MiLE HiGH TAXi captures the spirit of Crazy Taxi and throws it into a fantastic setting but is let down by bugs and quality-of-life issues.

Posted by Nate on 14 March 2023 at 8:16PM

I’d never really thought about a Crazy Taxi style game set in a city similar to The Fifth Element before. However, since seeing MiLE HiGH TAXi for the first time last year, I knew it was something I absolutely wanted to play. The core gameplay gets a lot of things right, though the overall game leaves a lot to be desired.

MiLE HiGH TAXi doesn’t give the best first impression. It starts with a long and uninteresting (albeit skippable) cut-scene where, standing in a lift, you are spoken to by the taxi company. The tutorial is necessary to understand some of the more complicated details of the gameplay, but it’s drawn out and a little laborious. You should only need to go through this once and you’re good to go.

You will see the Game Over screen many times while you learn how to play.
You will see the Game Over screen many times while you learn how to play.

There are three modes: Standard: a time-trail mode in the same vein as Crazy Taxi, Free Roam: where you can drive at your own pace familiarizing yourself with the city and the handling of the vehicles, and Sequential: where there is only one fare at a time and you race against the clock to taxi as many customers as possible. Standard is where you'll likely spend the majority of your time. The clock is constantly ticking down but you are awarded time for picking up or delivering a fare. I like the idea of sequential, but it's always the same positions and order. You can only play it so many times before it becomes a little tedious.

The city is imposing in its verticality and visually interesting. It’s a colourful metropolis with billboards on the sides of buildings, lots of plateaus, narrow streets and large, open squares. The developer absolutely nailed the look and feel of the city. It's also a lot of fun to zip down its narrow streets once you become familiar with your surroundings. I do wish there was a little more variety, or at least a few landmarks. There are certainly areas that I recognize as I travel through them, but it would be challenging to ever direct yourself through the streets without using the map.

The game's solution for the verticality is a good one. You have a meter showing levels, ranging from 600 to 650 in increments of five. Your fare tells you both the location and the level of their destination, making it easier to understand where you need to drive. However, if you get close to either levels 600 or 650, the screen flashes with a warning not to descend or ascend any further otherwise you'll be fired. This becomes increasingly distracting at times you are required to drive close to these levels for a fare.

Your fares jump in your taxi in very silly ways.
Your fares jump in your taxi in very silly ways.

There are numerous quality-of-life issues throughout MiLE HiGH TAXi. Any settings you change reset to their default every time you launch the game. It became a little tedious setting the vertical controls to inverted, turning off motion blur and the post processing, and increasing the anti-aliasing quality every time. This is a minor inconvenience, but one that feels unnecessary. Unfortunately, there are other issues that affect the gameplay.

The mini-map tilts as you increase or decrease in altitude. This makes it illegible whenever you do this, obscuring fares and drop-off points. I cannot think of a way this feature would actually be beneficial. Every now and then, the route on the map directing you to your fare's destination bugs out and instead points you to where you picked them up. This happens once in every ten or so fares. You have to keep your wits about you otherwise you'll literally end up where you started.

The city feels alive with sounds of pedestrians, exaggerated collision audio when you hit something – you’ll be doing that a lot, one-liners from your fares and the frequent messages coming in from the taxi company. The soundtrack does an excellent job of being both reminiscent of Crazy Taxi and noteworthy in itself. There are multiple genres across the soundtrack, all full of energy that compliments the frenetic gameplay. This is all great, but all of the sounds I’ve just listed frequently play at the same time on top of each other. This happens a lot. It can get a bit much and ultimately becomes overbearing and unpleasant. There are no audio settings in the game either, so the only thing you can do is turn the overall volume down.

The UI is busy with inconsistent styles. There is chromatic aberration when driving fast and the screen becomes busy with glass-crack effects the more you crash into things. Games can last quite a long time and it becomes increasingly distracting. Thankfully, you can turn off the post processing in the settings and I highly recommend you do. It became considerably more pleasant to look at after I had.

Post processing on..
Post processing on.. processing off. processing off.

One problem is that the game isn't much fun when you're learning how to play. There is a steep learning curve. It takes a while to get used to the steering and the vertical manoeuvrers. Before you have this down you'll end up constantly bumping into walls or very solid rails on platforms. This breaks the flow of the game considerably. However, when you become accustomed to it and start zipping round the city with efficiency, standard mode becomes more like an endurance mode. I write this with thirty-five minutes into a session on this mode with more time remaining than when I started. I want short and punchy sessions in this game rather than long stints. Ultimately, I'll get a bit bored with the lack of challenge or need to go do something, so I'll just run the clock down to end the game. My record was almost an hour-long game with 150 seconds still on the clock, but I had to stop and get ready for work!

Personally, it's not a game I want to play for two-hour stints. It's a game I want to play in short bursts where I can feel myself improving by lasting longer against the clock than my previous effort. Once I was accustomed to controlling my taxi, it became a game of endurance. I cannot measure my ability against a previous session because I can just keep going without issue.

It's a shame there are so many quality-of-life issues scattered throughout the game. From the bugs to the overbearing audio layers, to the settings resetting every time you boot up the game to the mini-map tilting when you move, the inverted controls that don't invert your strafing on the right analogue stick. This number of issues will understandably put people off playing the game.

Ultimately, the core gameplay of MiLE HiGH TAXi is well done and there is definitely fun to be had here. It captures the spirit of Crazy Taxi and throws it into a fantastic setting.

Nate played MiLE HiGH TAXi on Steam prior to release with a code provided by the developer.

The good

  • The core gameplay is fun and captures the spirit of Crazy Taxi
  • The city is a great setting
  • The soundtrack matches the frenetic gameplay

The bad

  • Numerous quality-of-life issues and bugs
  • Audio can be overbearing when it all plays at once
  • Not much challenge once you become accustomed to the game