Review of Taxi Slots
There really hadn’t been a show like Taxi before: gruff, dirty, rude, gritty – these were just a few of the words that most viewers at the time would use to describe it. I agree with all of those adjectives and it was this unique portrayal of Manhattan that made the show a hit.
Critically acclaimed by all, it unfortunately couldn’t find an audience, even after NBC rescued it for a fifth and final season after ABC unceremoniously dumped it. A seldom-remembered fact regarding Taxi is that it was one of the original programs that started NBC’s “Must See TV” on Thursday nights, with the first season of Cheers being it’s lead-in show in the fall of 1982.
As with most pop culture items from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, I found myself reminiscing about “the good ol’ days” when I first launched this game. There’s just something about a few of these classic shows from back then that immediately warm your heart as soon as you think of them. Thankfully, Leander Games respected the legacy of Taxi so my review doesn’t have to be that tainted by bias to give it a high rating. Here’s why fans of the show are going to be ecstatic to take a trip back to the garage…
The design of this game is definitely more “neon ’80s” than “gritty ’70s”, which did throw me off a bit at first. My memories of the show are dark and dirty, not bright and colorful. That said, the game does take on a lighter and happier feel with the bright colors, and to be fair, the background in the main game is a beautiful image of New York City at night so it did need something to balance the darkness. Feel free to click on the screenshots below to see what I’m talking about.
The drivers at the Sunshine Cab Company have all come from different walks of life, but have somehow found themselves in Manhattan in a defacto dysfunctional family headed by the “moral compass”of the group, Alex Reiger. He is the only person in the garage who has accepted his role in life as a cab driver due to his overall pessimism and steady depression.
Reiger is the constant target of verbal abuse by the company’s head dispatcher, Louie De Palma, as are his fellow drivers Nardo, Tony, Wheeler, and Iggy. The only ones who seem to escape Louie’s wrath are his girlfriend Zena and garage mechanic, Latka Gravas, who is simply too naive and passive to be offended by any of his many insults.
Although the show primarily focuses on the interaction between the characters as they hang out together at the garage, viewers also get to go out on duty and watch as they pick up strange people across the city. Most plot lines involve bizarre interactions with customers, or follow a main character as they are trying to improve their lives and get out of the taxi driving industry, like Tony with his boxing career, or Wheeler trying to become a famous actor.
This slot from Leander Games does a good job of bringing back fond memories of Taxi, even though it doesn’t go into any specific plots from the show. However, since there isn’t a proper storyline the game can occasionally seem a bit monotonous, but maybe that’s an unintentional homage to the job of taxi driving itself – sometimes it feels like you’re just going in circles.
The unique symbols in this game are surprisingly good, with an impressive five original cast members from the show being featured. Therefore, I can’t really complain about Leander using the playing card symbols of 10 to the Ace because the mix looks balanced and the reels are colorful and uncluttered.
Diehard Taxi fans are obviously going to be extremely disappointed that Judd Hirsh’s main character, Alex Reiger, didn’t show up in the game. Not to mention that the first time most of us played we were crossing our fingers in the hopes of seeing Andy Kaufman’s character of Latka Gravas (or at least Vic Ferrari), but were sadly disappointed.
No one but the pickiest of players will notice that John Burns, Simka Gravas, and Zena Sherman didn’t make the cut…
- J (Jack)
- Q (Queen)
- K (King)
- A (Ace)
- Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christoper Lloyd)
- Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway)
- Tony Banta (Tony Danza)
- Elaine O’Connor Nardo (Marilu Henner)
- Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito)
- Checker Taxi (Wild)
- Telephone (Free Spins)
- Megaphone (Bonus)
Out of respect for the name of the show, The Checker Taxi Wild is the best-paying in the game and drops off 500 coins for five across the reels. This is followed by the boss himself, Louie De Palma, with 400 coins, and Elaine Nardo with 250 for 5 of a Kind. The cabbies then punch in with Tony, Bobby, and Jim paying 200, 150, and 100 coins respectively for five in a single spin.
Do you really think that Louie DePalma would give his employees the chance to win a huge cash prize and escape the garage? Of course not. So stop trying to flag a Taxi Slots Jackpot and just be happy that they stopped to pick you up for a ride.
There are two nice bonus rounds in Taxi Slots and both of them give you an opportunity to boost your bankroll big time. First we have the “Flag This Down” feature which is triggered by a Megaphone Bonus symbol falling in any position on reel #3. You will then be taken to a prize board where you simply hit the “Start” button and let the game do it’s thing.
You will see 5 different levels with unique colors, and hopefully your taxi gets to drive through each one of them because the higher you go, the more free cash you will win. Starting on the bottom level, the cab will speed quickly past a street sign to spin it around and get a bonus. You will keep advancing to the next level and winning prizes until you spin a sign around that has an “X” on it and not an image of a taxi. However, if you make it through all 5 levels you’ll win a whopping 42x multiplier on your original bet amount. The feature itself is fairly basic but it certainly provides a nice break from the regular game and it’s always fun to watch it unfold.
Secondly, we have the fun “Let’s Get This Garage Moving Here!” bonus which is triggered when you hit a Megaphone Bonus symbol anywhere on reels #2, #3, and #4 in a single spin. From the safety of his cage, Louie will shout fares for specific drivers and it’s your job to turn over the correct driver’s license for the character. The driver’s name will appear at the top of the screen and 4 cards will be dealt on the desk facedown. It’s basically just an intricate Pick Em’ style game but it’s still cool, and not to mention profitable – the feature will continue to give you cash prizes for each correct selection until you’ve made three mistakes.
Once you’ve made your 3rd error you will be sent to the parking garage where you will select a taxi to reveal a multiplier that will be applied to all of your bonus winnings. Mercifully, once you’ve made your selection all 3 of the remaining taxis will disappear to show you the other multiplier amounts that were hiding underneath them. Your free cash then gets added to your balance and you are returned to the regular game.
If you are able to pick perfectly the entire way through this feature you will win a massive 98x multiplier on your original bet – that’s one heck of a tip.
In keeping with the main theme that ran through every season of the show, Taxi Slots has a “Make It Out of the Garage” free spins bonus. This is of course in reference to everyone at the Sunshine Cab Company desperately hoping to quit their jobs and follow their dreams, telling Louie to “stuff it” as they march past him with their heads held high.
The feature arrives when 3 Telephone Free Spins symbols fall anywhere on reels #1, #3, and #5 in one spin. This will give you a flat 10 free games each time, but you have the opportunity to win more while free-rolling if you hit another Phone symbol on reel #5. This will turn one of the character symbols into a Wild that will substitute for all other symbols, as well as give you 2 more free spins each time it drops on the board.
It’s not the craziest Free Spins Mode I’ve ever played, but with a chance to win up to 20 free spins it definitely gives you an opportunity to whip up some extra bonus cash.
I have a serious complaint about an important image in this game that some of you might find silly, but why in the heck didn’t the graphics department get the Checker taxi right?!? Would they have had to pay the Checker Motors Corporation to use that exact model of the Checker Marathon cab from the opening credits? (I’m not sure how this could be possible since they went out of business in 2010.) I find it quite odd that the iconic taxi, (that the program itself was named after), wasn’t designed exactly like the one in the show. I suppose that this doesn’t really take away from the fun but I think it needs to be mentioned regardless.
The rest of the graphics in this slot are great and Leander did a good job designing all of the bonus features and symbols. The main background in this game is one of the better ones I’ve seen, with New York City glistening in the beautiful moonlight. The George Washington bridge extends over the Hudson River looking solid and majestic, covered in glowing lights.
Another great visual is that each time you get 3 or more of the same character symbol in a spin you will see a quick video of them from the original show. There’s no audio and the clips are very fast, so I think that most players will agree that they could have given us a little more meat on this particular bone.
There are also some “hidden” scenes when you enter and leave the bonus areas but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.
Audio & Soundtrack
Now it’s time to call out the biggest problem with this game, and maybe also crush your excitement in the process – the Bob James classic, “Angela” from the opening credits of the show does not appear anywhere in this game. It is a terrible omission and one that frankly impacted my overall enjoyment while playing. That song goes with those characters in that setting, and not hearing it at any point leaves you feeling unfulfilled.
The game’s creators tried their best to cover up this omission with a “Bob James inspired” soundtrack that does a decent job of providing a “Taxi feel”, compliments of a light flute and angry funk guitar. This is of course no substitute for the original, but it was a decent effort nevertheless.
For those diehard fans who would like to rock out to a fantastic 8 minute live version of Angela as you play, simply mute the game and leave this page open and enjoy the video below on repeat. (You’re welcome!)
The tune in the “Let’s Get Moving Here Bonus” is a faster track that has a frantic guitar with a wah wah effect, backed up by a competent horn section that blasts in from time to time to give the song some flavor. It’s a nice change up from the song in the regular game, however, it sounds like the studio guitar player wanted to let loose a little more than they let him, if you know what I mean. It would have been interesting to see where he took that jam if given the opportunity. The other audio of note in this feature is that when you select a taxi, a sassy spacey synth takes over and squelches as you mull your choices.
The song that plays during free spins is a little too upbeat and disco-y for my tastes, but I’m sure that some of you will be able to get down to it. In any event, it’s part of the nice mix of songs that are featured throughout the game, all of them coming together to keep things fresh.
Finally, the audio of the reels spinning sounds like a wobbly tire rotating on asphalt and when the reels stop it has a bubble-popping sound, which I find to be an odd choice. It doesn’t get annoying or bothersome though, so no harm, no foul.
Fans of the original show will probably be honestly surprised at how good Taxi Slots turned out. I for one was expecting a quickly-constructed game that was just hoping to capitalize on the show’s name recognition and its loyal viewers. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was well thought out, respected the show’s legacy, and is a ton of fun to play for long stretches of time.
With generous free games, great bonus rounds, and most of the original characters, Taxi has more than enough to make you smile while you spin and reminisce about one of TV’s greatest programs. Diehards may want to nitpick that it’s missing the show’s main character, but there’s no need to dwell on the negatives here because Leander clearly gave us everything that they could.
Sadly, this game does have to accept the dishonor of “biggest soundtrack error” due to its omission of Angela, because with it, it definitely would have been one of the greatest television-themed slots ever released. Oh well, we can cross our fingers that it’s included in “Taxi 2: Latka’s Revenge”.
For now, this is all we have so hop in and go for a spin – even if it’s only for a few blocks. There’s some great nostalgic fun to be had here, so don’t miss out.
“Goodnight Mr. Walters!”
Bonus Video of Taxi
Well I had to dig around for a while but I found an awesome video with a behind the scenes look at Taxi from back in the day. It has interviews with all of the show’s stars and was taken from an NBC special titled, “1981: The Year in Television”. Enjoy!