Space Taxi is definitely on my top ten list of retro games. I’ve played it ever since I’ve had my original Commodore 64, nearly 18 years ago. I don’t have my Commodore any more, but one of the best uses for a modern processor is to emulate obsolete hardware. Maybe it’s the simplistically fun game play. Maybe it’s the surreal graphics. Maybe it’s the fact you can crush people with your space taxi for no good reason. Whatever it is, Space Taxi just never ceases to amuse me. I’m sick, I know.
As a space cabbie, you control a taxi cab OF THE FUTURE; which looks more like a 50s farm tractor on skis. You pilot your taxi among some of the most odd landscapes I’ve ever seen, Roger Dean ain’t got nuthin’ on Space Taxi. Your mission is to pick up passengers, and drop them off at whichever numbered location they request. After repeating this process a number of times, a gateway in the sky allows you to fly out into yet another surreal world. I’m not exactly sure what Sigmund Freud would make of all this, but I’m sure it involves some obligatory reference to cigars.
The first level you encounter is called “Short -N- Sweet”. It’s filled with candy so huge one can only stand in awe. Judging by the size of the taxi, the large candy cane must be on the order of 18 stories. This level consists of only one customer. The lone soul left in candy land, as his friends died from sugar overdose long ago. It’s sad really. He cries out “Hey Taxi” with his last breath in hopes of being rescued. You pick up this wretch, and are rewarded for your good deed. The gate to heaven opens up and the level is complete. Short -N- sweet, get it, it’s a pun!
When you enter the gate your taxi warps into space. Freedom appears to be nigh. However, you forget that your lateral stabilizers don’t work at warp speed. Your taxi violently lurches from side to side until you materialize in another oversized world. Perhaps that wasn’t the gate to heaven after all, I sense a conspiracy.
This is where things start to get interesting. You see, wrapped inside this cutesy exterior is a truly demented game. I’m not talking about the sadistic gate that promises freedom only to throw you into a deeper hell. I’m talking about the fact that when you get bored, you can unmercifully crush your customers under the weight of your massive taxi. I just can’t help but feel a sense of power as they scream “Hey!” and disintegrate beneath me. Sure, you won’t make any money this way, but who needs money when you hold the power of God.
The levels continue on and get much more interesting and weird. One involves giant guns that attempt to blow your ass out of the sky. Another has giant shooting stars that rain fire from above. I think the developers were compensating for something. The fun just never stops in this 5 dimensional funhouse of hell.
If you push on, and persevere, you WILL reach the end of the game. This is where the ultimate cosmic joke is played on your spent soul. I won’t tell you when, but the final level is there. I know because I’ve been there. You will know it too, there’s no real indication, just that odd sense that the end is near. You complete this level and enter the gate. Surely your hard work will be rewarded. No… satan always has the last laugh. You warp out of control once again and end up back at…
When I finally experienced this, Space Taxi succeeded where public education had failed, my spirit was broken.
So now, I’m dammed. Forced to endlessly repeat the cycle over and over for as long as there’s a Commodore emulator. In all seriousness, Space Taxi is the only game I have never grown bored with. Alright, Tetris too. I highly recommend that you give it a try. Just five minutes and you’ll be hooked forever.