Hands-on with Crazy Taxi: City Rush - Ya ya ya ya ya?
Let's go spend some crazy money
For once, free-to-play haters can't pull out the, "I wish they'd just port the original game to iPhone" card.
Because as much as you might turn your nose up at the idea of turning Crazy Taxi into a free-to-play endless-runner with an energy system, the old Crazy Taxi is already on the App Store.
It's got the original Bad Religion and Offspring soundtrack, no in-app purchases or adverts or social nonsense, and all the content from the Dreamcast original is present and accounted for. Knock yourself out.
But while Hardlight's mobile adaptation might leave a bitter taste in the mouth of coin-op nostalgics, with its wimpy soft-rock soundtrack and Facebook-powered social guff, it is, arguably, much more suited to mobile play.
There are the simple one-handed controls. The game is, by any definition, an auto-runner as your bright yellow car speeds forward on its lonesome, leaving you to worry about snaking between cars and collecting coins.
But there are a few fun tweaks to make it feel more like Crazy Taxi. You get cash bonuses by terrifying your passengers with near-misses and daredevil jumps; you need to drift around corners to follow the giant GPS arrow; and you need to hammer the screen with taps to stop at drop-off points.
And its missions are bite-size and work well as bus stop distractions and ad break timewasters. Most are point-to-point taxi pickups but you get some new mission types, like daily races, as you work through the map.
Sure, swapping lanes with a swipe doesn't quite capture the white-knuckle thrill of weaving through vehicles. And being led by the nose definitely goes against the idea of finding shortcuts and learning the layout of the city. But Crazy Taxi: City Rush offers enough bite-size fun to keep you engaged.
The only issue is a nagging sensation that you constantly need to upgrade your vehicle to keep up with the ever-tightening time limits and the ever-increasing traffic.
You can bump up your engine, tires, boost tank, and power, and body, or buy completely new taxi cabs to increase your top speed, max out your boost capacity, minimise wheel spin, and reduce the effect of head-on crashes.
Hardlight is generous enough with currency - and you're warned if your vehicle is simply not going to be fast enough to finish high-level missions - but we'll wait and see if turns into a cash grind as you work through the map.
You can also customise your car with bold paint jobs, decals, and other gaudy nonsense that would make Xzibit proud to boost your profits. They act like coin-doublers, basically, but with a lot more charm and personality.
And, of course, there's an energy system whereby you're made to pay up or wait it out if you use up all your petrol. It's about as enjoyable as it sounds.
Crazy Taxi: City Rush is currently available on iOS in Canada (follow our guide to get a foreign iTunes account if you want to play it right now). It will launch around the world - on both iOS and Android - later this year. We'll let you know when.Note: This hands-on preview is based on a game in 'soft launch', so any prices and mechanics are subject to change before the game's worldwide release date.