I still remember playing Crash Bandicoot for the first time. After waking up on Christmas morning to the surprise of a PlayStation and Crash Bandicoot, my family all spent hours huddled around our television playing it. Arguably, it’s one of the moments and games that truly kicked my love of gaming into overdrive. I’ve always had some healthy nostalgia for Crash, so it hurt to see the series gradually die over the PlayStation 2 generation. On the flipside, seeing it’s recent resurgence has filled me with a giddy joy that I don’t often feel anymore from games. Now the series is finally back again with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and it’s an entry that was well worth the wait.
As you might have already guessed, Crash 4 effectively disassociates itself from its more recent entries. Instead, this is a direct follow on from Crash 3: Warped, with Crash and friends chilling after locking away N. Cortex and N. Tropy in an alternate dimension. Suddenly, things take a turn for the worse as their arch rivals escape their prison, creating open rifts between the dimensions at the same time. Now it’s once again up to our bandicoot heroes to save the day, in a story mode that is more in-depth than I had expected.
Told through asides during levels and cutscenes between them, the story of Crash 4 is ever present. The mixture of elements works really well and I found myself constantly engaged with the story as I played. With that said, the writing is where the game’s story really shines. Unlike Battletoads, which aped the 90s ‘tude era in a way that just felt outdated, Crash 4 brings its style forward in a much more pleasant way. There’s plenty of puns, most of which are fun, and the humour is generally well done and drew more than a couple of laughs from myself. My favourites being the veiled references to ignoring all of the games between Crash 3 and 4. I expected the story to simply be a means to an end, but in the end I found myself quite engaged with it as I placed through the game.
Backing the story up is just how darn good the game looks. There was always a slight worry that a reboot of Crash could end up being a budget limited release, but it’s clear that the developers put a ton of effort into making Crash 4 look fantastic. Everything is super detailed, from Crash through to the enemies, while the levels are absolutely brimming with props and assets that make them a joy to go through. Animations are similarly well done, while the game also runs fantastically on my Xbox One X.
The real meat of Crash 4 comes from its level design and gameplay mechanics. If you’ve played a Crash game before, you’re likely already used to the general formula of a Crash level and there’s no real changes from that perspective. Levels are mostly made up of a mixture of a few things: Platform sections where you run away from the screen, side scrolling sections, on-rails sections where you run from a threat and on-rails sections where you travel away from the screen, dodging obstacles. Levels will shift between these types of section frequently, keeping them feeling good fresh and interesting.
Where the game’s levels really become interesting is with the introduction of Crash’s new dimension mask abilities. These range from phase shifts, where you have to shift between realities, causing different platforms and obstacles to appear to things like slowing time, which allow you to dodge obstacles you normally couldn’t avoid or jump between shifting platforms that you would normally be able to get to. They’re used relatively sparingly, more as a way to introduce fun and challenging sections to levels, as opposed to being the overriding mechanic for a world or level. Think of a small section where you have to shift phases in midair to avoid obstacles, as opposed to spending an entire level shifting to simply walk. It works really well and keeps playing the gaming feeling varied and entertaining.
Speaking of challenge, don’t come into Crash 4 expecting an easy time. While there’s accessibility to the game in the way of infinite lives (which you can turn off if you’d prefer) it can get utterly brutal at some points. There’s plenty of pin point platforming, heaps of enemies ready to mutilate you and enough obstacles in your way that it’s common to die multiple times on just about every level. That goes for the game’s boss battle as well, which are often hectic mixtures of platforming, positioning and combat that are a sight to see. There’s the odd occasion where it almost feels like the difficulty was cranked a little too high in boss battles, but otherwise the challenge fees rewarding, as opposed to unfair.
I waited years for a new Crash game and it’s safe to say that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time really was worth the wait. It’s fantastic visually and mechanically, and holds plenty of variety and challenge to keep you interested all the way through. The difficulty might be a turn off for some, but otherwise it’s well worth the price of admission.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was reviewed on an Xbox One X console, with a review copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4. For more information, head to the official website.
- Games looks and feels fantastic - Story is humorous and engaging - Plenty of challenge, without feeling unfair - New mechanics are fun and aren't overused
- Challenge might be a turn off for some