More like, lazy taxi.
When I saw that what looked to be a spiritual successor to the massively revered Crazy Taxi had hit the market with all the fanfare of a fart inside a diving bell, I was simultaneously thrilled and confused. Why hasn’t anyone told me about this? Why haven’t I seen it yet? The questions swirling through my brain as I clamoured to find out more about this elusive throwback.
Taxi Chaos is the newest offering from Lion Castle Entertainment, an arcade driving game inspired by Sega’s cabbie caper classic. It’s currently available on PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. At a glance, it looks everything I might have wanted from a modern reimagining of Crazy Taxi, and the marketing for the game would have had me to believe this. It became abundantly clear after my first run of the game’s standard arcade mode, that this one nostalgic tickle is the only wheel that Taxi Chaos has to stand on.
The game stylistically looks like someone built Crazy Taxi inside Fortnite’s engine, which isn’t awful as I don’t mind the Fortnite art style, and I can see why that felt like a good move when your game’s trope is relying on a 90’s classic. Everybody recognises that aesthetic, and a familiar style reels in a new audience that might not be familiar with the 22 (Christ) year-old game that Taxi Chaos is attempting to emulate.
Gameplay-wise, you’re doing exactly the same thing. Taxi Chaos features an arcade mode that sees players zoom around the map for a few minutes, collecting customers. You begin the round with 90 seconds on the clock, and you can earn more time from dropping passengers off as early as possible. Simple enough, unless your Nintendo Switch copy of the game has a bug where you start the round with another vehicle glitched inside yours and you have to slam the accelerator for 20 of those seconds to break free.
Once I had escaped the Blues Brothers-esque vehicular pile-up going on directly inside my player’s skull, I found the actual driving to be pretty agreeable. The controls are tight, and there’s the jump button from Crazy Taxi 2 that no one remembers which serves as a tool to do a bit of Tony Hawking around the rooftops in order to get to your destination quicker. A cool concept, but in action, it lands about as well as your very heavy car does.
The game currently has two playable characters with rice pudding personalities, and every character you collect on your shift is equally as lifeless. The character models are eerie, gaunt mannequins with blacked-out eyes, and voice lines that were directly sourced from a 2009 meme generator. Some of them are obvious nods to the NPCs in Crazy Taxi, like ‘Hawaiian shirt camcorder guy’, and ‘headbanging mohawk guy’. Instead, Taxi Chaos gets “I liked NYC before it was cool” guy, and some awkward goth joke that put me back in Year 9.
There’s also a pro mode where you can have the same gameplay experience, but the directions are taken away so you have to find your passenger’s destination with just knowledge of the map and locations. This is difficult because the map design is so flat and lifeless that it is nigh on impossible to remember where anything is. Crazy Taxi had a lot of levels that made locations feel prevalent, from the heights of the helipad to the coastal corner of R.B Station.
One other thing that made Crazy Taxi stand out is its killer soundtrack. We all remember barreling down a hill at breakneck speed belting “YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH” at our screens, completely absorbed in the gameplay. Nothing about Taxi Chaos hits; the music is some sort of inoffensive background pop noise, ignorable at best. There’s absolutely no aural punch and nothing to immerse you.
The sad thing is that Taxi Chaos is clearly inspired and built with Crazy Taxi in mind. The game is an attempt at a homage, in that I can see similarities in both like it’s a game of spot the difference. The developer has captured the technicalities of the original game – from the pulsating green area markers to the passenger grab screen narrow – but absolutely none of the swagger or attitude. The only reason I’d ever pick Taxi Chaos up again is if I get a sudden overwhelming need to play Crazy Taxi, but I’m actually hospitalised and only have my Switch to hand.
Taxi Chaos’ sole redeeming feature is that the car feels okay to drive around. However, the novelty of that base expectation wears off once you realise that nothing else is really going on, and just like my passengers, I found myself wanting to eject myself from the vehicle into a crowded freeway after 45 seconds. Only, that would result in me being hospitalised and only able to play Taxi Chaos on my Switch.
For all its efforts to be a faithful recreation of a 90s classic, Taxi Chaos took my dreams of an exciting, modern take on Crazy Taxi, and did a massive shit on it. However, if you enjoy your dreams being crushed to death, ideally by a pile of traffic, then buckle up.