The Dreamcast may have been the final nail in the coffin when it came to SEGA's standing in the console market, but it sure did have some great games within its catalogue. Easily one of the most iconic is Crazy Taxi, a frantic arcade racer that sees you risk life and limb to get your passengers to their destination on time. It may be remembered as belovedly as Jet Set Radio and Shemue, but sadly, the series still remains in retirement as its last entry released on the PSP back in 2006. A successor might not be on the horizon, but the next best thing has happened as Team 6 has delivered a spiritual successor named Taxi Chaos.
Taxi Chaos' gameplay is pretty much identical to Crazy Taxi. Playing as one of two different selectable cabbies, you must race across the streets of a colourful New York-inspired city and try to rack up as much cash as possible within a fleeting time limit. For each journey you are given a star rating and this is dependent on both your time and how many points you were able to rack up. You earn points by driving recklessly, so there's a risk for reward element in that you want to be speedy and dangerous but also avoid crashing.
The driving here has an arcade feel and I'd argue that it feels even more accessible than the original. The ZR button (on Switch) is used to accelerate and by pushing the B button you can fling your taxi up into the air to clear oncoming vehicles and any other obstructions. One touch that I really appreciated is that you don't need to alternate between reversing and accelerating (almost as though you are changing gear) like you did in the original Dreamcast title. If you want to back up, all you need to do is hold ZL and move around the camera.
Outside the main Arcade Mode there's also a Freeroam mode and a Pro Mode. The Freeroam Mode allows you to freely explore the streets of New Yellow City, and it's great for finding shortcuts and collectibles that you might miss when charging around at high speeds. The Pro Mode functions identically to the Arcade mode, but here you have to use your own bearings as there's no arrow guiding you to your destination. I'm sure this is an inclusion that veterans will appreciate, but to me it felt incredibly challenging due to the large map size.
Outside these modes, there are also a few extra goodies to be obtained. There's six different taxis that you can unlock by completing specific tasks and these have their own appearance and stats in speed, acceleration, braking, weight, and boost. There are also in-game Achievements and collectables that you can find out in the city. Unlocking vehicles was fun, but I never felt incentivised to complete any of these other tasks, as there was no in-game reward present. If I was rewarded with even something as small as a new coat of paint for my troubles then maybe these collectibles would have seemed more appealing.
Reliving my nostalgia for Crazy Taxi with a new splash of paint was pretty fun for the first hour or so, but I soon found myself losing interest. The gameplay here (besides a few tweaks) is pretty much copy and pasted and nothing has been added to shake things up in a significant way. It would have been great if the developers expanded upon the existing template by adding newer features such as a career mode, customisable taxis and a handful of competitive online modes. At £31.49, it also feels overpriced considering that it will set you back more than great alternatives like Little Nightmares II and Minecraft Dungeons.
It may be lacking when it comes to content, but where Taxi Chaos knocks it out of the park is with its visuals, as it truly is able to capture the look and feel of the beloved series. The graphics here are luscious and bright, and its fictionalised version of New York city is bustling and filled with life. With the original's soundtrack being loaded with punk rock bangers from The Offspring and Bad Religion though, it was obvious that Taxi Chaos wasn't going to stack up due to its indie status, but even with my lowered expectations I was still disappointed. The soundtrack here is just loaded with repetitive dance loops and these struggle to mirror the frantic rush that you have going on against the clock.
There's no doubt that Taxi Chaos is faithful to SEGA's arcade classic, but it comes off feeling like a pure copycat, as it doesn't expand upon its core DNA in any meaningful ways. The central gameplay loop is identical to that of Crazy Taxi's, and I found myself quickly losing interest after a few runs around its fictionalised New York City. The visuals are pleasing, however, and it can be fun to play in short bursts, but I can't say that it brings enough to the table to warrant a purchase from even the most diehard of fans.