Do taxi games require a particular soundtrack to be fun? As it turns out, YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH.
The original great taxi game first hit the streets in 1999, and now that Sega can’t file patent suits over it, the door’s open to try and recreate the magic of Crazy Taxi. The newest Switch contender is Taxi Chaos, which does offer some modern features in the passenger-schlepping genre, but doesn’t put enough on the table.
Taxi Chaos is a simple game: pick your driver and car, get a passenger, and get them to their destination as fast as humanly possible regardless of what’s in the way. Set in a reasonable facsimile of New York, the chaos is simple to control: acceleration and braking (necessary for picking up passengers) are on the back triggers, and the A button causes the car to jump with hydraulics that are definitely NOT street legal. Although speed is the main factor in determining the reward for each ride, dodging obstacles or kicking it up to time-travelling speeds provides bonuses, with the final payout determined by a 1 to 5 star rating and the distance travelled. The two main modes are the Arcade mode, which may stretch out to two minutes, and a “freeroam” mode that runs until you quit out. A “Pro” mode also unlocks after achieving an average 4-star rating in Arcade mode, which eliminates the guidance arrow present in the other two modes and requires mastery of the city to complete with a good score. Certain side objectives are present during the story as well like finding a bunch of briefcases, and these unlock achievements and much faster cars. But with seemingly only one city to work with, once I unlocked the cab with the maxed-out speed rating I really didn’t feel the need to go for much else beyond finding the bafmadads. And though Arcade mode is about as short as a Crazy Taxi run normally, I distinctly recall getting way more time for completed fares in CT’s smaller city.
There are two playable drivers in Taxi Chaos, and both of them are stereotypical to the extreme. The male driver has the bog-standard exaggerated accent (“can’t you see I’m WALKIN’ heyah?”) while the female option is an early 20s social media-obsessed hustler of a vague non-Caucasian ethnicity. There’s not much variety in the passengers that are getting picked up either, aside from the random named ones who initiate the fetch quests in ways that I didn’t even recognize at first. The city itself doesn’t employ a lot of trademarks: you’d go to a softball field or a ramen place instead of going to any major landmarks. Honestly, the heliport is the part of the city I saw the most in my extended “freeroam” sessions. It’s a sea of buildings that will eventually become a blur as you try and focus on the road and nailing the next turn.
I didn’t have any technical hiccups in my time with the game, though the pop-in of buildings was a bit more pronounced in handheld mode as might be expected. It’s graphically solid, but the default sound settings basically render the background music inaudible; good for listening to Connectivity, bad for trying to get the experience out of the game. There’s a reason why the best of the genre sold out to get Offspring and Bad Religion as background music on its original release. It won’t take long for most of the conversation between your driver and the passengers to start repeating, either. There’s achievements for using each of the starting drivers for a total of an hour, and it took about twenty minutes before I had heard 95% of the lines in the game. Sure, the buttons that either turn on wi-fi or cause a national economic recession caused my roommate to do a double take the first time he heard it, but the fact that I encountered the same line again ten minutes later means this city has a lot of growing to do.
In a city the size of New York, you’d think there’d be two things: a massive city and all kinds of people. Taxi Chaos doesn’t really have either at the end of the day, and it leads to a barely-above-average experience as a result. I suppose you could rip through a podcast backlog just driving around the city, but if I wanted to do that there’s plenty of options for open world driving on Switch as it stands.