Space Taxi

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Space Taxi
Space Taxi cover.jpg
Developer(s) Muse Software
Publisher(s)
Programmer(s) John F. Kutcher
Composer(s) Silas S. Warner
Platform(s) Commodore 64
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action[1]
Mode(s) Single-player

Space Taxi is a computer game for the Commodore 64. It was written by John Kutcher and published by MUSE Software in 1984.

The game is famous for featuring sampled speech uncommon in the early 1980s. The speech samples include "Hey taxi!", "Pad one please" (and similar samples for different pads), "Thanks" and "Up please". These are said in a variety of voice pitches, creating the feeling of different taxi customers.

Gameplay[edit]

In-game screenshot.

Space Taxi is an action game. There are 24 different levels, all in sequential order, and the player has to complete all of them.

Space Taxi simulates a flying taxi. The taxi is controlled by four thrusters and has landing gear that can be switched on or off. Switching landing gear on disables the side thrusters, but landing without landing gear destroys the taxi. The taxi also crashes when colliding with the environment, landing with high velocity or not landing properly (i.e. having only one of the gear stands on the platform while having the other in midair).

In each level, there is a set of numbered platforms. At regular intervals, a customer materializes out of nowhere, on a randomly selected platform. The player has to fly their taxi to that platform, whereupon the customer will enter the taxi, saying which platform he wants to go to. When the player takes him to that platform, he will pay the taxi fee and tip based upon how fast the trip takes and the smoothness of the landing. After each numbered platform has been successfully visited, the next customer will say "Up please", whereupon the gate at the top of the level will open. Flying through the gate completes the level. One must also be careful not to land on or hit the customer with the taxi, not only because he will angrily yell "HEY!" and then disappear, before appearing somewhere else on the platform, but also deduct money from your total earned. This is increasingly difficult on smaller platforms where the platform will barely fit the customer and the taxi.

Each level features a different setting or theme (such as a treat-strewn candyland or a snowy winter landscape), and most have some special feature to hinder the player's job. Some of the features include a table tennis ball bouncing across the level, snowflakes falling from the sky, a series of radar masts interfering with the controls, or teleports that send the player to a random location.

The taxi also has a limited fuel supply. The fuel level resets at the end of each level, but on some of the more complicated screens it is necessary to refuel. This is accomplished by flying to a special platform marked with an "F" and containing a gas pump. The player must pay for fuel out of the money he has earned. Passengers do not make allowances for pitstops, and their tip will continue to decrease as the player tanks up. The taxi's fuel consumption is based upon the time spent in the air, not how much the thrusters are used, so if a player needs to get from one side of the screen to the other, it consumes less fuel (though is more dangerous) to accelerate halfway across the screen and then reverse thrust, than to use one small thrust to move slowly across the screen and occasional upward thrusts to maintain altitude.

After completing all levels, the player gets to a special "mystery level", in which the player is greeted with the message "Welcome to... MUSEWORLD" and three platforms, each with a figure relating to another Muse Software game: an ambulance representing Rescue Squad (1983, also John F. Kutcher), the soldier with Hakenkreuz for Castle Wolfenstein (1981, Silas S. Warner), and a shooting robot relating to RobotWar (1981, Silas S. Warner).

At the bottom below there is the actual mystery of the "secret screen", the text says: "Eat the pie until a "fire" glows, then go up until it stops, touch a star and you'll see the Secret Menu!!!". The bold words here are highlighted in the game in a different color and are the keys to get into the Secret Menu. Therefore the player must first enter the instruction page (by pressing joystick down in the main menu) and type in the keys related by the highlighted words: First pressing the π-key until the word "fire" in the last line changes its color, then pressing the ↑-key (not the cursor key) until the color gets black again. Then the player presses * and he or she will get to the "secret menu" with the following options: Record own demo, disable sprite kill, manual select for random levels and author information.

Levels[edit]

Name # of pads Special
Morning Shift
1: Short -n- Sweet 1 -
2: The Beach 3 -
3: Skyscrapers 5 -
4: Taxi Trainer 9+F -
5: Beanstalk 1-9 Pads grow out of a beanstalk (it's risky but possible to finish this stage with just one pad)
6: Taxi Pong 3 Ping-pong ball
7: Teleports 5 Teleports between enclosed areas
8: Puzzler 5 Switches to open and close doors
Day Shift
9: Crossfire 7 Two cannons fire bullets
10: Shooting Stars 5+F Stars fall down from the sky
11: Magnets 5 Magnets attract the taxi
12: Black Hole 5 A black hole attracts the taxi
13: Turbo-Charged Taxi 9+F Controls affect the taxi more
14: Space Mines 7+F Invisible barriers between coloured mines
15: Electroids 1 Moving electrical rays with small gaps
16: Blizzard 3 Snowflakes fall down from the sky and wind blows the taxi sideways
Night Shift
17: Interference 7+F Radio masts interfere with the controls
18: Taxi Maze 1 A maze
19: The Switch 5 Controls are switched around
20: Fast Break 7+F Invisible barrier only passable with great speed
21: Rebound 5 Bullets change the taxi's direction on impact
22: Shift-o-Rama 7 Barriers with gaps move in opposite directions
23: Lasers 3 Laser rays constantly switch on and off
24: On The Move 7+F Pads are constantly moving left and right

Ports and sequels[edit]

Space Taxi was ported to the Amiga by Andreas Spreen. The ported version, however, had a different set of levels and minor modifications to the game rules. Most prominently, landing on top of a customer no longer made him leave. An attempt at a more faithful port was Galactic Taxi, but the game never made it past prototype stage.

Space Taxi 2, an authorized sequel to Space Taxi, was released by Twilight Games in 2004.

A Space Taxi Remake completely faithful to the original in graphics, game play, and sound was made by Michael LeSauvage in 2004 shortly after the release of Space Taxi 2. John F. Kutcher allowed the release of the first eight levels as a way to raise interest in Space Taxi 2. There were plans to release a version for sale as an add-on to Space Taxi 2 that would have all the original levels, but the work was not completed.

A similar game on the PC was called Ugh!, where the player controls a caveman with a flying contraption.

For Windows Phone a remake of the first eight levels has been created and published in 2012. The game is named Sketch Taxi and was published by Vernal Equinox. The name of the game refers to the sketch-style graphics which give the game a cartoon like look. Advanced features are that - once unlocked - each level can be played individually and that there are achievements which can be earned. The rest of the gameplay and overall level design is kept as it was in the original game.

References[edit]

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