Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
Long before Euro Truck Simulator 2, I fell in love with another game about a vehicle-based profession. Taxi driving. The cool console kids might have had Crazy Taxi, but years earlier I was playing with Chuck Rock’s cab-driving sibling, the preposterously titled Ugh!.
I love the idea of a serious taxi sim and, being me, I’ve thought long and hard about why that is. It all comes down to enjoying the worlds that are created for games but often being underwhelmed by the things I have to do within those worlds. Driving a taxi might be the ultimate fetch quest in a way, but it’s also a good excuse to explore, taking people from place to place and being at the mercy of the fare and the route rather than simply wandering lost or lingering around low-level areas to steel your fenders for the quests beyond.
Structurally, taxi driving is fantastic. And it adds flavour too, giving NPCs who have destinations they need to get to a reason to exist in the world. Oh, this guy in a suit wants to go to the club? He’s looking sharp and ready for the night! Oh, the same guy needs to go to the bank downtown? He’s going to work. And where am I picking them up? The origin of a route is an origin story too, given a little imagination.
Ugh! is a weird mix of 2d platformer and taxi game though. It’s not entirely successful, being more about avoiding traps and navigating fairly abstract scenery in a prehistoric helicopter than fleshing out a world through its fares. But back in the early nineties, when I played it, I hadn’t seen anything else like it. And if you want to see how it plays, you should take a look at the open source remake, Cave Express.