Today on Free App Review, I am taking a look at a surprising little game revitalized from the wayback machine. Remember Dreamcast? You know – the next big thing in gaming? A gaming console that was engineered for slick fast game play, crisp graphics, and a true arcade feel?

In fact, some arcade games actually used either the Dreamcast’s games and concepts (or a remodeled version of one) for their boxes. Great games like Marvel vs Capcom, Power Stone, Jet Set Radio, Ready to Rumble were sometimes even ported over to a true arcade with all the bells and whistles!

I had one friend who actually had a Dreamcast, and it made him the coolest guy around. All the games we loved to play in the arcade were right in the comfort of his home. It was the next best thing since Golden Eye and Mario Kart. Some nights when I slept over – there it was in all its glory: a game I had mastered in the arcade, spent countless hours (and precious quarters) on learning the best paths, the biggest air, the sickest rides – Crazy Taxi!

For the non-initiated, the premise it simple:  you drive a cab in the city, and you need money. All you have to do is peel out and grab as many customers as possible in only a few minutes. Did I mention anything about roads, speed limits, physics, or care for human life? NOPE! You were free to do whatever you wanted. The crazier the ride, the more the customers shilled out of their pockets. Hell, they could just be going one block over, but you have 15 seconds and they’re getting a roller coaster ride before work!

And that was the game in a nutshell. Pick up a passenger, drop off a passenger, find a new passenger, and repeat. It’s such an easy formula for an arcade game. In the age when everyone wanted racing or rhythm games, Crazy Taxi felt like a combination of both: you couldn’t just wantonly smash into all the other cars and debris in the road. You had to create a perfect combination of the right paths, the right stunts, and the right timing – you were graded, and all you wanted was that coveted S rank from a customer.

So, how does this game translate to a free app? To be honest… better then expected!  I was very skeptical, but in reality, they hit a ton of good notes.  First of all, it was made by Sega, and they pulled out all the stops when they made this game.

Like many free games, Crazy Taxi: City Rush has an energy system. You start with 3 “fuel tanks,” which is enough, really. The matches are quick, but you level up relatively quickly. The fuel tanks refresh moderately quickly as well. I was pretty surprised because I used all my fuel before I went to work, and when I got to work the game was ready to go again. Kudos for not making me wait to play the game.

When you open the game, you see a map with passengers waiting to be picked up, and they have various degrees of difficulty. Starting off downtown, there are only a few places for you to pick up customers, but you can link the game with your Facebook to pick up even more people from your Friends List. They are labeled from Easy to Expert, and they mean it. Right now, without upgrading my car (yes, that is a thing) I can only just barely beat a normal or hard level.

Once you start a level, you can coast between cars, jump off the back of car haulers, and power slide all over the place. Hitting an obstacle does slow you down, however you can recover and use boosts or perfect powerslides to increase your speed. The higher your combo, the more money you earn. It’s all very fast – a round is over in about 30-40 seconds, but it is a fast and furious 40 seconds.

After a round is finished, you collect  your sweet loot. Along the way passengers leave items in your back seat which can be traded for gold or diamonds (the premium commodity for this game), and you get ranked from Failure and Passable to AWESOME!

So, what do you do with your gold? Upgrade your car and create a custom look! The better your car, the higher your star power. ‘Star power’ is like a form of prestige – people will pay more gold simply for having a higher star power. So far, there is no downtime when upgrading your car, unlike many other games.

Leveling up unlocks more cars and more drivers. As a special bonus, there are several secrets: Kim from the Yogscast is an unlockable driver in the Mandrew costume from their charity stream. It’s pretty awesome.

So where does it go wrong? While they did a great job, not every game is perfect. 3 fuel goes by pretty quickly, especially at higher levels. Other drivers and cars have higher gas capacities, but at a lower level, you could find yourself failing a few missions and suddenly being out of gas. Bummer.

The look and feel of the remake is true to the original, but it goes by so quickly that you can’t really take it in. There are no other paths to unlock, either. If you miss a turn or botch something, the game flashes repeatedly for you to turn around and go back. Sometimes it’s good, since there aren’t always other ways to get to your destination. The traffic is randomly generated, so sometimes it’s impossible to make your turn and not get into an accident.

Ultimately, Crazy Taxi: City Rush is very true to its medium, and you can tell that a lot of time and thought went into it. I would like a freeplay or a time trial where I could just play as much as I want like the old game. Maybe that’s an upcoming paid perk.

There’s also a really fun mode where your taxi is a tank and your goal is to hit as many things as you can in 60 seconds.

There isn’t any need to spend money on this game, which is always a plus for me. Free games should be totally playable and enjoyable without spending money. I MAY like some of the other cars, but they are no more powerful then the others that are available though regular play.  I belive if you are nostalgic for a quick pick-up-and-go game reborn on your tablet, this is a perfect way to go.

Final Verdict is: 4 Yellow Cabs out of 5!

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