For people that loved platform games, the Crash Bandicoot series was a real treat. Unfortunately, recent franchise offerings tend to be a bit on the lackluster side, which made interest die out. Fortunately, the franchise might be back to form with its latest game, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Coming back with a fresh coat of paint and some extra things on the side, the game wants to put the Crash Series back on the map.
In this review, we will talk about if this game is indeed a return of form.
What Is Crash Bandicoot 4?
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a platformer game much like its predecessors. It’s the eighth title under the Crash Bandicoot banner and the fourth main game. The game was released back in September 2020 for the PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
If you’re looking for other games to try out, why not read our review of Persona 5 Strikers.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time Review
Right now, though, let’s talk about how the game feels to play as well as its other settings. Afterwards, we need to talk about how the game looks compared to the previous entries in the series.
Gameplay and Combat
In terms of its gameplay, the game doesn’t tread on new ground. There are some new things introduced, but they’re few and far in between. As you play through the game, Crash will eventually come across some magical masks. You’ll encounter four of them, and they’re powerups that give Crash special skills and abilities.
An example of this is a mask you can find in specific sections of some levels which allows you to reverse gravity. This mask lets you flip Crash’s gravity, allowing him to get through difficult sections or obtain collectibles. Another mask in Crash’s arsenal slows downtime for a short while. This one might come in handy if you’re annoyed at a particular moving section. It’s because of these additional gimmicks that Crash Bandicoot 4 doesn’t feel stale and has a lot of variety into it.
Also, you’re not going to be just playing as Crash. Some characters from past Crash games will also be playable. Mainly though, you control Crash or Coco, his lovable sister. Both of them have similar abilities that longtime fans of the series can recognize from previous games. However, they’re not the only ones returning for this game.
Some levels will let you play as Dingodile, who carries a huge vacuum to suck up objects and enemies. Other levels will let you take control of Tawna, whose grappling hook will allow you to move around as well as do some pretty cool wall-jumps. As a final treat for players and fans, you can also play as Neo Cortex, the series’ main villain who turns enemies into walking platforms through his ray gun.
Controls and Extra Lives
The beauty of Crash games lie in its challenging platform. While that challenge is mitigated by the fact that you can lessen the game’s difficulty, you don’t have an easy mode. Instead, the game gives you a choice of playing the game with an extra life system. The original Crash game and a lot of older platforming games have multiple lives as a mechanic, so the fact that this game has extra lives isn’t setting precedence. If you die in the middle of the level, you’ll instead start back from a checkpoint if you have extra lives in stock. If you die without one, you need to start from the beginning.
However, there might be some players that are full hardcore and wouldn’t allow themselves the luxury of extra lives. To the developer’s credit, they accommodated them, too. This is great since it allows both the casual and the hardcore players to find their ideal difficulty on Crash Bandicoot 4.
In addition to that, the game has a way to reward players that are good at the game. If you finish a level while not dying that many times, you get a gem. If you collect enough wumpa fruits, you also get a gem. Getting more gems allows you to unlock costumes for Crash and Coco.
If you want to play the game and get the good stuff, you need to play the game’s challenging levels well. However, those aren’t the only collectibles worth getting. In addition to that, there are tapes in every stage that can only be obtained if you didn’t die. These tapes allow you to unlock extra levels with increased difficulty. For the people who are dedicated and managed to beat those, you unlock the N.Verted version of said level. These stages mirror that level’s layout, but also have some weird color shenanigans that make it difficult to see where you’re going, adding difficulty to the game. Only challenge it if you’re going for a completionist route; you won’t survive and have fun otherwise.
There’s nothing much to talk about in terms of the game’s story and setting. It’s not treading new ground, and you’re not really in it for the story as you’re in it for the gameplay. The game is set after the events of the first three games.
After their defeat, N. Tropy and Uka Uka are finally locked up. Now, Uka Uka doesn’t take that imprisonment kindly and created a hole in the space/time fabric to escape. However, it exhausted him, and his two compatriots abandoned him to save their skins. The two eventually found out that the hole didn’t lead out of the prison, but instead is a link to a whole multiverse. Knowing the opportunity that this gave them, Neo Cortex and Nefarious Tropy began to work on a plan to take over the multiverse.
Knowing that this event can cause some pretty bad things to happen to the entire multiverse, Crash and his team set out to stop them. To do this, they need to find the four Quantum Masks, which only appear when a door to the multiverse is opened. They need to do this to stop Cortex from taking over the multiverse.
After that, there’s a twist in the middle of the game that puts additional stakes into the game’s plot. However, we’re not gonna talk about the game’s plot here and spoil it.
Environment and Graphics
In terms of its graphics and environment, Crash 4’s level design is on point and is one of the best reasons why the series is a great 3D platformer. The fact that the game’s art direction is awesome only adds to that reasoning. Its various stages and levels are incredibly detailed and have great-looking visuals. It also helps that the levels themselves have some cool enemies.
An example of this is an ice level on the game. However, the enemies are a bit unorthodox. You get to fight fight zombie anglers. Yes, you heard that right. At one point in the game, you also go back in time, which opens a dinosaur-themed level for you to play in. These things are a dime in a dozen by this point in other games, but Crash 4’s visuals make the levels pop. It’s almost as if you’re in a Pixar movie.
The game looks pretty great graphically, so you won’t regret playing it just for that alone. However, you might not notice it due to the incredibly hard gameplay. Here’s hoping you don’t throw your controller in frustration.
Crash 4’s sound design is pretty much a return to form to the other Crash games, and that’s not a bad thing. Just hear the first few level’s soundtracks and you’ll already fall in love if you’re a fan of the earlier titles. It’s a return to the soundtrack of the past, and it’s one that we welcome with open arms.
The soundtrack of the game fits the various levels they’re put in. There’s a level where you’re in a musical city filled with musical-themed obstacles and enemies. The game’s soundtrack changes to fit the level while still adding in some Crash Bandicoot chaos. All of the other levels have that as well, making it a treat. Just make sure that you’re also dodging the obstacles and not getting yourself killed while listening to it.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time vs Older Crash Games
The older Crash games have their appeal, and these games are also incredibly hard platformer challenges. However, Crash 4 adds to the challenge with additional stages and new characters for players to play around with. Combine that with a bopping soundtrack and some additional quality-of-life changes, and Crash 4 is easily one of the best Crash Bandicoot games we’ve seen in a long while.
Compare Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time vs Similar Games
Now in terms of platformers, Crash Bandicoot 4 isn’t treading new ground. There’s a lot of new things to the game that added in some gameplay variation to make things interesting. For one, they added in stuff like rails, ropes, and the mask powerups. It’s similar to other platformers that implement these mechanics like Celeste or Super Mario.
However, the game also has its own set of challenges. For one, the gameplay is incredibly punishing and precise on its own. One wrong move can and will send you back to the checkpoint. And if you’re far enough on a level, that setback can be pretty devastating. The addition of the mask powerups did add in extra gameplay, but it didn’t take away from the core Crash Bandicoot experience. It only enhanced it and added some extra flair. After all, this IS Crash Bandicoot we’re talking about. If you aren’t having fun while the game’s kicking your ass by handing it to you through hard platformer gameplay, are you even playing Crash?
Overall, it kept its charm even with the additions of new things in its gameplay. This charm is one of the things that makes the Crash Bandicoot games so awesome and memorable to play. For now, though, let’s hope that any sequels of this game stays the way it is and that the magic doesn’t fade again like the last time.
Is Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time a Return to Form?
The answer to that question is a very big yes! Crash Bandicoot 4 is a game that pays homage not only to the previous Crash Bandicoot games but also to the series in general. It managed to toe the line between reboot and sequel and somehow came out on top as something great. If you have a PS5 and you’re a fan of platformers, it’s recommended to play Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.