It's been over 20 years since Crash 3 released and the long-awaited Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is now here so let's give it a spin.
I've been a huge Crash Bandicoot fan ever since I got my PS1 back in 1997. I recall getting Cortex Strikes Back for Christmas one year and it blew me away and I met my best friend in high school because we were both wearing the same Crash Bandicoot: Warped t-shirt. Since then, I played the somewhat disappointing sequel Wrath of Cortex and found that Twinsanity was a highly underrated game. When I got an Xbox 360, I absolutely loved my time with Crash of the Titans and Crash: Mind over Mutant despite their tepid reception. Oh, and who could forget the awesome kart racers and the silly mini-games of Crash Bash? Now that I think about it; why is this called Crash Bandicoot 4? There have been a lot of games in the series over the years but I digress. Considering I have such a long history with the franchise, I'm happy to say that Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is a fantastic addition and perhaps the best game yet.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time follows in the footsteps of its PS1 predecessors in that it's a linear 3D platformer at its core with oodles of variety throughout. Its gameplay remains nearly identical as you run around, spin to attack, dash and crawl under things, and double-jump over obstacles which is readily available with no need to unlock it. You can play through stages as either Crash or Coco although they control identically while some stages will have you play as Tawna who's less Barbie-like in her iteration here, Dingodile, and even Dr. Neo Cortex. Each one of these 3 extra characters comes with their own mechanics which adds a ton of variety to the overall campaign. Turning enemies into platforms as Cortex, using a powerful vacuum as Dingodile, and zipping by with Tawna's grappling hook all feel awesome. Throw in chase scenes, animal riding, and vehicles and you're left with a ton of variety.
Crash Bandicoot 4 may give off accessible vibes with its bright cast of characters and silly humour but it's one of the most challenging 3D platformers that I've ever played. In fact, the last 3 levels before the final boss made me want to pull my hair out. I definitely don't recall the original PS1 games being this difficult. As you progress, you'll acquire the use of masks that allow you to reverse gravity, toggle platforms, turn into a tornado, and slow down time and a few sections have you rapidly switch between the 4 masks which forces you to think quickly of how to progress past each little hurdle. It's this degree of challenge that made me love Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time and sometimes get frustrated with it. In fact, some hazards are extremely sensitive and I honestly believe that they should be toned down in an update while other parts feature awkward camera placement that makes gameplay trickier than it should be.
As one would expect from a Crash game, Crash Bandicoot 4 contains plenty of replay value and collectibles that make replaying stages a treat. In fact, this aspect truly goes above and beyond here as there are 228 gems to collect (as well as obtaining their N. Verted counterparts), 38 time trials to master, 21 extra challenge stages to perfect, and 4 super-hidden gems to discover. Acquiring gems involves anything from finding them in stages to smashing every crate and collecting Wumpa Fruit to not biting the dust. As you master levels, you'll unlock a load of skins for Crash and Coco that can be quite rewarding and fun to collect. There are even online time trial leaderboards and gallery items to unlock so you're looking at a ridiculous amount of content. Heck, you can even play through character-specific bonus levels to see how everyone's timelines intertwine. I wish more games incorporated this much extra content!
Before wrapping this up, I wanted to discuss the more aesthetic aspects of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time. For starters, its visuals are fantastic complete with gorgeously animated character models as well as detailed and immersive environments. Speaking of which, each group of levels is set in its own unique theme that include things like pirate ships, dinosaur-filled jungles, futuristic cityscapes, and streets celebrating Mardi Gras. The soundtrack that accompanies your journey is wonderful, too, and contains a few nods to the classic games' scores which is great. Finally, the voice acting is spot-on and adds a lot of personality to the fun cutscenes; RIP Mel Winkler.
No matter how you slice it, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time marks the return of a gaming icon in a masterful way as it manages to take risks while offering familiar gameplay. I love its high degree of challenge and hope to one day achieve 100% completion which may be quite a tall order but the fact that I'm compelled to do so just goes to show how much fun this long-awaited sequel is.
- + Brings back the classic gameplay in one familiar yet impressively fresh package
- + Loads of variety and challenge throughout
- + Tons of replay value for completionists
- - Some segments with overly sensitive hazards can be brutally frustrating
- - Occasionally annoying camera sometimes fails to complement the gameplay