It has been over two decades since Crash Bandicoot: Warped released on PS1. So it certainly is about time for a proper sequel!
Technically, it has only been about two and a half years since the last Crash Bandicoot game. The N Sane Trilogy rebooted the series with a remake of the original PS1 trilogy, garnering a great reception from fans and critics alike. Plus, it was a commercial success.
A welcome blast from the past
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time picks right up where Warped left off. The story involves an escape of Crash’s former enemies, the multiverse, and guardian masks who are protectors of said multiverse. The plot feels contrived but sets the stage for varied and creative game worlds. The story is told through Pixar-like quality animations that are well voiced and emotive. The various worlds that Crash travels to are varied, richly vibrant in color, and full of character. The concentration required to perform some of the feats in Crash 4 has often caused me to miss the detailed animations that are happening in the background.
Crash Bandicoot 4 plays very similarly to its predecessors, but there is a gameplay tweak that will surely divide fans. Upon starting a new game, players are presented with two play modes: modern and retro. The retro mode plays exactly like original Crash Bandicoot games where it’s game over if you lose all your lives and you must restart a level. The modern mode removes this play mechanic completely and you never see a game over screen. Instead, you restart at the last checkpoint. Whichever playstyle you choose, the rest of the game is the same between modes.
There’s a lot of collecting
Each level in Crash Bandicoot 4 has six gems that you can collect, unlocking a new character skin for collecting them all. You get up to three gems for collecting at least eighty percent of the Wumpa fruit, another gem for breaking all the crates in the level, and yet another for not dying more than three times. Lastly, there is a hidden gem in each level.
Some levels also have Flashback Tapes that open secret levels. Mid-level challenges are still present and do not add to your death count. You can swap freely between Crash and his sister Coco, and you unlock character skins for both, although both characters play the same.
Adding to the gameplay mix, Crash’s girlfriend Tawna makes an appearance halfway through the Pirate World. She then becomes a playable character with her own stages. With a unique playstyle, Tawna’s stages explore how she has been helping Crash and Coco throughout their journey without them even realizing. Tawna’s stages add an interesting twist to Crash Bandicoot 4, but they always end with the action shifting back to Crash.
Smooth as butter
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time plays very well on PS4 Pro, running at what seems like a buttery sixty frames per second for the most part. Occasionally, you will see the image stutter when the action on-screen gets too heavy. Ultimately, Crash 4 is a game of precision and timing. Depth can be tough to gauge for some precisely-timed and sequential jumps. Thankfully, a bright yellow oval can now be overlaid on Crash’s shadow, aiding players to stick their landing. The Flashback Tapes levels are bound to test even the most seasoned Crash Bandicoot fans.
Quantum Masks add variety
Adding to the already challenging Crash Bandicoot platforming style are the Quantum Masks, each of which imbues Crash with unique powers to traverse different sections of a level. The first mask you encounter phases objects in and out of the level. The second mask lets Crash spin indefinitely and slowly descend from jumps. The third mask slows time for a moment, and the final mask reverses gravity.
These four abilities add to the variety of stages in Crash Bandicoot 4. They also add greater difficulty in timing jumps that coincide with activating abilities to successfully traverse the dynamic obstacle courses. Some levels can be particularly challenging as you shed one ability for another, causing a certain degree of confusion for the player and often resulting in what may feel like a cheap death. Completing the time challenges for some levels can be immensely difficult as you try to maintain momentum with a changing subset of abilities.
This generation of consoles has brought remakes onto a whole new level, using the graphical prowess of current-gen machines to reimagine classics better than our own memories. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time feels like the perfect continuation of the series – almost as if it never went on hiatus or took less-than-stellar detours after the PS1 era. As a longtime fan, I am glad that Activision has revived this beloved franchise.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.