35. Crazy Taxi
Format: Dreamcast, Arcade
Games about boring jobs. These days, they’re half-heartedly spurted onto a DS cart without love or care, slapped with a label saying “THIS IS FOR LITTLE GIRLS SO WHATEVER” and that’s the end of it. If the 1980s, with the likes of Paperboy and Burger Time, could somehow gain sentience, they’d shake their collective head in despair.
The early days of gaming were the peak times for taking a wage-slave vocation and somehow making it fun, but you got the idea occasionally popping up again right up until the early ‘00s. Enter Crazy Taxi.
As befits an arcade game, it’s nice and simple. Pick up a customer and drop them off at their requested destination as quick as possible, with nice cash bonuses for particularly “crazy” driving – hurling your cab off jumps, passing close to other cars without clipping them, powersliding etc. The Dreamcast version adds in some nice bonuses, namely a whole second city to play in as well as Crazy Box mode – a series of minigame challenges that seemed very exciting back in 1999 but is now the sort of thing you pretty much expect from a game.
And that’s the thing about Crazy Taxi, really. Show it to a Callow Youth That Doesn’t Know How Good S/He’s Got It™, and s/he would say, “Yeah, and?” Because Crazy Taxi was like a little window onto what games would be before too long. It was, for the time, staggeringly detailed. The way the pedestrians leapt out of your way while yelling at you. The complex layout of the cities. The fact that actual real life places like KFC and Tower Records were in there. (Does Tower Records still exist?) The licensed soundtrack, which partly helped me get into The Offspring and completely helped get me into Bad Religion. The general feel that this was a real, living city you were blasting round. These days, it looks very old and dodgy, with beaucoup de pop-up (as the French say) and nothing beyond the core mechanic. (Although it’s still very fun to play.) But once upon a time, this was just about the coolest, most exciting game in the world. It should be remembered as such.
MAGIC MOMENT: driving down to the beach and finding that there were actually potential fares under the waves. Don’t worry, they had snorkels on.