Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Toys For Bob
Release Date: March 12, 2021


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PS5 Review - 'Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 24, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Our lovingly absurd marsupials are back and putting a fresh spin, jump and wump on conflicts of cosmic proportions, discovering expansive new worlds, unexpected allies, larger-than-life boss battles and powerful new Quantum Masks that must be united to restore order to the multiverse.

Buy Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

You might not know it today, but back in the '90s, Crash Bandicoot was a franchise that was spoken in the same breath as Sonic and Mario. It was one of the earliest works of Naughty Dog, the studio that brought us The Last of Us and Uncharted. Unfortunately, once the '90s faded, so did its star. It ended up regulated to crossovers with also-slumming-it Spyro the Dragon and some lackluster tie-ins. Thankfully, Toys for Bob and Vicarious Visions have shown that they know what makes those franchises tick, as the ports of the original games were made with unmistakable love and care. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time has one of the most accurate titles in gaming history because it is indeed about time, and Crash 4 delivers.

In true "Halloween" fashion, Crash 4 ignores everything Crash-related after Crash Bandicoot: Warped. The evil Dr. N. Tropy, the slightly less-evil Dr. Neo Cortex, and supremely evil mask Uka Uka are trapped in another dimension with seemingly no way to escape. Uka Uka's powers break a hole in space-time to let them escape while smashing together random worlds and random times. Now it's up to Crash and his sister Coco to defeat the forces of evil and fix the world so they can get back to playing video games on the couch. Relatable!

What sets apart Crash Bandicoot and is retained in It's About Time is its distinctive gameplay style. A blend of 2D and 3D platforming stages involve Crash either running away from or toward the screen through largely linear levels. Your goal isn't to merely reach the end of the level but to do so while smashing every breakable crate along the way. The task is made more difficult by the fact that a single hit can kill Crash, unless he has a magic tiki mask. Crash 4 adopts that gameplay wholeheartedly, although it's shinier, smoother, and more modern. It's effectively a Crash Bandicoot version of New Super Mario Bros.

Thankfully, the level design is mostly excellent, and Crash (or his sister Coco, if you prefer to play as her) controls smoothly. The 3D platforming is assisted by a small yellow shadow that shows exactly where you will land, so even in the midst of a hectic rush through a trap-filled stage, you know where you'll be. Crash 4 also has a generous checkpointing system, so any death only throws you back a few minutes. There's an option to play the game with a traditional lives system, but it doesn't add anything to the game except for a few moments of frustration.

Like Mario, Crash and Coco have a simple move set. They can jump, slide and spin — or a combination of the three — to break obstacles, defeat enemies, and move around the environment. Crash 4 is good about introducing new gameplay rules without strict handholding. You'll learn a mechanic and then another, and then you'll combine the two mechanics; by the end of the game, swinging, grinding, spinning and smashing are second nature. The level design also goes a long way toward making this work.

Aside from the main duo, you'll occasionally get levels where you play as other characters, including an alternate version of Tawna, Dingodile, and longtime enemy-slash-occasional-ally Neo Cortex. You'll also get quantum masks, which grant Crash and Coco temporary powers, such as phasing objects in and out of the world, ignoring gravity, or slowing time. The diversions are fun but don't feel as central to the core gameplay. To bring in another Mario comparison, it's similar to the Ray Surfing minigames, rather than the traditional levels. Thankfully, most of the levels and masks are fun and don't overstay their welcome. I would've preferred that the other characters were given more to do because it felt like some of the mechanics could have gone even further.

Crash 4 is packed to the brim with content. There are tons of levels, including a fair number of optional and hidden variations, and even if you play on the "Modern" difficulty and don't go for any bonuses, you'll still get a solid adventure. If you do like challenging yourself, every stage has multiple objectives, including smashing all the crates, collecting all the fruit, beating the stage within a certain time, not dying, and so on. The early objectives are easy, but toward the end of the game, it can be a real struggle to perfect every stage. Thankfully, you're rewarded with some neat extras, including special costumes that can alter your character's appearances. My favorite (but perhaps the most horrifying) is the X-ray costume, which shows your character's skeleton, but most of the costumes are quite charming.

Although the PlayStation 5 version of the game is better, it isn't such an improvement over the PS4 iteration that a fan would need to run out and buy a console over it. Everything looks smoother and has a higher resolution, but there isn't a night-and-day difference between the PS4 and PS5 versions. There isn't even haptic feedback support. The PS5 iteration's advantage over the PS4 version is the massively improved load times. You feel the SSD's speed when the tedious loading times in the PS4 version are over in a heartbeat on the PS5.

Even if the PS5 edition isn't a game-changer, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is still a delightfully charming title. The environments are bright and colorful, the characters are filled with emotion, the music is bright, and the overall experience just as charming as Crash Bandicoot was so many years ago.

Score: 8.5/10

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