During the height of Sega’s creative peak, the company released a game to arcades and its ill-fated Dreamcast home video game console that would be fondly remembered years after its 1999 debut. That game is Crazy Taxi. The wacky racer puts you in the role of one of several colorful taxi drivers tasked with picking up passengers and delivering them to their destinations within a set time frame, while whizzing through traffic as ironically likeable late-1990s rock music blares in the background. Now, roughly 15 years later, Crazy Taxi returns as a free-to-play game for Android (and iPhone) called Crazy Taxi: City Rush. The game is stacked with ads and in-app purchases, but if you manage to overlook those annoyances, you’ll likely find the arcade racer’s look, feel, and sound live up to Crazy Taxi’s beloved lineage.
Practice RunI tested the game on a Samsung Galaxy Note II. After you select a driver and vehicle, Crazy Taxi: City Rush thrusts you into a brief tutorial that teaches you the simple control scheme. You tap right or left to shift lanes, tap and hold to power slide around corners, tap Boost to blow through traffic, and rapidly tap to break when you reach your destination.
You don’t have full control to explore the city as you do in the Crazy Taxi Android port, but that’s okay. City Rush’s simplified controls and beat-the-clock gameplay are well-suited for mobile racing. You can play the game with just one hand in either horizontal or vertical orientation.
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City Rush is an Ad RushBefore you start a real, non-practice mission, City Rush hits hits you up hard for cash. After I selected a car, the game tried to entice me to buy a $4.99 Low Rider Custom cab that was modified to achieve a higher top speed. That $4.99 price wasn’t the true cost, however; the cab’s price was slashed by 70 percent, and the discount would only be available for the next 72 hours. What a deal! I could almost hear an infomercial host screaming, “Buy now!”
The constant upselling is more than just irksome; it also clutters the interface. Depending on the screen, the layout can be a confusing mess due to the game’s need to constantly sell a new car, upgrade, or cabbie. The ultimate example of this is the full-screen video ads for other games that pop up from time to time. I understand that developers want to make money, but…yikes. If you’ve played Angry Birds Go! you understand the level of frustrating monetization in Crazy Taxi: City Rush.
But wait there’s more! Your taxi can run out of gas between missions, so you can’t play until you refill it. How do you go about doing this? You can wait (patiently!) for the tank to refill over time, watch video ads, or use gems that you find (or purchase, of course). I wish Sega would give fans the option to buy the game outright, so those who really long for new Crazy Taxi action wouldn’t have to put up with the ad and in-app-purchase madness.
But It’s Also Fun!
City Rush’s monetization scheme gets under the skin, but it’s hard to deny the title’s fun once you start playing the game. Developer Hardlight—Sega’s go-to company for mobile titles—does a good job of retaining the core Crazy Taxi feel. City Rush contains the thrill of skidding into a destination with just seconds, as well as crazy driving that sees you plowing through traffic and performing stunts. You’re rewarded for catching big air by flying off ramps, for example. The levels don’t feel as large or alive as other games in the series, though. You wander a bit to discover shortcuts that will get you to a destination faster, but the stages feel smaller.
This game’s soundtrack, which is comprised of indie pop-punk tracks from the likes of State Champs and The Story So Far, doesn’t match the original game’s music, but does a good job of contributing to the chaotic gameplay. If you aren’t hip to the tunes, the game lets you fire up preferred music from your smartphone or tablet.
You’re ranked on how fast you drop off passengers, the number of tricks you pull off as you race toward a destination, and other metrics. Even a mediocre run can net you a ton of in-game cash (called normal currency) that lets you upgrade your car’s cosmetics and parts for better performance. There’s a lot of customization, so you can make your whip as beautiful or as gaudy as you’d like. You also unlock characters as you level up (yup, you earn experience points, too!), and each new driver grants a bonus ability. For example, the well-dressed Jake Johnson grants a five percent ride bonus (consider it a tip for getting people where they need to go). You can purchase 15,000 normal currency for $2.99.
The Final FareIf you’re looking for that tried-and-true Crazy Taxi experience, City Rush doesn’t quite deliver there. But if you’re looking for a Crazy Taxi designed with mobile use in mind, City Rush is a fun, free alternative. You just have to be willing to deal with the monetization pushes.