Crazy Taxi was an instant hit at the time of its original arcade release: a sugar-rush of bright colors, have-another-go gameplay hooks, and a toe-tapping soundtrack courtesy of The Offspring, it picked up plenty of fans before a number of sequels failed to inject enough new ideas to justify their existence, and the series eventually disappeared from view. Now it’s back, Sega tasking mobile gaming outfit Hardlight to resurrect the franchise in the form of a free-to-play mobile game; and while different from the original, the transition to mobile hasn’t been quite as awakward as you might expect.
Crazy Taxi: City Ru$h sits comfortably in the Endless Runner genre, but Sega’s free-to-play resurrection has a few ideas of its own and manages to provide enough enjoyment without spending money to make it worth a download.
Yes, it has artificially imposed session restrictions allowing only 4 races before you have to wait for a timer to expire; yes, you can buy gems and coins with real money which will unlock faster taxis and cosmetic improvements; and yes, taxi upgrades take a long time to obtain (which again you can speed up using purchased gems). But none of these are required to really enjoy the game, and its never quite as forceful with its microtransactions as many other mobile games are.
Crazy Taxi: City Ru$h is divided into four areas, ranging from the generic Downtown to the brightly coloured Coastal, each with their own style of traffic and distinctive look. Contained within these regions are multiple mission types, ranging from story missions to timed challenges like being placed in charge of a tank and told to wreak havoc throughout the city.
You can drive your friends’ taxis, considered a “free play”, which is a nice way to rack up the money needed to improve your ride, and a daily mission forgoes picking up and dropping off customers in favor of a straight race for high rewards. There’s a decent amount of content here to keep you occupied, though City Ru$h remains a game that you’ll play in short bursts rather than long sessions.
When it comes to instilling a sense of progression, vehicle customization is the name of the game. Ranging from a new paint job to custom wheel rims, pimping your ride provides additional bonuses at the end of each mission, but will set you back a considerable amount of in-game currency (or real money, if you decide to go down that route). Spending in-game cash to increase your ability to generate more in-game cash is a time-tested mechanic, particularly in freemium games on mobile. City Ru$h does sometimes feel a little stingy with its currency, its upgrades a little too steeply priced; but it’s surprising how quickly the amount of cash you can haul in increases once you have those first few upgrades under your belt.
If developed well, free-to-play games definitely have their place in the world of gaming. They can provide a quick fix on the move, and if treated with a bit of respect and caution can cost you nothing. Crazy Taxi: City Ru$h is one of these rare titles that doesn’t fleece you at every opportunity, and more importantly doesn’t feel as though you need to pay in order to progress. Sure, there’s the ridiculous £70 purchasing options for $1,000,000 worth of in-game cash or 16,000 gems – but unless you’re incredibly rich, impatient or stupid (or all three) you never need to even look at the shop.
Crazy Taxi: City Ru$h is fun, colorful, and inoffensive. It’s not pushing any boundaries, but it doesn’t need to. As something to tinker with when you find yourself with a few spare minutes to kill, you could do far worse. And while it would be nice to see SEGA trying their hand at a full-fat resurrection of the series, the series scales down to mobile devices surprisingly well. Taken for what it is rather than what it isn’t, Crazy Taxi: City Ru$h is easy to recommend, even if it’s unlikely to still be installed on your device for the long-term.