Sega aims to make some crazy money with Crazy Taxi for iOS

Crazy Taxi is a new iOS release from Sega. It’s a port of the 1999 arcade and Dreamcast game of the same name, and is available now as a $4.99 Universal download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases.

In Crazy Taxi, players are cast in the role of one of four colorful characters who each have their own cab. In the main component of the game, players must drive around an “open world” 3D city, search for passengers and take them to their destination. Waiting passengers are marked with colored symbols that depict how far away their destination is — red passengers want to go somewhere close, while green ones want to go far away. Upon picking up a passenger, the player must deliver them to their destination before a timer representing the passenger’s patience runs out — the quicker the journey, the bigger the cash bonus. Along the way, the player receives additional tips for drifting around corners, jumps and near-misses with traffic, with larger bonuses being attained for achieving a “combo” of special moves without crashing.

There are two cities to drive around, each of which may either be played by arcade rules (in which the game timer is extended every time the player picks up a passenger or drops them off) or by one of three fixed time limits between three and ten minutes in length. Separate Game Center leaderboards are available for each game mode, allowing players to compete against the world in the mode they enjoy the most.

The Crazy Box mode from the Dreamcast version of the game, in which players are presented with a series of outlandish challenges including ski-jumping and ten-pin bowling with their taxicab. Each of these challenges again carries a Game Center leaderboard for social play — a feature that is considerably enhanced with iOS 6’s new Challenge feature.

Crazy Taxi on iOS was always going to live or die by its controls, and thankfully Sega has done a good job. Two different options are available — one in which there are on-screen directional controls, and another which uses tilt controls for steering. Both options are responsive and twitchy, just like the arcade original, and both allow the player to easily perform the various special moves that were sometimes difficult to perform on the Dreamcast controller. The on-screen controls have the slight edge in terms of accuracy, but given the chaos inherent in a typical Crazy Taxi session, there’s not a lot in it.

Crazy Taxi is an excellent port, featuring all the content of the Dreamcast original (minus the gratuitous product placement — perhaps a missed opportunity for additional monetization?) for a fraction of its price when it was first released. While it doesn’t quite run at the 60 frames per second of the console original, it runs consistently and smoothly and hasn’t had any compromises made on the graphical front — granted, it was never the best looking game in the world, but the iOS version keeps the colorful, cartoonish aesthetic well and truly intact. Nostalgic types who played the Dreamcast version on its initial release will also be pleased to note that the original, highly energetic Offspring and Bad Religion soundtrack has been restored — these tracks were removed for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 ports, much to the chagrin of fans.

Perhaps the best thing, though, is that Crazy Taxi’s game structure seems tailor-made for mobile. Its short play sessions that reward player skill and encourage social competition make it perfect for portable, Internet-connected devices. Its move to iOS feels very much like the series has found its natural home — which will hopefully set a precedent for Sega to bring some of its other arcade and Dreamcast classics to the platform over time.

Crazy Taxi is out today and is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.