.
Real-life taxi drivers aren't exactly known for safe driving, and in Crazy Taxi, the faster (and more insane) you drive, the greater your rewards. Rather than adhere to the arcade-style gameplay of previous Crazy Taxi titles, Crazy Taxi City Rush tasks players with completing numerous levels scattered across area maps, with the basic traffic-dodging, coin-grabbing, hard-drifting gameplay remaining more or less the same. It's not always easy to translate the conciseness of analogue controllers into touch-screen controls, but Crazy Taxi City Rush manages to do so nicely. Just a swipe to the left, or a tap to the right, will see you Vin Dieseling your way out of oncoming traffic. It's a constant race against the clock, so players need nimble fingers in order to keep the gas pedal floored and get their ferries to their destinations on time.
Upon completing each level you're rewarded with coins, used to unlock new customization options for your cab, experience points, which unlock new drivers, car parts, and more, and occasionally gems, the ever-present bane of free-to-play games needed to do most basic functions. Crazy Taxi's reward structure is fairly sound, and the actual driving is excellent, but the gems (and all the free-to-play baggage which comes with them) drag the entire experience down.
Players have a limited gas tank which refills over time— each level drains one notch from the tank, and once it's empty you either have to wait or shell out real money for gems to refill it with. These gems act as gatekeepers for numerous parts of the game; don't expect to get the most powerful taxicabs and customization options unless you're willing to shell out some major bucks. Additionally, there are fun bonus levels which mix things up, like the tank levels that ask players to run over other cars rather than dodge them, but like a drug dealer, the first sample is free and the rest will cost you. It's a shame to see these free-to-play elements creep into this newly-revamped Crazy Taxi, as so many other things are done well here.
Born during the ill-fated Dreamcast era, Crazy Taxi's core gameplay has always withstood the test of time while its audio and visuals were decidedly late '90s. Crazy Taxi City Rush retains that late '90s flavor with a soundtrack that infuses modern rock with a post-Nirvana, pre-Backstreet Boys goodness. Like the original games there aren't many different tracks, but each song is catchy and fun, keeping the energy flowing and the good times rolling. The visuals are sharp, clear, and cartoony, feeling, for the most part, like a smart update to the style of the original Crazy Taxi, with the one exception being how overly-slender everyone looks. All of Crazy Taxi City Rush's men and women look a little on the starved side, including returning characters like Gena and B.D. Joe, the latter of whom looks like he went through a rough breakup and forgot to eat for a few months.
It's always tough to come across a game like this where so much is done correctly but a few major flaws drag everything down, but there's no getting around how annoying Crazy Taxi City Rush's pricing scheme is. It's easy to play for a few minutes and be wowed by the quick, rewarding rush of zooming through busy city streets, but put in much time and you may be driven away by the aggressive pricing, annoying ads, and numerous other free-to-play trappings which put sugar in the gas tank of this otherwise great game.
This review was based on a download of Crazy Tax City Rush provided by the publisher for iOS.