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'Crazy Taxi 2': More Mad Fun on Wheels

July 19, 2001|AARON CURTISS | aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

If ever a video game begged to be played and played and played some more, it's "Crazy Taxi 2," a hyperactive ride as a cabby with no fear and an insatiable need for fares.

This sequel further highlights what a great machine Sega Dreamcast really was. Pause to mourn its passing. "Crazy Taxi 2" demonstrates that Sega may be out of the hardware business, but it's got a potentially brilliant future as a game publisher.

The concept is so simple that even inexperienced video-game players can jump in and have a good time. Players slip behind the wheel of any of four cabs manned by four extreme characters--the nihilistic Slash, the shirtless Iceman, the cheeky Cinnamon or the geriatric Hot-D.

As players cruise the streets, they pick up fares. The goal is to get as many passengers where they want to go as quickly as possible. Now, I've taken some pretty wild cab rides--including one I didn't expect to survive in Katmandu--but nothing compares to the madness that pervades "Crazy Taxi 2."

For starters, passengers actually like to take insane risks such as leapfrogging big rigs or sliding between a couple of buses. They tip for moves that would have most real-world passengers puking out the back window.

Do a jump off a bridge and watch the tip go up. Threaten the lives of pedestrians with insane maneuvers and really rake it in. Clearly, "Crazy Taxi 2" is not endorsed by the Department of Motor Vehicles or the California Highway Patrol.

The metropolis, described as "Small Apple," is clearly modeled after New York. Designers did an astonishing job of creating a dense, complex environment with countless moving parts.

For added realism, many of the destinations are real places, such as FAO Schwarz, Gap and the Hard Rock Cafe. It makes for more authentic play when a fare climbs in and says: "Take me to the Hard Rock Cafe" rather than "Take me to a generic place with overpriced meals and lots of music memorabilia on the walls."

Sure, it's a shameless placement of advertising, but it's nowhere near as annoying as in games such as "Cool Boarders," where ads and logos crowd each other out. In this case, the logos pop up enough to make the cityscape visually interesting but not so often that they're overpowering.

The engine driving "Crazy Taxi 2" never seems to need to catch its breath as it pumps out constantly changing scenery in a complicated three-dimensional world. Not once did the game appear to be working that hard. It just slid along as smoothly as a slab of butter on a hot griddle.

Most of the mini-games included on the disc are nothing special, but they offer an added distraction if players ever get tired of screeching through crowded streets with nagging fares in the back seat. But getting tired of "Crazy Taxi 2" is hard to imagine.

'Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero'

Another car game set on the other side of the world offers an entirely different take on the driving life. "Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero" for Sony PlayStation 2 is, like "Crazy Taxi 2," another sequel. But that's where the similarities end.

Where "Crazy Taxi 2" is bright and fun, "Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero" is dark and gloomy. Where "Crazy Taxi 2" exaggerates everything, "Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero" strives for subtle realism.

The aim is to cruise the Tokyo freeway system after dark in search of a little street racing with other insomniac drivers.

Don't try this in real life. Plenty of people end up part of a guardrail every year because they mistake their Honda Civic hatchback for a Ferrari.

In any case, victory on the road earns cash, which allows players to upgrade their cars with new engines and drive trains or just buy a better car outright. The racing is pretty smooth. Yet despite all the realistic elements of the game, a player can essentially bounce off the center divider at 100 mph without doing any damage to the car. Right.

As with the original game, the graphics are gorgeous. The interconnected highways feature great lighting effects and the Tokyo skyline slides by like a supercharged Main Street Electrical Parade.

Players who enjoy noodling with virtual cars and putting their handiwork to the test will enjoy "Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero." It's a less traditional racer than some may be used to, but it's definitely worth a spin.

*

Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Skinny

"Crazy Taxi 2"

Genre: Taxi simulator

Platform: Sega Dreamcast

Price: $40

Publisher: Sega

ESRB* rating: Teen

The good: Madcap driving

The bad: Almost nothing

Bottom line: A brilliant game

"Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero"

Genre: Racing

Platform: Sony PlayStation 2

Price: $50

Publisher: Crave Entertainment

ESRB rating: Everyone

The good: Beautiful and brooding

The bad: Unrealistic physics

Bottom line: Worth a spin

*

*Entertainment Software Ratings Board

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