Crazy Taxi's latest entry is ditching the cab fare and offering its thrills free of charge.
Hardlight Studio — best known for its work on Sonic Jump and Sonic Dash — will bring Crazy Taxi: City Rush to iOS and Android devices. Although it's hardly a mobile debut, City Rush is a free-to-play first for the series.
Speaking with Polygon during a recent press event, producer Stephen Ye said Sega and Hardlight hope to walk a fine line between casual players and die-hard Crazy Taxi fans in the mobile space. The idea isn't to deliver an entirely new experience, Ye said, but to create one people feel familiar with.
"One thing that we've learned is that a lot of fans know what Crazy Taxi is about," Ye said. "They can relate to it. When we bring it to this new freemium type of game, we want to carry a lot of the same aspects from the original Crazy Taxi and bring it over so that we don't lose that."
Part of that includes a killer soundtrack for players to cruise to. Ye calls past music "iconic," pointing to featured bands such as The Offspring or Bad Religion. Although City Rush will feature some licensed music from indie bands, players will be able to create their own soundtracks by pulling playlists from their devices.
We weren't able to test out playlist functions during our hands-on time with the game, but we did get a feel for its touch-based gameplay. The gas pedal is permanently floored, which left us to navigate the titular taxi by hopping lanes with a left or right swipe. Braking to drop off or pick up new customers was as simple as tapping a touch screen, while sharp turns and U-turns required holding a swipe or moving our finger in a specific direction. Gameplay was simplified for the mobile platform, but still felt as frantic as console versions, thanks to the need to dodge cars or quickly switch lanes.
One of City Rush's most modern additions is its social capabilities. During a standard solo sitting, players will complete daily challenges and missions that typically involve picking up fares and delivering them within a time limit. By linking their game to Facebook, however, players can pick up friends as passengers and engage in additional missions.
"The more Facebook friends you have, the more social missions you have in the game," Ye said. "As you're playing the game, you'll see [ghost versions of] your friends drive by ... They'll appear on the map as face icons, and you can pick them up."
"If you don't have any friends, you can still play. "
Players can also snoop around their friends' garages to view their taxi upgrades or clean their cars, which will earn them in-game currency. Even those with no Facebook or participating friends can still play the game unhindered, Ye added.
"If you don't have any friends, you can still play the game without any social," Ye said. "You can just go through all the missions.
"But we do encourage that if you could link into Facebook and bring your friends into the mission, because down the line, eventually, we want to incorporate guilds ... Down the line, we could have different taxi cab factions and they all run their own missions."
Guilds are still a ways off, Ye added, and won't be part of the game's initial version. City Rush will be released in Canada and Australia this month as part of a "soft launch" to better prepare for a worldwide audience. Both territories were chosen because of their similarities to U.S. audiences, the producer said, but smaller communities.
"We want to keep the audience very small at this point to be able to tune the economy," Ye said, "to be able to tune the gameplay to make sure it works out well, before we release it into a hard launch for a worldwide release."