The Crash Bandicootseries is known to be one of the most popular and beloved franchises from the early PlayStation era. After 2017’s Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, fans have been anxiously waiting for the next installment in the series. Thankfully developer Toys For Bob greatly surpassed our expectations and then some with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
The first few minutes of the game introduces previous series villains Dr. Neo Cortex, N. Tropy, and Uka Uka as they try to escape their imprisonment by tearing a fabric through space and time. Doing this takes a toll on Uka Uka, and he is left behind by Dr. Neo Cortex and N. Tropy, as they team up to take advantage of their newly acquired dimensional travel ability. To stop them, the marsupial siblings Crash and Coco Bandicoot team up with the help of four new Quantum Masks that grants them the ability to manipulate space and time.
The first aspect of the game that earned my admiration is its brand new, unique visuals and art style. Developer Toys For Bob aimed for this latest installment to be highly different from the previous games. Thankfully, they manage to do this while keeping the simple formula fans love about the series. In Crash Bandicoot 4, you’ll notice the crisp 3D cartoony visuals and highly colorful environments that’s almost too distracting when trying to avoid being maimed, burned, or shocked to death.
The platforming sections are structured based on the game’s new Dimensional Map, containing many different multidimensional levels in the game. All the levels vary with new and unique platforming challenges included in all of them. Players can even switch between Coco and Crash right from the start, and you can even change their outfits. Many of these outfits will unlock by collecting gems in each level as thankfully, there are no microtransactions in the game. While some gems are hidden in each level, they’re primarily acquired from collecting a specific amount of wumpa fruits.
The gameplay maintains the same structure and format as previous titles. You press one button to jump, another to spin, and another button to slam on chests after jumping. The hard part is avoiding death, which is mostly unavoidable, as Crash Bandicoot 4 is not an easy game. Despite this, each death will more likely be due to your own lack of skill rather than the game’s design. If you find yourself struggling however, worry not, as the game offers two distinct difficulty modes. If you’re a tried and true Crash Bandicoot fan, you can choose the retro mode. This replicates the difficulty system of the previous games by giving you a limited amount of lives to work with.
If you’re a newbie, you can choose the modern difficulty setting, spoiling you with infinite lives and bountiful checkpoints. While I tested both difficulties, I had a gripe with the modern setting, as it includes some dynamic difficulty elements. That is, if you’re doing bad, the game will throw you multiple bones by inputting additional checkpoints or spawn you with an Aku Aku mask which allows you withstand additional damage. I found this addition to be extremely pointless as the existence of infinite lives is already more than enough.
The Extra Stuff
Crash Bandicoot 4 also includes new bonus levels, such as the previously advertised Flashback Tapes that take you back to the ’90s. In one instance, you’ll play through Neo Cortex’s first experimental trials. Other alternate levels in the game known as Timelines, let you play as other characters. This includes an alternate dimension version of Crash’s past girlfriend Tawna, Neo Cortex, and even reformed villain Dingodile.
Additionally, Crash Bandicoot 4 adds to its replayability factor by including timed trials and N. Verted variations of stages. The former unlocks whenever you finish a level, allowing you to go back and play it with a time limit. The latter unlocks mid-way through the game and lets you to replay the game levels, but in reverse.
The gameplay takes a different turn with the introduction of the Quantum Masks, each spread all across the game. The first mask you’ll encounter being Lani-Loli, which gives you the ability to bend reality and phase through objects in your path. The next mask you’ll come across is my personal favorite, Akano, which lets you spin infinitely and jump large distances with the power of dark matter. Next is Kupuna-Wa, a helpful mask that lets you slow down time, including moving objects. The final mask, Ika-Ika, lets you shift gravity. These masks are surprisingly well integrated into the platforming and succeed in keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting.
Players can also maximize the fun by jumping into the two multiplayer modes available in the game. The first of which is the Pass N. Play feature, where players share a controller with up to three other players as they compete for the best results at the end of each stage. Bandicoot Battle is a multiplayer mode that pits players against one another, alternating between both Coco and Crash levels to see who can reach a checkpoint faster or destroy more crates.
Throughout my time spent with Crash Bandicoot 4, I had nothing but fun exploring the game’s rich, well-designed levels. It was also a joy seeing some familiar characters return. Developer Toys For Bob went above and beyond in providing a highly entertaining experience fit for both Crash Bandicoot veterans and newcomers alike. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time succeeds in proving yet again why the Crash Bandicoot series is still very much a juggernaut in the platformer genre.
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