It’s been nearly a decade and some freaks decided to make a new Crash Bandicoot game. I was admittingly not a big fan of the original Crash trilogy when I was a young kid playing PS1 games. I never enjoyed the more trial and error style of those platforming games but learned to respect them from a distance as I preferred the more open exploratory style of platformers of the nineties.
Now in 2020, it’s about time someone took a fresh modern take on Crash Bandicoot. Crash 4: It’s About Time does exactly that. The team over at Toys for Bob has given the franchise a fresh new style and lots of welcome features that made me actually like playing a Crash platformer in 2020.
Crash Bandicoot games are well known for their challenging platforming levels and it felt like Crash 4 was an effort by the developers to evaluate that reputation and look at what they can do to make those classic titles more welcoming to new players. Make no mistake, the game still has plenty of platforming challenges which you’ll rack up deaths on, but now there’s a modern and retro toggle. The modern mode simply just counts your deaths rather than a limited amount of lives. With this, you can keep chipping away at the more challenging levels without having to start an entire level over once you hit zero lives. You can set the game to a retro mode which gives you back the finite lives if you prefer that though. The modern mode was a welcome change that helped me enjoy the game a lot more. On top of accessibility options like text size options for subtitles and colorblind modes, this is definitely the easiest Crash game to jump in and it’s nice to see more and more games have these kinds of options and making them a standard to stick too.
The game is gorgeous with all kinds of amazing locales. Of course you’ll see your usual jungle ruins, but you quickly end up in pirate coves, Dia De Los Muertos festivals, prehistoric rumbles with dinosaurs, and swamp bayou diners owned by Dingodile. Not only does Dingodile return, but almost every classic Crash character makes an appearance, some are even playable and have new designs as well. You can swap between Crash and Coco before going into any level. Tawna & Dingodile have been given a new makeover for the context of the story and are now playable in a few select levels. The story brings them all together with Crash and Coco chasing their usual arch-villain Cortex through time and space. He plans to rewrite history in his favor with the help of N. Trophy. Crash and Coco are tasked with collecting four masks that control different aspects of time and space to thwart their plan.
It’s light-hearted and a fun romp with plenty of fun nods for fans waiting for a new Crash game. The four masks you get are not only a part of the story but also have an impact on gameplay. While playing through the story you’ll meet these different masks and then use them at specific levels that are tied to their respective abilities. The first mask you encounter lets you phase shift platforms in and out of existence. Another lets you slow down time to catch fast falling platforms to jump across or to run away from nitro crates before they explode on impact. These make for way more dynamic levels than previous Crash games. Running upside down through some of the later levels are real spectacles even though I probably died 30 times or more getting through them.
While the main platforming levels are quite fun and offer variety, some often left a lot to be desired. While they were a nice change of pace when controlling a different character with a different style of play, all the levels then quickly returned to you playing as Crash replaying a portion of a level you probably already played through. Dingodile is pretty fun to play and reminded me of playing as Bowser in Mario games, having you smash through piles of boxes and shooting explosive crates with your vacuum gun is fun. But there are very few levels and the difficulty spikes in these levels are felt even harder than others as you usually jump into a new level with any other character besides Crash maybe once every two or three worlds.
Something else that felt off was the unlockable skins you can get for Crash and Coco. Some require near-perfect completion of some of the hardest levels in the game – collecting all the crates, running a time trial version of the level, and getting less than three deaths on a level are some of the requirements. This also includes the new N.verted versions of levels you unlock once you get later into the game. These are an interesting challenge version of a level which varies from world to world. One world might make the levels pitch black and you’ll have to spin to see the environments around you. Another puts you in a black and white version of a level and you can spin or break crates to add color to the world. These are pretty fun but some of the skill requirements to get more of the required crystals for any given level felt harsh for something like putting a chicken suit on Crash.
All in all, Crash really needed a revival like this. Toys for Bob made the right choices by looking at a lot of other modern platformer revivals like Rayman Origins and Donkey Country Returns and seeing how they brought those franchises into the modern era and pretty much hit the mark with the modern revival of Crash Bandicoot. As someone who wasn’t a fan of the original trilogy, I can recommend Crash 4: It’s About Time to anyone looking for a fun colorful platformer with a little bit of challenge. I think it does well to match the thought of how Crash should play but modernizing it with a much needed fresh coat of paint and retooling to fit more current gameplay standards.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by a PR representative for the game.