Version tested: GameBoy Advance
Driving a taxi is not guaranteed to increase your sex appeal. In a recent survey, a mere one per cent of women polled claimed to have found a taxi driver sexually attractive at some point in their lives, and nobody appears to have gone home with one. Or at least, invited one up for coffee once he pulled up outside. What's more, the survey didn't ask how drunk you had to be in order to succumb to the allure of cockney wheel-sloggers, so it seems that apart from a few fares and a thorough knowledge of back roads and one-way systems, taxi drivers aren't likely to score heavily.
Pick me up
But once you get behind the wheel in Crazy Taxi, all that changes. OK, you're not sweeping women off their feet, but they're certainly feeling the vibrations as you haul each screeching hulk of metal round the corner at breakneck speed, fly off the tops of hills and land precisely at their location with seconds to spare. They're not the only ones, either! We've carted teenagers, vicars, Japanese businessmen and all manner of yokels from A to B, and we've collected thousands of dollars to boot.
What makes Crazy Taxi fun for all and sundry though is a clever mixture of things: a living, breathing city, Hollywood handling, the pressure of a time limit, Sega's trademark one-more-go gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and above all else the force of 60 frames hurtling upside your eyeballs every second. It's fast, furious and fun.
Sadly, the game's sequels didn't really live up to the original's subtle genius, but we can live with that. We still have a fond place in our hearts for Crazy Taxi, and in particular it's devilishly tricky "Crazy Box" challenges, which have you soaring off ski jumps, racing along beaches and even downing ten pins in a bowling alley. Indeed, whenever the urge hits us to drag out our cherished Dreamcasts, one of the first titles we reach for is Crazy Taxi. No doubt THQ and developer Graphic State hope that it's a reaction we'll soon grow accustomed to when dragging GBAs out of our pockets.
But as you can probably tell, it really won't be. Given the quality of the Dreamcast hardware and speed of CT's gameplay, the humble GBA never stood a chance. Graphic State has adventurously attempted to concoct a 3D version of the game, but in the process we've lost resolution, subtlety, draw distance and speed.
Crazy Taxi on the GBA looks a lot like Outrun, with crazily blocky buildings, cars, and other items of scenery, and the mishmash of sprites and polygons just doesn't work. The car itself is a sprite shot from different angles, as are the AI-controlled vehicles, peds and so forth, and the digital handling and awkward D-pad of the console mean that minute directional adjustments are very tricky to accomplish - particularly as your crazy ride is given to lurching this way and that in tune with the arcadey dynamic.
The lack of draw distance doesn't help, because coupled with the resolution problem you often don't see your destination until you're literally on top of it - forcing you to rely more on a combination of the GTA-style arrow at the top of the screen and a distance meter in the bottom left. Picking up fares is a lot harder too for the same reason, and in this case you can't rely on shiny circles on the ground to make sure you're positioned right, nor any sort of radar to keep an eye on them. Often it's just potluck if you end up collecting one.
Not crazy enough
We were pleased to see a couple of pretty huge cities (including the original and best one) thrown in, and nine Crazy Box challenges present and correct, but at the end of the day this isn't a matter of graphics whorishness, it's just that the GBA can't do the game justice. Underneath it all you can feel the spirit of the game struggling to get out, but when you overshoot a target you can barely see for the umpteenth time, or fly past a pedestrian who could have stopped the timer striking zero, you'll curse the hardware and the quartered frame rate.
As much as we'd like to recommend Crazy Taxi, for all its efforts, it's just not as fast or engaging as it needs to be. And, to be honest, good intentions are no argument when it's a matter of £35. If you've never played the game and fancy a burn, then consult your old chum eBay - he'll cut you a similar deal for better goods.
4 / 10