Title: Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time
Developer: Toys for Bob
Release Date: October 2, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Genre: 3D Platformer
One look at Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, and you’d expect the game to be a walk in the part when it comes to platformers. However, you couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t think I have ever had so much fun with a game that infuriated me then with Crash Bandicoot 4. Coincidently, this is the same experience I had when I was ten years old, and it took me a week to get past the first island. Crash Bandicoot 4 not only gives long time fans a dose of what they remember about the series but also includes a few new elements to keep players coming back for more if not to complete challenges then because they ran out of lives for the tenth time.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has been, as the name suggests, a long time coming for the series. Now in the hands of developer Toys for Bob, we get an experience tailored to fans new and old. After their remaster of the original trilogy, I see that the developer took notes on what makes Crash so unique compared to other 3D platformers. The game excelled in several areas of the genre and continued to push it even further with the inclusion of power-ups and various characters to mix it up with.
The adventure begins after Neo Cortex and N. Tropy bust out of prison, causing a rift in the fabric of space and Time. This allows them to connect and control universes for their evil deeds. It’s classic villain stuff here, and it won’t be long before Aku Aku sends Crash and Coco on an adventure to save the multiverse. To assist on this journey are additional masks that grant the heroes new powers as they face off against recognizable foes of their past.
The story only really servers as a reason for this adventure to take place, but it never overstays its welcome. Throughout the adventure, new characters become playable who bring variety to the platforming by using unique skills to get through stages. The more exciting moments of the gameplay use the idea of time that you may overlook your first run through. Such as a door randomly opening only to unlock an option stage as a different character who caused the door to open.
It’s these significant touches on the game’s adventure that made it unique. It’s a great way to show the impact that these additional characters have on the adventure instead of just offering them their own levels for the hell of it. Still, it does take a little adjusting to understand how each character plays, and it’s often at the cost of a few lives. Luckily, the developer does offer some pointers, but after playing as Crash for so long, you’ll have to ease up the muscle memory of relying solely on his spins.
Crash Bandicoot 4 is insanely difficult at times. From the very beginning, the developer throws you into a lengthy version of N. Sanity Beach that takes you on a roller coaster ride through the environment. Players are expected to get the hang of sliding on poles, precise platforming, and getting past a long list of enemies as they make their way to the goal. This is more or less the same in each level, but the difficulty only increases with the inclusion of more obstacles that require the assistance of the Quantum Masks.
The only real drawback of this is that some of the power-ups just aren’t that interesting, and you’re left to master them across each universe. The levels are also long. Each stage seems to go over forever, which limits the number of playable levels significantly. This only becomes an issue when you are aiming to collect everything the adventure has to offer. Each stage is rife with collectible gem opportunities, which unlock new outfits. You’d be lucky to complete them your first time through, so multiple playthroughs are necessary. It’s a pain having to play the long levels over and over again, looking for one missed box.
Regardless of the length, the level designs are simply beautiful. They mix up areas of classic 2D platforming with 3D so seamlessly that you can’t really tell where one ends or begins; you’re just worried about surviving. The controls are precise, with an additional level of security being a circle under crash for those pesky boxes that like to float in the air. Many of the enemies appear to just be reskinned enemies from previous levels, but that doesn’t make them any less difficult. What’s important is how the developer didn’t get too comfortable using the same gimmicks, which forces the player to think outside the box in many cases.
I think the developers recognized this, so we also have Flashback levels that are unlocked by collecting VHS tapes. This gives players a look at the trial that Crash had to go through before the first game. These challenges stages are so much to complete. Sure, you will die a lot, but they are just so satisfying to get through. Furthermore, there are time trials and secret areas to discover during each stage to give more incentives to those returning for round two.
By the end of the adventure, you will become a Crash master, and all of the near controller breaks and curse words yelled that got you there will be in the past. The game has some accessibility options if you don’t want the classic experience, but it’s definitely designed to test the skills of players. There are a few kinks here and there regarding the physics added by the new power-ups that make the game unfair. However, there’s still so much quality found in each level that gives this adventure a real personality, even at the expense of high difficulty.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time gives us the Crash experience that we’ve been waiting so long for. The developer seemed to understand what was unique about the series but added touches of their own imagination to make it their own. The finished product is a 3D platformer that is as fun as it is frustrating, so you can bet that it fits in perfectly with the other titles. Here’s to another generation of Crash.
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