Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time Review — Back In the Swing
It's almost unbelievable we get to play a true sequel to the original PlayStation Crash games thanks to the release of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time. No disrespect to the games from the PlayStation 2 and beyond, but It's About Time gives fans a proper sequel that feels modern in many ways, picking up right after the events of 1998's Warped.
Developer Toys For Bob (the team that worked on the Spyro Reignited Trilogy) certainly did its homework to make an old formula feel new. But how exactly does Crash 4 do that?
Crash Bandicoot: It's About Time Review — Back In the Swing
Crash 4's levels are masterfully designed, allowing you to run, jump, slide, spin, and slam down on enemies, all while gathering a ton of collectibles.
Thanks to Crash 4's modern touches, beautiful visuals, and smart level design, it's a platformer that feels exactly like I (and others like me) remember of the Crash games of yore. But because of those things, even those who never played the original games back in the day will get a lot out of this sequel.
Right from the start, Crash 4 lets you choose between a Retro or Modern playstyle, with Retro employing the more traditional "lives" system and Modern employing a more contemporary approach, allowing you to infinitely respawn from the last checkpoint.
Teetering the line between old and new, these options are a welcome addition because playing on Modern difficulty is absolutely the way to go. Crash 4 gets tremendously challenging later on, especially during boss encounters.
But leading up to those boss encounters, the stars of the show truly shine bright. Crash 4's levels are masterfully designed, allowing you to run, jump, slide, spin, and slam down on enemies, all while gathering a ton of collectibles. The levels all feature beautiful and varied themes, from tropical settings to futuristic approaches, giving each an immense sense of personality and breadth.
There are hidden collectibles, alternate routes, and optional areas in these well-crafted areas, and the new rail sections allow you to grind much like you would in any of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games.
These rail sections break up the levels and offer a welcome change of pace, along with a set of high-risk, high-reward collectibles that you can grab along the way if you choose. Or you can simply make a beeline for the end of the level.
That's the thing about It's About Time: Much of its tougher challenges (with some exceptions) are optional, allowing newcomers to blast through and giving completionists much more challenging and rewarding experiences at the time.
Speaking of completionists, Toys For Bob did a fantastic job making sure Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time has enough content to warrant its $60 price tag. The value of an individual video game is ultimately up to the player, and with the sheer number of games on the market, it can be hard to justify paying $60 for a platformer you can finish in around eight hours.
But there's so much more to do in It's About Time.
Each level features a time trial mode that forces you to play differently from how you might be used to. Along with that, there are six gems to find per level, hundreds of boxes to break, challenges to complete, and hidden gems to uncover.
If you collect all six gems in a specific level, you're rewarded with fancy new skins for Crash and Coco, many of which offer comedic "spins" on the already humorous characters. The 360 Noscope skin, which depicts Crash in his gamer outfit, headset and all, is a particularly nice touch.
Apart from that are the unlockable Flashback Tape levels. These are optional levels you unlock by collecting a Flashback Tape within certain mainline levels. The tapes only appear if you reach them without dying, offering even more incentive to those looking to master the game. The Flashback Tape levels themselves are enjoyable and are presented with an old-timey filter over the top, requiring you to collect a series of boxes as you make your way through them.
You can also take part in the Pass N. Play mode, where up to four players pass the controller with each death, featuring a score tally at the end. Plus, there's a traditional multiplayer mode called Bandicoot Battle that allows two to four players to race against one another to the finish line, or go head-to-head to achieve a high score.
When you consider how much there is here outside the main levels, your eight-hour playthrough can quickly turn into 20 or 25 hours.
...this is all wrapped up Crash 4's stellar soundtrack, which features banger after banger.
One of the new features in It's About Time is the ability to use different Quantum Masks throughout the game. These make periodic appearances through Crash's adventure and truly make you rethink the way you play.
Each mask grants you various abilities and turns the game on its head. In total, there are four: Lani-Loli, which grants the ability to phase items in and out of existence; Akano, which turns you into a Dark Matter Tornado that that can glide and hover; Kupuna-Wa, which temporarily slows down time; and Ika-Ika, which is used for manipulating gravity.
Along with Crash, there are multiple characters to play as, such as Coco, Neo Cortex, Dingodile, and Tawna. All the characters feature unique abilities that keep things fresh along your journey, such as Tawna's grappling hook, which you can use to attack enemies or get from place to place.
Lastly, this is all wrapped up Crash 4's stellar soundtrack, which features banger after banger. The songs are a mixture of what you remember from the originals. Complete with quirky xylophone sounds matching each level theme, the tunes culminate in a catchy, foot-tapping score.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time Review — The Bottom Line
- Lots of replayability
- Beautiful visuals/sounds
- True to originals, yet modernized
- Excellent level design
- Can get frustrating during later game challenges
- Camera can cause issues with depth perception
Despite everything Crash 4 does right, there are still a handful of issues that weigh it down. Its biggest problem is its perspective, which often causes you to misjudge where you're supposed to jump and how far. To mitigate this, the game features a small circle below your character that indicates where they'll land, but oftentimes, it isn't enough to keep you from missing a leap or dying.
Not being able to tell where a deadly obstacle is in relation to your character is an issue that has plagued the Crash series since the beginning, and while it is better here than in past entries, it's presence mars the overall experience.
Considering Crash 4's increasing difficulty in later stages, and its reliance on hidden extra content, it's easy to see how the game could be geared toward more skilled players and those with experience with the series. Newcomers may not find as much immediate enjoyment in Crash 4 because of that, so mileage may vary.
Ultimately, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time had a lot riding on it. Being the sequel to a 22-year-old game likely presented Toys for Bob with some developmental challenges, but the development team nailed nearly everything about this sequel.
The Crash series has seen its fair share of mediocre (or even bad) entries, but Crash 4 is a big step in the right direction, and the future of the series couldn't be more exciting.
[Note: Activision provided the copy of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time used for this review.]