Dec 14, 2010

Time to make some CRAZY MONEY!

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Every serious gamer has that one game that they can can proudly proclaim having absolutely mastered. For most it is a competitive game like Street Fighter, Halo, Starcraft and so on. Winning tournaments and destroying friends and making enemies left and right. But sometimes the game is more niche. Perhaps the mom who plays noting but Gameboy Tetris. Or Steve Wiebe's dramatic run for the title of world's best Donkey Kong player. In these cases, your measure of 'masterhood' is defined by the most basic building block of video game accomplishment, that old tenant of arcade days gone-bye; the High Score Table.

In todays landscape of narrative driven games and hollywood spectacular-esque experiences, the High Score Table is all but dead. The only thing that keeps it alive is also probably it's greatest stage in evolution: The Worldwide Online Leaderboard. What was once a random machine in an arcade or pizza parlor tracking the accomplishments of the few random players who sauntered up and dropped in a quarter (and probably registering their initials as ASS) is now a seemingly limitless number of networked consoles all uploading score data to a centralized server.

The majority of current games can be beaten by pressing forward and tapping 'A' until the final credit sequence. But to truly master a game, especially one that finds it's genetic roots firmly planted in the era of arcades, you have to post a Big Score. A score that shows your dedication to the craft. One that destroys all of your friends measly, pathetic scores. Maybe one that is so big, so impressive, that it sits proudly at the top of the worldwide online leaderboard.

For me, that one game I can consider mastered is Crazy Taxi.

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Good ol' Crazy Taxi. Developed by Hit Maker and published by Sega, Crazy Taxi started as a arcade game where you recklessly pickup and deliver passengers as quickly as you can earning 'tips' for driving as dangerously as possible. It has a timer, and an open city, and a ton of demanding potential fares scattered about. If you deliver a passenger as quickly as possible, you will earn bonus time to be added to your timer. Spend too much time crashing into things or not getting to your destination in the required time and you will anger your passenger reducing your bonus time and fare. Possibly even to the point of them just straight jumping out of the cab. Once your timer runs out, the day's work is done, the fares are added up, and your score is posted to the High Score Table.

Sound pretty easy and basic. And if you only played the game a few times I can understand why it would appear that way. But if the absolute mayhem of smashing through traffic and flying off the side of a parking garage seems a bit, well... Crazy to you, you might find that the game has gotten it's hooks into you and you start to see the deeper game mechanics hidden behind a layer of vibrant carnage.

For starters, your cab (one of four selectable) has taken a que from another arcade stand-by, Fighting games. Hard to believe but you can perform 'special moves' by shifting your gearbox and cutting the wheel. No, the cab will not throw a Hadoken at a passing car, nor will it perform a Fatality on that bus blocking your way. The most basic special move you can do is a 'Crazy Dash' which is performed by: Let off accelerator > shift into reverse > shift into drive and simultaneously slam on the accelerator. This will give you a temporary speed boost, but if you perform it over and over again, you will put the car into a overdive state called a "Limiter Cut". And while you are performing this quest for lightspeed, remember to keep dodging oncoming traffic, and there's a totaly sweet jump coming up.

There are a few more moves such as the Crazy Drift that help reinforce just how damn insane these drivers are that seem to please the fickle passengers thereby increasing your tip. It's the most basic risk-reward system. Drive like grandma and the game is quickly over with a limp score. Blaze down streets and narrowly avoid vehicles, get airborn, and swing your cab around corners in a wild out-of-control fashion and you will find yourself racking up bonus time and big scores.

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So I've played this game. A lot. It started on arcades but was quickly ported to Sega's Dreamcast where I really dived into the game. Once I saw some of the ways to improve my game I was completely addicted. Game after game, day after day. I was able to drag that inital 3 minute timer out over a game that would last almost two hours. My highest scrore was around $62,XXX.XX. To put that in perspective the game ranked you as so:

• $.01-$999.99 = E License
• $1,000.00-$1,999.99 = D License
• $2,000.00 - $2,999.99 = C License
• $3,000.00 - $3,999.99 = B License
• $4,000.00 - $4,999.99 = A License
• $5,000.00 - $9,999.99 = S License
• $10,000.00 - $19,999.99 = AWESOME! License
• $20,000.00 or more = CRAZY TAXI! License

So yeah, $62,000.00 is more than 3 times what the maximum score the developers thought was the best.

And now, that old Dreamcast classic has been ported to PSN / XBLA. It's a simple $10.00 downloadable title. Completely worth a nostalgic trip down memory lane...if that that trip was going 200 mph and memory lane was a street littered with destroyed vehicles and smashed up payphone booths. It's missing a few things, namely the licensed locations (Pizza Hut, KFC, etc.) and awesome super-catchy licensed music that I've never been able to get out of my head. Fortunately, the game supports custom soundtracks, and it just so happens that I have all the original music sitting on my hard drive.

But this version does add one thing. A Worldwide Online Highscore Table. No longer can I be content beating my own highscore. Now I can shit on all my friend's score tables and maybe even (gasp!) go for the number one position.

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Competing against not just myself, but the whole damn world has only increased the sickness.I have mastered Crazy Taxi so I MUST get that top spot.

It's all just happening again...

Way down the line.