Review: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (45.3 GB)
Release Date: October 1, 2020
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Toys for Bob
Original MSRP: $59.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: E10+
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Growing up, the Crash Bandicoot series was one of those that I played at a cousin’s or friend’s house, but never owned myself. It was impossible to play games, though, much less be a PlayStation fan, and not have at least peripheral knowledge of the platforming marsupial. Crash has come and gone in the zeitgeist since the release of the original Crash Bandicoot in 1996, thanks to numerous sequels and spin-offs (pun intended), including a cameo in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. With Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, developer Toys for Bob aimed to create a follow-up to the original trilogy, which ended with 1998’s PS1 title, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.

Gameplay:
The story of Crash 4 does, in fact, pick up right where Warped left off. Familiar foes Neo Cortex, N. Tropy, and Uka Uka escape their imprisonment by ripping a hole through time and space. The story is campy and the dialogue is thick with 90s ‘tude, setting the stage nicely for Crash and his sister, Coco, to return and save the day.

Crash 4‘s gameplay is heavily influenced by the original trilogy. The levels jump between 2D side-scrolling and 3D platforming, including the series’s iconic linear perspectives toward or away from the screen. The camera is on rails for the most part. You can use the right stick to tilt the camera a bit in hopes of getting a better angle on upcoming obstacles, but that rarely feels natural.

Crash and Coco jump and spin their way through enemies and crates, collecting the famed Wumpa fruit along the way. They also have unique abilities granted by objects known as the Quantum Masks that have been scattered throughout various levels. The abilities include slowing down time, flipping gravity, shifting between phases to make objects appear or disappear, and turning into a whirlwind of destruction. They all feel powerful in their own rights and add a lot of fun variety to the gameplay that highlights the creative level designs.

There is some floatiness built in to some of Crash’s and Coco’s movements, but for the most part the animations are smooth and responsive. That accuracy is sometimes hindered, though, by the game’s locked-in perspectives. There are times when a death might feel “cheap” or glitchy, but, in reality, it was simply due to a disorienting depth of field. There is an indicator that appears on the surface below your character while they are mid-air to aid with this issue, but it remains a problem, especially in particularly difficult platforming sections.

Crash 4 is a tough game. There is no true difficulty setting, just Modern or Retro playstyles. In Modern, after you die you continue from the last checkpoint in the level. In Retro, you have a limited number of lives, and can collect more as you play, but when you run out you have to restart the level from the beginning. The platforming ranges from very casual to punishingly unforgiving. At times you may be working your way through a platforming section that requires pinpoint accuracy, avoiding enemies, trying to collect every Wumpa, and flipping between your mask’s activated and deactivated states. In other words, there can be a lot to focus on at one time, and that can lead to a lot of deaths. A lot of deaths.

The high level of difficulty can be somewhat mitigated by freeing yourself of the obligation to collect Wumpa. Crash 4 presents an insane amount of unlockables, and collecting Wumpa is at the foundation of obtaining them all. Each level has six possible gems that can be earned, four of which are Wumpa-related. The fifth gem is a reward for completing a level with three or less deaths, and the last gem is hidden somewhere throughout the level. Earning these gems allows you to unlock cosmetic skins for Crash and Coco. The skins are all colorful and brimming with personality, but it may be worth it to leave some Wumpa behind and avoid the headache that comes from restarting a tough checkpoint twenty times in order to make a flawless run.

Collecting all of the gems is only the tip of Crash 4‘s replayability iceberg. The game is full-priced for a reason – its depth is staggering. New modes and ways of playing unlock as you progress throughout the game. N. Verted modes of each level turn them backwards and give them a new visual style. Timelines are optional side levels that allow you to take control of other beloved characters from the Crashiverse, complete with their own traversal mechanics and abilities. Flashback Tapes are time machines to the 90s, another a set of optional levels that feature retro graphics and challenging crate-busting. Time Trials turn you into a speedrunner, as you are given one chance to make it through each level as fast as possible in order to earn a Sapphire, Gold, or Platinum Relics.

Despite being a colorful, cartoon platformer, Crash 4 is the kind of game that you can keep coming back to for a very long time. If the game’s level of difficulty is more thrilling than frustrating to you, there are tons of options available to further hone your craft while checking boxes off on the scroll-like list of unlockables. It is refreshing to see a game in which so much care and attention went into adding depth that is unlocked purely by progression rather than hiding that depth behind a paywall.

While the replayability is great and should be celebrated, the game’s core mechanics are by no means groundbreaking, and can begin to feel repetitive several hours into the experience. If you are not in love with this style of platformer then it is likely that much of the optional content will not appeal to you. It is a shame that so much carefully crafted content may never be experienced by a portion of the player base.


Crash 4 nails what it sets out to do for the most part, but it is not without some minor flaws. Most of the time it performs admirably from a technical standpoint, but loading into levels often takes a surprisingly long time. On several occasions during the gameplay for this review, the screen even went black for an extended period of time and the music cut out. It seemed as though the game had crashed or was about to, but fortunately that never happened, and eventually the level loaded up. This late in the console generation, on a PS4 Pro no less, that is disappointing.

Visuals:
Crash 4 is a gorgeous game. Colors leap off of the screen, and textures are inviting in a way that makes you want to reach out and touch them. Each dimension carries a theme throughout its levels. Rather than seeing a dusting of snow or a couple beakers on the wall of a science lab, these themes are turned up to eleven, as each background explodes with a vibrant life of its own.

The animations are not only fantastic and varied, they are able to adapt impressively to shifting perspectives and circumstances. It is mind-blowing to think about the fact that Crash, Coco, and every other playable character have their own sets of animations that respond nimbly to each jump, spin, mask effect, and any other situation that is thrown their way. There are even unique death animations depending on what makes you meet your demise, whether it is a peek into your skeletal system after being electrocuted, or being turned into an ice cube after mistakenly plunging into an icy river.


As mentioned before, the series’s linear 3D platforming perspective is certainly iconic, but can, at times, be detrimental to the gameplay. When you are running towards or away from the screen, there are challenges that come up purely because of the way you are seeing the action. At times, your view can be obscured, or it can be tough to judge depth as you hop between platforms.

There are brief cutscenes that do well to set the tone of the game. They feature a high level of polish, and a style that differs from the gameplay in a nice way, providing a closer perspective of characters you usually only see from a distance. This helps to add even more character to some already over-the-top personalities.

Audio:
Crash 4‘s audio landscape is dominated by bombastic sound effects. The light-hearted music is fun and stays true to that of the original trilogy, but it serves more in a background role. The sounds of smashing crates, bashing enemies, and chomping down Wumpa are at the forefront of each level. This seems like a design choice that is well-served by the action. Pairing these exaggerated sounds with successful platforming maneuvers makes them feel even more satisfying.

Online/Multiplayer:
Crash 4 has a few local multiplayer options. There is a Pass N. Play mode, in which two to four players can progress together through levels, with turns ending at each checkpoint, death, or both. There are also two competitive Bandicoot Battle modes: Checkpoint Race and Crate Combo. In Checkpoint Race, two to four players sprint through a level, and whoever wins the most checkpoints wins the race. Crate Combo is similarly broken into checkpoints, with the winner being the player who successfully strings together crate breaks in order to keep their combo meter high.

These modes were not explored for this review, but it is nice to see a game that hearkens back to its roots in more ways than one. Sitting together on the couch and passing the controller to advance through a Crash Bandicoot game just feels right. However, having the option to somehow play cooperatively online would have been the cherry on top.

Conclusion:
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time set out to be a worthy successor to the original Crash trilogy, and that is exactly what it did. The gameplay remains faithful to the original while introducing a bevy of new features to keep you on your toes. The high level of difficulty may come as an unwelcome surprise to some players, but if that does not deter you then there is plenty to keep you coming back for more marsupial mayhem. For anyone who is a fan of the series and has been waiting years for a full-featured mainline entry, they should be able to sit back at the conclusion of Crash 4 with a smile on their face and say, “It’s about time.”

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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