Game Description: Crazy Taxi 2 is set in the most taxi-crazed city of them all: New York. Leaving the California sun behind, this sequel has a grittier, more urban aesthetic—and an attitude to match. Though the object of the game is still to pick up and shuttle fares across the city, Crazy Taxi 2 sports better graphics, new and returning drivers, more missions, and a wild new jump feature that lets you clear cars and intersections at the touch of a button. Adding to the game's challenge are cab-sharing groups of people who aren't always going to the same place.
Last Year, Hitmaker, formerly AM3, lived up to its new name by releasing one of the best arcade ports to hit the market in a good long while. Dubbed Crazy Taxi, its premise was perfect you controlled daredevil cabbies willing to do anything to score a fare on the crowded, hilly streets of a pseudo-San Francisco. Its combination of sharp, colorful arcade graphics, an energetic soundtrack, and tight controls made it a truly enjoyable experience and a crowning achievement for Sega and its Dreamcast. That said, here in the Big Apple I couldn't help but scratch my head while playing. How could Sega release a game about cabbies and leave out New York City: the cabbie mecca of the world? Our tales of cabbies in this city are legendary—some rival the very things you are expected to pull off in Crazy Taxi. I could only conclude (and hope) that the developer would realize its error and correct it in a sequel. Sure enough Hitmaker did just that with Crazy Taxi 2.
After Crazy Taxi, I didn't think there was anything meaningful that could be added to its play mechanics, but Hitmaker did anyway. Not content to have the action take place on street level, it tricked out the cabs and added a jump feature (dubbed a Crazy Hop) to the mix. This feature does its job in taking things to the next level. Now when playing chicken with oncoming traffic, slow moving drivers or stationary obstacles that cannot be otherwise circumnavigated, I just hit a button and the cab takes to the air like the General Lee. This also means that ledges, rooftops, and elevated highways are much more accessible. Taking to the air was appealing for a while but I found that it came in most handy by increasing my tips from passengers—combining a Crazy Hop with a Crazy Dash and Crazy Drift results in mondo bucks added to my meter.
Though it added some variety and interesting new dynamics to the gameplay, the Crazy Hop brought with it its share of problems as well. When Crazy Hopping onto an elevated highway or rooftop, you are immediately faced with such challenging issues as maintaining your direction and judging distances. The green arrow that once guided you right to a target when you were on the ground level is now useless if you are in a multi-storied location. It offers no clue as to where the destination is on the lower level or which path should be taken to reach it.
As first demonstrated in Crazy Taxi's Crazy Box mode, you can now carry multiple passengers. Up to four passengers can ride at once, each with his or her own destination. Picking up multiple fares is a sure way to make a killing without having to constantly stop and pick up passengers. The catch is that you don't get paid until you deliver every single passenger. And these fares make you earn your money. Sometimes they send you to the farthest reaches of the city, so much of your time will likely be dedicated to driving them around. These multiple passengers can also be a pain to keep track of. The green arrows now spin sporadically depending on how close you are to a passenger's destination. The onscreen icons that tracked your distance from the destination and counted down the closer you got to your goal, now clutter the screen and are not easy to use as you zip around the city in a race against the clock. Admittedly, this problem is alleviated a bit once you have the cities committed to memory, but you should still expect to get lost while playing.
It's when the novelty of these new features wears off that Crazy Taxi's original problems rear their ugly heads. I'm referring, of course, to the game's brevity and lack of replay value. While racing through the city is great fun, I have always felt that 3-, 5-, and 10-minute intervals are not enough time to allow me to enjoy myself. The "original" mode allows you to accrue more time depending on how quickly you dispatch passengers, but no matter how good you are, time eventually runs out. It's even worse when you pick up one or two of the four-member fares scattered throughout the game. Though they offer the biggest rewards, driving these parties around can eat up a huge amount of your time.
Since the original Crazy Taxi, I have craved a "free ride" mode where I could drive around as I saw fit—or where at the very least I have more than 10 minutes at my disposal. It certainly doesn't help that the game starts you off in the exact same spot every time you start a game. If the starting point were random, I would get to see more of the city and get more varied destination requests to keep things interesting. That's where the second city, Small Apple, was supposed to come in, but it succumbs to the same limitations. Time and time again, I had to go out of my way to find some variety in few fares, but why should I do so much work just to get some variety in a game? I understand that Sega never set out to make a particularly deep game when it made Crazy Taxi. That's probably what made it such a great arcade game. But this home conversion needed some adjustments to its core gameplay that Sega seems unwilling to make.
As I am prone to do in any game that features New York stages—or, in this case, is based solely on my hometown—I was eager to take a tour of this virtual NYC. I knew beforehand that Sega did a lot of work trying to recreate the landmarks and architecture of New York so I wanted to see them for myself. For all of their hard work though, Sega seems unwilling to let me see them. By the time I made it to such NY landmarks as Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I'd find myself out of time. I always found that I didn't have the time to enjoy it.
Hitmaker did sneak some new modes into the game for the sole purpose of increasing the replay value. You can now record your runs and view them at your leisure. In the very same replay mode, it is possible to start the game at different locations, but you only get a minute and 20 seconds in which to do anything. There is also an Internet mode for downloading high scores of other "Crazy" fans. But this brings me to the question of why Sega hasn't offered a two-player mode with this game. Crazy Taxi 2 is just screaming for one. I will already concede that an online mode might be too ambitious given the size of the cities and the speed of the gameplay, but I should at least be able to compete with a friend via split-screen. I certainly would have been playing longer had I had a friend to compete with—even for a few minutes at a time.
Everything else in the game seems to get the touch up treatment. The Crazy Box mini-games are back and offer—well, more mini-games. The graphics engine has been improved. Though most vehicles and buildings are still relatively simple in their construction and texturing, there are far fewer occurrences of the draw-in that plagued its predecessor and the action runs at a crisp 60 frames per second. Of course, it wouldn't be Crazy Taxi if it didn't include the loud high-octane alternative music of Offspring. Crazy Taxi 2boasts four new tracks from the band that are sure to make fans happy. For the rest of us who can't distinguish one Offspring song from the next, it probably doesn't matter. Nevertheless, the graphics and music play no small part in the appeal of this game so fans of the first game are sure to be happy with what they get here—it's everything you'd come to expect from Sega and its arcade port.
As one of the premiere Dreamcast titles, Crazy Taxi was an excellent example of next-generation gaming with its wonderful mix of 128-bit graphics and simple, yet engaging gameplay. Crazy Taxi 2 does a good job following in its footsteps, thanks to its new features and a new city in which to roam. Unfortunately, Sega's refusal to expand the game beyond its arcade roots in its conversion to the home market only grounds intrepid taxi drivers. None of the original problems I tolerated were corrected and with the passage of time, they are only more apparent.
New York City may be the real-life mecca for cabbies everywhere, but the faux-NYC depicted in Crazy Taxi 2 isnt a place I particularly enjoyed driving in. While I loved the first installment of the game, I honestly didnt see much room for improvement. Taking that first huge jump off of the hills of the fake San Francisco is undoubtedly going to go down as one of the classic moments in gaming, and the game overall was a simple-yet-addicting hopped up rock n roll ride.
While it was unavoidable that Sega (or any company for that matter) would try to capitalize on such a huge smash hit with a sequel, Im not really convinced that anything meaningful has been added to the experience.
For starters, most of the levels consist of tall skyscrapers and city blocks. While this is probably what most of New York looks like, (I havent been there) it makes for some pretty boring driving. Unlike Dale, Im a west-coast boy at heart and playing in the concrete jungle made me miss the seaside, rolling hills, and wide-open spaces of the first game. Sure, I understand that a sunny west-coast setting probably isnt what being a cabbie is all about, but it seems like there just arent enough interesting places for you to drive your yellow box to since it all looks basically the same.
Another thing I noticed was that the complexity of the cities seems at odds with the "pick-up-and-play" philosophy the first game thrived on. Driving in the Apple, you need to sit down and commit a lot of the citys layout to memory in order to achieve any meaningful level of success. Frankly speaking, I wasnt interested or willing to sit down and memorize much of anything since Crazy Taxi 2 (as well as the first game) are score-based titles best played in small doses. There simply wasnt enough motivation for me to invest the amount of time necessary and I question the designers choice to complicate things. The perfect example of this is the green directional arrow that Dale mentioned. It utterly fails as a directional aid for people who need it since it doesnt seem to take the altitude of your cab into account, and will often lead you in a wrong direction. Thats not even mentioning the fact that the arrow often swings around 180 degrees if you go from the ground to an elevated road, or vice versa. If you dont know how to get to your destination from memory, youd better get used to scoring some pretty low totals.
Hitmakers most significant addition (perhaps "modification" would be a better word) besides the new maps is the Crazy Hop. One of the things that I really loved about the first Crazy Taxi was that the cab basically had to follow semi-realistic rules such as dodging oncoming traffic or swerving in between and around obstacles. Sure, it wasnt a taxicab sim or anything, but you basically knew what the rules of driving a car were and which ones were supposed to be broken. With the Crazy Hop, you dont really need to pay attention to traffic barriers anymore since you can take to the skies at will. It may sound odd, but I think the Hop takes it a little too far in the direction of the unreal. Who hasnt dreamed of barreling over some sidewalk or screaming into the oncoming lane when youre stuck in rush hour? Adding the Hop has taken every frustrated motorists fantasy and turned it into something thats too far out of touch with whats possible and therefore becomes less compelling.
I basically agree with the rest of Dale's points and Ill finish up by saying that, in my opinion, this game didnt really need to be made. The first Crazy Taxi came as close to perfection as a fast arcade-style game can come, and if theres going to be a Crazy Taxi 3 it needs to move substantially past whats already been established. Hopefully Sega can implement some kind of Crazy Quest mode, or perhaps add some kind of back-story motivation with objectives in order to keep things fresh for what is basically the same game. It works for RPGs, so why not here? A few minor tweaks and a new place to drive around probably arent enough to satisfy anyone except the people who get into the technical-perfection aspect of the Crazy Taxi experience. Its not a horrible game by any means, but for people like me who have played the hell out of the first one, theres just no real reason to play this, especially since you can get the superior original for half the price. If you cant add anything meaningful and there isnt a plot, dont bother making a sequel.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Strong Language
Parents should be aware that there is a fair amount of potty mouth language in this game. Its in both the lyrics of the music and out of the mouths of the passengers and cabbies alike. Aside from that, there isnt anything that you may find questionable.
Dreamcast owners desperate for games for their dying console will likely enjoy their time spent with Crazy Taxi 2.
Crazy Taxi fans are sure to find something they will like about Crazy Taxi 2 if all they are looking for is a new city to drive through and new drivers to control. The new jump feature and replay mode spice things up a little bit.
PlayStation 2 owners will have to settle for Acclaim's recently released port of the original Crazy Taxi.
Those with time-constraints and arcade racing/driving fans may enjoy Crazy Taxi given its pick-up-and-go gameplay.