Long-standing franchises tend to suffer from half-baked ideas, shameless cash grabs, and in some cases a poor understanding of what people liked in the first place. Most of these things apply to Crash Bandicoot’s long-standing history. From being PlayStation’s answer to top tier platforming to later attempts to make their own version of Mario Party and Mario Kart, to some questionable times, leading to a resurgence of popularity following Crash N. Sane Trilogy. With a new developer behind the wheel, a genuine heart, and a strong desire to make a great game, can Toys for Bob bring back the franchise gamers’ love, or is it at least a loving failure?
In a lot of ways, Toys for Bob had their work cut out for them with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. They need to not only capture the original charm, while also offering something that justifies returning to the series, resulting in an experience that feels, for better or worse, a bit more fan-made. On the surface, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time brings back the iconic look and often feels like a modern version of the classics. You could honesty swap out a spike ball for a stone wheel and a dystopian future for tropical jungle and it would feel exactly the same as the originals. And, on paper, this makes for an experience that feels more like a sequel than anything else.
Where things start to go off the rails is when you look at a lot of the finer points. After even a couple levels there are some pretty extreme difficulty spikes. Most levels require a fair amount of trial and error to master, with a lot more skill required to destroy every box. Often times there are a small handful of boxes that rely heavily on esoteric elements or cheap mechanics that can make progression more frustrating than they’re worth. Thankfully, most of them are fairly easy to overcome, assuming you have the right tactic, it just hinges on your desire to risk redoing a second over another box or two. Often times quick-moving or risk heavy sections are extremely easy to fail, even with a good understanding of what is expected of you.
Despite a fairly high skill requirement, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time works fairly well because there is a little something for everyone. Regardless of how much you may or may not care about box destruction, players are given diamonds for collecting specific amounts of wumpa fruit, completing the level with a specific number of deaths or less, finding a hidden gem, and the aforementioned breaking of every box. Finishing every task will unlock a costume and level completion gives time trials. So, you can rush through everything and win without too many issues, work on your speed or maximizing score, and even unlock bonuses if you bother trying to finish everything. This is important, as levels are varied and interesting.
Given Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time takes place after the events of Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Doctors Neo Cortex, and Nefarious Tropy are back to exact some revenge and you need to defeat them across a number of locations and time periods. Leading to a rather predictable story centered around time travel, we see a lot of level design and aesthetic diversity.
These are furthered by the introduction of quantum masks, which change the rules of the game. Instead of the usual run, slide, and spin mechanics, you gain the ability to swap out what obstacles are present and other such mechanics to give each level a more unique feel. Often times it works, though it can be a lot to take in at first.
Despite some rough parts, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time manages to offer a lot of content, all things considered. With a good number of levels, alternate modes, a large number of costumes, and more, it feels very reminiscent of what you’d expect from the past. Especially given the amount of variety each costume has and overall level flow. Best of all, levels feel a bit longer, making it fairly easy to justify the cost, assuming you’re okay with the difficulty.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time Review – Verdict
For the most part, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time might not redefine the game or get every detail just right but it does a fantastic job of modernizing the franchise. Story has enough going on to be invested, new mechanics offer a different take on what you might expect, costumes are fun and there is something for everyone. Even if it can be challenging at times, it’s the type of experience where you can learn, improve and ultimately master, either through watching a tutorial or trial and error. So, with this in mind, if you’re looking for a new take on a old platformer, it’s hard to say no to Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
[Editor’s Note: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]