I often miss the arcades of the eighties and nineties. The arcade is a dying breed these days and finding a truly great one is like looking for the Holy Grail. Thankfully, there are devs out there that like to try and keep the arcades alive, developed by Team6 Game Studios and published by Lion Castle comes Taxi Chaos.
Get behind the wheel and get ready for a brand-new taxi experience! Drive around the city as the seasoned cab driver Vinny or the self-proclaimed ‘influencer’ Cleo, and pick up the craziest of customers!
Power through midtown in a strong muscle car, race past all parks in an exotic supercar or drift around the business area in a Japanese tuner taxi. Whicher you choose – your challenge is to deliver your passengers on time! At least, if you want to make any money.
Do I even need to point out what we are dealing with here? If you were in an arcade circa 1999, then you’d have been made fully aware of Sega’s madcap and immensely fun taxi game, Crazy Taxi. An awesome arcade classic that spawned a pretty successful franchise, a franchise that Sega have all but ignored for years now. Aside from the main titles in the series, Sega has done very little with Crazy Taxi, save a handful of really shit, free to play, mobile, tappy-tap games recently. Still, what Sega won’t do, indie devs will.
So yeah, what we have here with Taxi Chaos is basically Crazy Taxi’s spiritual successor. You get to choose from two characters, Vinny or Cleo. This really is nothing but a cosmetic choice as both characters play the same. The only difference (outside of the visuals) is that the two characters have slightly different dialogue. Oh yeah, when you pick up a passenger, they exchange a few words and often have funny bits of chit-chat between them.
Where the game does offer some variety is with the selectable cars. There are seven to choose from, though all but one will be locked at the start of the game. You unlock the other cars by completing specific tasks such as driving so many in-game miles, getting high star ratings, completing missions, etc. Each of the cars have their own stats and this really does vary how well you can and will do in the main game. Speaking of which…
In terms of the core gameplay, Taxi Chaos is just Crazy Taxi. You have an open-world city to drive around, pick up a passenger and take them to their destination before time runs out and that’s it really. Longer trips reap bigger rewards. There is no endgame here, just a high score to go for, which can be added to the online leaderboards. You just keep going until time runs out and games never last longer than a couple of minutes or so. It’s fast and frantic arcade action… just like the Sega arcade game it is inspired by and if you did enjoy Crazy Taxi back in the day, then you’ll probably enjoy this… probably.
However… Taxi Chaos is just ‘lacking’, for want of a better word. What may have worked well in 1999 doesn’t really fly in today’s gaming market. I think the best way to look at this is not to compare Taxi Chaos to the arcade original, but instead compare it to the homeport of the arcade version from the Dreamcast. See, the arcade version was just that, an arcade game and those things were designed to swallow your coins. They were simple and tailor-made for quick bursts of short play. The homeport added several new features to give the buyer more game for their money and added longevity. You had the original game faithfully created but the Dreamcast port also came with a load of bonus content.
You got the Arcade mode, Original mode with a new map and the addition of the Crazy Box, which had loads of mini-games to enjoy. Do a ski jump, a bit of bowling, drifting challenges, stunt/jump courses and more. The Dreamcast version of Crazy Taxi was the arcade version and loads of extra content. With Taxi Chaos, you get one city to drive in… and that’s it. No bonuses, no mini-games, no extras. Even more so, the city in Crazy Taxi was based on San Francisco, so it had the big hills and jumps and a lot of scenery variety. The city in Taxi Chaos is based on New York and is very flat and everything looks very samey with big grey buildings everywhere. There is a version of Central Park here and a dock area with some slight variety buy that is about as interesting as the map ever gets.
You do get three different play modes with Taxi Chaos. You get a standard Arcade mode, which is exactly what you expect it to be. There’s a Pro mode, this is the same as Arcade but it removes the arrow pointing which way you need to go. This mode makes things a lot more difficult if you feel like a challenge. Then there is Free Roam mode, which just lets you pick up passengers and drive around the city with no timer. Really useful to learn your way around if you feel like doing a Pro run. But as the city is so samey and lacks the variety that the Crazy Taxi map had, finding your way around is too damn much of a chore. I mean here are two screengrabs I took of the game at different areas of the city.
Now, those two screens are from opposite ends of the map. As you can see, pretty much everything looks the same as 90% of the city is grey buildings and straight, flat roads. So if you are playing on Pro mode with no navigation, it’s too damn hard to work out where you are or where you’re supposed to be going. There are no major landmarks to use as navigation and it really just becomes a guessing game as to which way you need to go. I like a decent difficulty challenge in a game but this is just unfair. The Crazy Taxi map had so much more going on in it, open park areas, a freeway, downtown, rural areas, a shopping mall and so much more. The map here is just so damn plain. Plus, the controls here feel a bit ‘off’. It’s hard to get across in words unless you actually play Taxi Chaos for yourself. You can’t really throw the cars around and do the drifting that was in Crazy Taxi. The different cars here all do have different stats, yet none of them feel as ‘loose’ as the vehicles in Sega’s arcade game.
Plus, when I play Crazy Taxi (and I still do), I can get some good runs going. I can have games last twenty to thirty-plus minutes. With Taxi Chaos, I can’t make a game last longer than two to three minutes or so. The time bonuses seem to be way off and don’t reward you with enough extra seconds between passengers. I noticed there are two timers here. One is your main timer and the other is a customer timer. Crazy Taxi has this too but the time given and the bonuses earned allowed you to extend your game time by quite a bit, something you just can’t do here. In Crazy Taxi when you pick up a fare, you can get twenty plus seconds added to your time (depending on the distance) and five seconds for a successful drop-off. Here you get a lot less. Coupled with the bland map which is mostly straight streets, this is why you can’t make games last longer than two to three minutes, because the main timer and bonuses given are flawed.
There are also supposed to be special characters to pick up. Both your customers and the hints during the loading screen mention them. These characters are meant to open up special side missions where you need to find and collect hidden objects around the map. I played Taxi Chaos for around four hours and never once came across any of these special characters. Another flaw was that the navigation arrow was very erratic and would often change direction, even when my destination was directly in front of me. Plus the camera is too close to the car and you can’t change it.
I’ve been playing the Xbox version of Taxi Chaos, which comes in at a whopping £26! Bearing in mind that you can get the 360 version of Crazy Taxi (with a lot more content than just one map) for less than £7… and it is backwards compatible too. I seriously think that this game needs a massive price drop for me to recommend it on Xbox. I mean, it is a slightly more reasonable £16 for the PlayStation version and £20 on Steam (both of these versions have recently been on sale too, bringing the price down a bit more). I don’t get the wildly different prices here. Taxi Chaos is fun… but it’s not £26 worth of fun. Even harder to swallow, it’s £31.50 on Switch! Seriously, what is going on with these prices, how can the exact same game be £16 on the PlayStation but double that on Switch?
It also falls well short of the fun that Crazy Taxi offered. Taxi Chaos certainly looks like Crazy Taxi, but it doesn’t have its sense of urgency, speed and well… craziness. The slightly more reasonable £16 for the PlayStation version makes a bit more sense for what you get here. Though I’d still suggest waiting for a sale to bring it down to £10-£12… or just get a copy of Crazy Taxi even cheaper instead.
Look, I did like Taxi Chaos, I wanted to love it but ‘like’ is the best I could muster. It’s just a very, very okay game. I’d seriously suggest avoiding the Xbox and Switch versions at those insane price points as the content and value for money is just not here. It lacks the fun factor that Crazy Taxi had, it lacks the content of the home port which made the game so damn enjoyable. Taxi Chaos is a valiant effort in reviving a classic game. It got the looks right but it is just missing so much of what made that classic game so classic, to begin with. I’m sorry Team6 Game Studios but you either need to add a lot more game modes and content here, refine the gameplay and work out some of the issues, or drastically drop the price to £10-£12 across all formats for this to sell.
There is still a gap in the market for a really great Crazy Taxi homage, one that will need some work for today’s market. How about a multiplayer mode where you and your friends can compete on the same map for fares? A career option where you start out with a rundown cab and build up your cash to buy upgrades? Multiple cities? Customisation for the cabs? An editor so users can create and upload their own crazy challenges? That would be worth paying £26 (or maybe £31.50) for then. But Taxi Chaos as it is? Nope, save you cash and buy a copy of Crazy Taxi instead.