After a few cameos and a remake of the original trilogy, the eagerly anticipated return of Crash Bandicoot has finally resulted in a brand new game in the franchise. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is out now for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and although he’s no longer exclusively a Sony mascot we felt we had to go the PS4 route with this one.
Before developer Toys for Bob started with their run of producing excellent remakes of the original Spyro and Crash Bandicoot games, they produced games in the Skylanders franchise. That was the first time that Crash popped up as a cameo character, so the developer clearly has a lot of love for the Crash Bandicoot games. In both the remakes and this new game, that clearly shows.
One of the last big console releases before the PS5 and new Xbox see the light of day, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time certainly looks the part. The remakes looked mighty fine as well, but because Crash 4 was designed from the ground up for current gen consoles the developer wasn’t confined by some of the restrictions that the old tech brought with it – like limited camera angles. Take that away and you have a Crash Bandicoot game that really pops with gorgeous colors and environments, making Crash 4 the best looking game in the franchise yet.
It’s not a radical departure from what came earlier though, as Toys for Bob has made sure that the gameplay stays true to its roots, with plenty of “2D” levels sit in a 3D environment. They play around with things like level design to craft something unique rather than a simple copy-paste job though, with longer levels, lots more depth and even gameplay shifts halfway through a level. You might be platforming for a few minutes, only to find yourself gliding down a rail or rolling yourself down a hill. Plenty of variety here, across a campaign that could have been longer as it clocks in at six to seven hours of gameplay time.
You’ll also encounter more enchanted masks in the new game – one of which slows down time and ties into the core story. Diversity is the name of the game here, as on top of the gameplay styles and masks you’ll also assume control of a variety of characters throughout the story – the game even giving you the option to play as Crash’s sister Coco instead.
Alternate dimensions and timelines feature heavily in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, and besides the time-based control mechanic mentioned above you’ll also find yourself revisiting levels with different characters or experiencing that levels have drastically changed. There are VHS tapes you can find as well, giving you a retro-flavored extra helping of Crash Bandicoot – all of which adds to the lasting appeal of the game beyond the relatively short story you play through.
Completionists and trophy hunters will find even more to enjoy, as the game features a ton of collectibles and rewards players for getting through a level with as few deaths as possible – which will require learning a level by heart and thus multiple playthroughs. It’s a challenging game, but the developers lend a hand if you’re having a tough time by adding additional checkpoints in a level as well – though this voids some of the more taxing objectives in the process of course.
The game also caters to the multiplayer crowd, with options to play cooperatively or engage in battle modes, which can be played locally as well. The latter involves either beating (sections of) levels as quickly as possible or amassing as many points as you possibly can, and they’re fun to play although it helps a ton if all the players involved are familiar with the core campaign already – you’ll have an advantage over those who just jump in for a casual game of multiplayer fun.
Crash Bandicoot 4, although it was made by a different developer than the original games, is a labor of love that has given us the best Crash game yet – both in terms of visuals and in its refined gameplay mechanics. I would have enjoyed a longer story campaign with a better-developed narrative, but I had tons of fun going through the game.