Get ready for a wild ride through time and space as everybody’s favorite marsupial is ready for more fruit munching and crate breaking. Crash Bandicoot is back and it’s about time too! While Crash is still fondly remembered but definitely not forgotten thanks to the re-released N. Sane Trilogy and the fun Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, but we’ve yet to see a proper new entry in the Crash Bandicoot series of platform games… until now. Is this a triumphant return for Crash to the spotlight? Let’s find out in our review of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
A Tale of Two Bandicoots
The game picks up directly after Crash Bandicoot: Warped and sees the return Neo Cortex and N. Tropy by escaping through a dimensional rift. Leaving these rifts unchecked is definitely not a good idea, so Crash and his sister Coco will need to gather the Quantum Masks, powerful sentient relics which hold the power of time and space, and once again put a stop to the plans of the evil duo.
The direct sequel to Naughty Dog’s original Crash Bandicoot trilogy clearly has longtime fans in mind. Newcomers may be a little lost with the story but it isn’t such a bad thing since the story is simple enough to follow. Simple is good, and a plot involving a pair of dimension travelling bandicoots stopping the plans of a couple of evil scientists is as simple as it gets. How you’ll be stopping them, however, is where simple stops.
Really good but really tough
Right off the bat, we’ll just say Crash Bandicoot 4 is a difficult game. When the developers, Toys for Bob, said they wanted to bring back the days of precision and skills in platforming for this game, they meant it.
From start to finish, the level designs and boss battles in the game will really put your platforming skills to the test, demanding precise timing and quick reflexes.
On top of everything, the addition of the Quantum masks will require a mastery to them that will easily have you grasping at your controller buttons. Each Quantum Mask you encounter has a unique feature that you will need to take advantage of. Lani-Loli can phase objects in and out of existence, giving you different platforms. Akano lets you perform a Dark Matter Spin that makes you invincible to some enemies and do long double jumps, but requires great control. Kupuna-Wa lets you stop time for a brief period, making slow moving objects platforms to step on and fast moving stage hazards slow enough to avoid. And finally Ika-Ika lets you switch your center of gravity, letting you walk on ceilings and possibly avoid long pitfalls. The addition of these masks coupled with level designs that complements them is a great way to summarize the fun to be had when traversing through the dimensions.
Level design is one of the most important aspects about the game and we can’t say enough good (or bad) things about it. The diversity of locales and designs are just amazing and one of my favorites has got to be the “Off Beat” level. It’s a definite highlight of this game as it combines superb audio and visuals into a level that’s worth replaying just for the experience.
The Gang’s All Here
Crash Bandicoot 4 will give you the chance to step in the shoes of other characters like Tawna (albeit one from an alternate dimension), fan favorite Dingodile, and even Neo Cortex himself. Tawna carries a hookshot that lets her smash crates from long range and lets her traverse long distances provided there’s a point to hook on, and she can wall jump. She doesn’t spin like Crash and Coco, but she sure has a mean spin kick. Dingodile is slow and hulking so he can’t double jump. He has, however, a devastating tail spin and carries around a vacuum gun that can let him suck in crates and bombs and lets him briefly hover. And finally Neo Cortex carries a ray gun that changes objects in platforms, either solid or gelatin-like to bounce off on, and he can air dash.
All the new playable characters are great additions because not only are they “new” faces to use, but their playstyles are original as well. Dingodile and Neo Cortex were particularly fun because of their ranged weapons and how they can smash crates from a distance, which is a fair trade since they can’t double jump like Crash, Coco, and Tawna.
If there ever was a slight letdown, it would be their limited use in their own stages. Aside from the main adventure, the game will be let you play as Tawna, Dingodile, and Neo Cortex in side stages where you can make use of their skills. For example, when playing as Tawna, we get to see her point of view and it’s through her actions Crash is able to advance through a certain level. The game then switches back to Crash and you will play the rest of the level as him. It all feels a bit redundant, especially if you already finished that level.
Speaking of redundant, it would have been nice if Crash and Coco had slightly different playstyles to really call it a diverse cast with different gameplay mechanics. Compared to the new playable characters, Crash and Coco are basically palette swaps where they both can spin, double jump, and use Quantum Masks the same way. Minor nitpick, but why not go the whole 9 yards?
Looks great, sounds great
Crash Bandicoot 4 is a beautiful game. It’s colorful and vibrant, and this applies to both the levels and characters. The game will take you through different locales across multiple dimensions from Crash and Coco’s home, the Wumpa Islands, to Pirate ships, Snowy mountains, and to even the Prehistoric era. They’re all distinct and the cartoony cuteness only adds to their charms. Enemies have enough variation to fit their respective stages perfectly. The Pirate stages have sword wielding rats and octopi, while the futuristic levels are filled with robots and flying cars.
Crash and company are equally well designed and animated. The cast may have looked great in the N. Sane Trilogy, but here in Crash Bandicoot 4 you can say that they really look like current generation characters with their smooth designs and expressive movements and emotions. You should see Crash or Coco’s face as they get chased by a big hungry T-Rex!
Crash Bandicoot 4 not only looks good but it sounds good as well. Talking lines between characters are witty and funny with spot-on delivery by the voice actors. The soundtrack is a highlight as well, with enough catchy tunes that will give you the urge to tap your feet even after dying for the 100th time during the level.
We’re Just Getting Started
So after my 12 hour romp (with around 2 hours due to dying and restarting levels) through the main campaign, do you think it’s all done? Think again. There are skins for Crash and Coco that you unlock by fulfilling certain objectives in a level, which include collecting all fruits, breaking all crates, finding hidden gems, and not going over a certain number of restarts.
For the nostalgic, there are Flashback Tapes that let you play levels from when Crash and Coco were still Neo Cortex’s lab experiments, complete with commentary and observations by Cortex and presented as if they’re being recorded on a video camera. Time trial is available as well for speedsters out there.
With the amount of collectibles in the game, the temptation is very strong to go back and get that last missing crate or to finish the level with one less death to get the reward. While it is satisfying to do so, it poses a real challenge that is very time consuming. Simply finishing a level towards the latter half of the game is tough enough as it is, but to get all crates AND not die enough times? That’s a pretty tall order.
If you’re a glutton for punishment, may we recommend the N. Verted mode? It’s basically a mirror image of the levels in the game, which adds a whole new layer of memorization and offers a fresh take on levels you thought you already mastered. Did we mention that the N. Verted levels have their own sets of goals to fulfill, unlocking different sets of Skins?
With all of this, it may seem that Crash 4 is the hardest thing in the planet next to the Souls games and Sekiro, but Crash is not at all unfair. Frustrating and difficult, sure, but not unfair. There’s hardly a point which forces you to say “how do you beat this?!” but there are indeed a lot of instances where you exclaim “almost!!!”
Bring a few friends over
An interesting feature to Crash Bandicoot 4 is actually its offline local multiplayer feature where up to four players can go head to head in challenges. In the main campaign it’s actually possible for four players to pass and play, where one player, after restarting or reaching a checkpoint, has the option to let another player take over. At the end of the level, individual scores get tallied.
If you want something different, then there’s the Bandicoot Battle where players can compete in either Checkpoint Race or Crate Combo, and both are pretty intense. Like how the main campaign will test your skills, you will now have to put those skills to the test against another player. Checkpoint Race really gets that competitive spirit flowing as you try to reach each checkpoint in a level as fast as possible. If that’s not hard enough, Crate combo will require you to also smash as much crates as possible along the way. These aren’t exactly versus mechanics in the literal sense, like say a fighting game, but they fit well for a platformer as you’re testing all the skills you’ve learned and comparing it to another player.
What we liked:
- Difficult but fair gameplay
- Loads of content
- Catchy Soundtrack
- Colorful, vibrant graphics
What we didn’t like:
- Reused levels in side character levels
- Lack of diverse gameplay between Crash and Coco
Verdict: Buy it!
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time may be difficult and yes, it demands a lot to be able to get all those collectibles, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The game is already pretty lengthy for a platformer where you can finish the main campaign in almost 11 to 12 hours, but it offers so much more even after that, from new ways to play like the Time Trials and N. Verted Modes, to couch coop fun with the Bandicoot Battles.
While there were some slight disappointments like the mentioned reused levels for side characters and Crash and Coco not having more different playstyles, Crash Bandicoot 4 still offers a fun story to follow, memorable characters, catchy music, and difficult but fair level designs that will clearly challenge completionists out there. Newcomers looking for a challenging platformer will definitely get their hands full here.
Fans have waited long for their favorite bandicoot to be back in a proper new entry, and the wait was simply worth it. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a triumphant return to form for an iconic video game mascot.
*Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code given by the publishers.