Sega may have its shortcomings, but arcade gaming is definitely not one of them. Since 1969, the iconic company has delivered impressive arcade boards that have powered equally-impressive games; And one of my personal favorites is Crazy Taxi, a driving game where you pick up passengers and travel to their desired destinations as fast and recklessly as you can. The original cabinets and their Dreamcast ports have been lauded by customers and critics alike since the series began in 1999, so how does this updated version known as Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller fare (Obvious taxi pun is obvious)? Let’s pop in an Offspring record and find out.
For the cabbies in training, let me explain the game’s structure; You start by selecting the location (“West Coast” in San Francisco, “Small Apple” in New York City, or “Glitter Oasis” in Las Vegas), choose whether you want to play by arcade rules or a fixed time limit that can’t be replenished (3, 5, or 10 minutes), pick a driver to play as, and then let the crazy driving commence. When the timer starts, you must immediately find customers to pick up and also make sure you park as close to them as possible. Once you’ve picked someone up, the arrow on the top of the screen will show you which direction to go, and there is a picture on the left with the destination’s name and distance below it. While following the correct route, it’s up to you to impress your passengers and increase the fares, which is done by near-missing traffic, making your car leap into the air, drifting, and performing Crazy Dashes (Shifting into reverse and then immediately shifting back into drive). Along with your fancy moves, your passengers will react to how fast or slow you get them to their destinations; Take too long, and they’ll jump out of the cab without paying you. So it’s your job to rack up as much money as possible before the clock runs out; When the game ends, you will be given a ranking and grade depending on how many passengers you dropped off and how much money you pocketed. If you think this type of gameplay sounds pretty addictive, you’re not wrong.
If you need to brush up on your driving skills and want to be rewarded for doing so, the Crazy X mode is the one for you. You take part in minigames that test skills like drifting, hopping, knocking things over, staying on the road, and dropping off passengers. There’s a number of sweet goodies if you can complete every challenge, so be sure to bring food and stress balls if you want to binge through this mode and reap the rewards. Also, you might not want to play this mode around children; These challenges can be frustrating and you don’t want to accidentally teach the youngsters any new words.
Whether you’re on the road, in the menus, or watching the credits, the soundtrack in High Roller does not disappoint despite being a little thin. Methods of Mayhem and Brian Setzer don’t have music you can hear while on taxi duty (Only in menus and credit rolls), but you still get to drive along to pulse-pounding music from Silverbullit, Offspring, and Bad Religion (The latter two also have songs in the main menu, character menus, and credit rolls). While custom soundtrack support would’ve been awesome in here, its absence isn’t a dealbreaker at all. You can actually choose to hear three songs per location (Silverbullit in Vegas, Bad Religion in New York, and Offspring in San Fran) or hear all nine in every level; I personally like to have all of them at once so I don’t have to hear three songs over and over again. And yes, I will admit I occasionally sing along or do air drums to the game’s punk songs during gameplay.
There are quite a lot of great arcade-to-console conversions in the industry, and this 2002 driving game from Sega is no exception. With tight arcade-style controls, a laundry list of minigames, and a fun soundtrack, Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller is an underrated Xbox gem and a must-have for any fan of arcade classics.