Game Reviews

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time Review

Crash is back again and better than ever.

by Dean James
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Crash Bandicoot took the world by storm back in 1996 and helped to propel the early success of the PlayStation. Not only was the game really good, but Sony expertly used the character in marketing that helped him to become a mainstay. Similar to some other company mascots not named Mario, the Crash series took a nosedive after the PlayStation era and essentially was dead in the water until Skylanders helped to revive it a bit before the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy really brought Crash back to the forefront. The love put into the N. Sane Trilogy had fans waiting for a brand new game in the series and Toys for Bob has delivered in spades with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.

While you may have thought Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time would have taken the existing assets from the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy that Vicarious Visions created, Toys For Bob decided to start from scratch with an entirely new engine and art design. The visuals may not look all that different from before, but they definitely stand apart in their animations with even more of a cartoon look than before. This is seen best with the level design and just how much variety you’ll find across the numerous stages in the game. There are also a lot of really neat Easter eggs along the way as well, including a few Spyro ones that were a nice touch considering Toys For Bob also did the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.

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The Crash series has always had a fun story to go alongside the gameplay and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time fits right in with the rest of the franchise. This game starts with three villains from the previous games, Dr. Neo Cortex, N. Tropy, and Uka Uka escaping their imprisonment from the past by tearing a hole in the fabric of reality. While Uka Uka falls asleep and is out of the picture, N. Tropy and Cortex team up and take advantage of the rip in reality to allow for dimensional travel to try and conquer the multiverse. Crash and his sister Coco would never let this happen though, so they go on an adventure to try and stop them along with some help from four Quantum Masks that are the masters of time and space.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time takes place across what is known as the Dimensional Map, which is split into multiple different dimensions that each house their own levels. These dimensions essentially serve as separate worlds in your prototypical platformer, where each one has a general theme spread across each of the levels within it. Very early in the game, you get the opportunity to swap with Coco at anytime on the Dimensional Map, allowing you to alternate between Crash and Coco at will. Both of the characters do play the exact same though, so it’s simply a matter of aesthetics here.

Once you load up your first level in the game, you will immediate feel like you are playing a Crash Bandicoot game from the get go. Rather than try and drastically change the gameplay, Toys For Bob stuck with what works on the foundational level, with Crash or Coco having free movement in whatever direction the stage is designed for you to move. The basics are all here, such as trying to destroy boxes and collect Wumpa Fruit while also just trying to stay alive as well. A game like this needs very precise controls and it really delivers in that area. Outside of stages where the ground is meant to feel slippery and hard to walk on, you will always feel like you have direct control of the character. It may get frustrating at times when you keep dying, but you will feel like it was you that messed up rather than something in the game design causing it. The only time this gets a little questionable are the new rail grinding segments, where the camera perspective can often be a little out of place and lead you to hit something unexpectedly. Where the gameplay really changes though is with the usage of each of the Quantum Masks.

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The four Quantum Mask introductions are spread out so that you can really focus on each one for a little while. Each of these masks gives Crash or Coco a new ability to use that is necessary to continue through the game and are typically only given to you only when you actually need them. The first mask you come across, Lani-Loli, allows you to shift reality by phasing in and out objects, obstacles, platforms, and more. A little later you will come across ‘Akano, which lets you spin and create a purple tornado of dark matter that lets you cross much larger gaps than usual. Then comes Kupuna-Wa that allows you to slow down time, followed by Ika-Ika that allows you to shift gravity.

While these masks could have made the game feel more gimmicky and move away from basic platforming, each of them serve a purpose in the game and are implemented to near perfection. There are even a few later levels where you are switching back and forth between multiple of the masks in succession, which leads to some incredible platforming moments. Spreading out the introduction of the masks rather than giving you their powers all at once was also a great way of keeping the game fresh throughout as well.

Game is way more robust and content rich than you would have ever imagined

This is far from the only way that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time manages to stay fresh all the way through, as the game is way more robust and content rich than you would have ever imagined. Besides the levels you play as Crash and Coco, you will also be introduced to what are known as Timelines that let you play as an alternate dimension version of Crash’s past girlfriend Tawna, reformed villain Dingodile, and even Neo Cortex. These are introduced first by you reaching a level that has you play as each of the three, but this will then unlock the true Timeline stages that are alternate viewpoints on certain stages that then lead into you finishing it with Crash or Coco with a more intense version than you played through before. I was actually hoping for more of these stages to be included, but it’s hard to be upset with how much else is available elsewhere.

The game features a number of different collectibles for you to find, which creates a high level of replayability. Flashback Tapes are one of these, which are collected in stages if you manage to reach them before dying. These then unlock bonus stages that go back to the ’90s when Neo Cortex first engineered Crash Bandicoot and puts him through trials. These trials are nothing but destroying all of the boxes in the stage, but they are incredibly hard and a ton of fun as well.

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Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time also has other reasons for you to go back and play previous levels again as well. The first reason here is for the time trials that are unlocked after you beat a stage, with you being tasked to beat the level in a certain amount of time. Even more enticing though are the N. Verted variations of levels that you unlock part the way through the game. This not only allows you to play through the levels in reverse, but each dimension has its own special artistic style for you to enjoy. This was very reminiscent of how the Donkey Kong Country Returns series used some very interesting art designs in levels that stand out from the rest, while still being handled a bit differently here.

You will find even more replayability when it comes to collectibles as a result of the large collection of skins that you will want to collect. The majority of these require you to collect a certain number of gems per stage to unlock, which means you’re really going to have to master each level to get them. A lot of games these days would have made these skins something you had to buy via microtransactions, but there are none to be found at all in this game thankfully.

As aforementioned, the Crash series is very much known for its difficulty level that has been the bane of existence for many people over the years thanks to levels like Road To Nowhere in the original game. The classic trilogy and N. Sane Trilogy utilized a basic lives system, but Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time now offers players two options with both Modern and Retro playstyles. Modern gives you infinite lives essentially, as you can always resume from the last checkpoint. Retro on the other hand gives you a limited number of lives that will return you to the very beginning of the stage if you run out. Some may see Modern, which is the default option, as making the game much easier, but there is still plenty of difficulty to be found in this game even when playing on Modern.

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A game like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is not exactly something you would think about playing with multiplayer, but Toys For Bob found a very unique way of implementing it here in what is known as Pass N. Play. This lets you share one controller with up to three other friends, where you set when you want to pass the controller off, whether that’s at each death or checkpoint. This then tallies up the scores for each player to see who did the best at the end of each stage. Bandicoot Battle is also a head-to-head multiplayer option that is accessed from the main menu. This has you alternate playing through the Crash or Coco levels to see who can reach each checkpoint faster or gets more crates while playing, which can be pretty fun as well.

Crash’s recent revival finally culminated in his first brand new game in a long time and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time than lives up to the hype. Rather than being satisfied with being a fairly short experience like the past entries, the game is filled to the brim with level variations and collectibles that will keep you busy for awhile. This is combined with excellent gameplay that takes what people already loved about the Crash series and modernized them even further with the implementation of the Quantum Masks. While it would have been seen unlikely just a few years ago, Crash Bandicoot is back and better than ever in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.

The Verdict

Crash Bandicoot may have had a rough patch for a number of years before his triumphant return in the N. Sane Trilogy, but Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time proves that he is still one of the titans of the platformer genre with his most content rich and well designed adventure to date.

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Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One
  • Published By: Activision
  • Developed By: Toys For Bob
  • Genre: Platformer
  • US Release Date: October 2, 2020
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Crash Bandicoot may have had a rough patch for a number of years before his triumphant return in the N. Sane Trilogy, but Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time proves that he is still one of the titans of the platformer genre with his most content rich and well designed adventure to date."
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