SEGA's Crazy Taxi released for Dreamcast eight years ago and it was ported to GameCube seven years ago. It's been a long time, in other words. Even so, the fast-paced arcade-style driving game remains a classic despite the fact that it has also aged by today's standards. Perhaps developer Supersonic Software hoped then to deliver Wii owners a fresh take on the franchise with its own zippy racer, Emergency Mayhem. And we have to admit, the title has its moments -- control is tight and the sense of speed is mostly satisfying. The problem, though, is that the project too closely resembles the eight-year-old Crazy Taxi in design and, sadly, technology, and not even a host of waggle-friendly mini-games will shield you from its too-little-too-late fundamentals.
The game thrusts you into Crisis City which is -- you guessed it -- experiencing a series of natural and unnatural disasters. You control police cars, fire trucks and ambulances as you race all over the streets and endeavor to take down criminals, put out fires and rescue the injured respectively. Along the way, you'll take part in a series of mini-games specifically created to make use of the Wii remote in some fashion. Naturally, all of your challenges are timed and as a result you are always racing against the clock as you play the hero.
Is this all sounding familiar? Right -- that whole Crazy Taxi thing. Emergency Mayhem is clearly inspired by SEGA's franchise, but Codemasters' game comes up short both in sheer intensity and charm. Crazy Taxi hums along at a quicker pace and boasts even tighter, more defined control. In Mayhem, you have the three vehicle types and all of them feel slightly different on the road, but the subtle extras that distinguished SEGA's racer are severely lacking here. Take, for instance, the powerslide, which is nonexistent in Mayhem. So are frequent chances for big air and death-defying jumps. Shortcuts are at your disposal as you race through Crisis City, and so are power-ups like temporary boosts and time adds -- all welcomed. At the same time, you will find yourself running into too many obstructions, like street cones that stop you dead in you tracks and disrupt the momentum of the experience or walkways that should be jumps but are instead blocked by invisible walls.
At the same time, if you're a sucker for arcade racers, you will probably find Emergency Mayhem a relatively mindless, but enjoyable title in short bursts. As we noted, the controls are very responsive -- you maneuver through the city with the nunchuk's analog stick and can very tightly round corners regardless of vehicle. Supersonic has awkwardly mapped the acceleration button to the B-Trigger and the brake/reverse to the A button on the Wii remote, but it works (even if it does show a disregard to Wii control setups). On-screen arrows constantly guide you to your next location and you will be able to crash into other cars, people and objects along the way, which is always destructive and fun. The downside is that the routine becomes recognizable within minutes and ridiculously repetitive the longer you play, as you're always challenged with the same tasks, whether they be driving from Point A to Point B, transporting an item or person, or tackling a natural disaster.
The gimmicky mini-games really don't add much and, n fact oftentimes detract from the experience, kidnapping you from the faster-paced driving sequences. The minis revolve around waggle. You might have to put out a fire by making a cranking motion over and over and over again with the Wii remote. Or save someone who has swallowed a fly by tilting the Wii remote to and from in order to successfully guide the insect out of his body once more. The minis are novel the first couple of times, but like everything else, you will see them over and over again until the novelty wears thin and eventually snaps.
We like Supersonic's priorities, even if they aren't likely to mesh with all Wii owners. The developer created the cities and objects using fewer polygons and chose to go with a simple, colorful style similar to Crazy Taxi. It's certainly not the prettiest Wii game out there. To be sure, it looks like a first-generation PS2 title in many ways -- low-res textures, low-poly constructions, sub-par animation and particle effects -- which is disappointing. But the major benefit is that Mayhem runs at a rock-solid 60 frames at all times (and also supports 480p and 16:9, by the way), a must for a racer whose appeal is largely attributable to its sense of speed.
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