Review: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time-Wonderfully Nostalgic Torture


You ever regret having a hobby?

Yes, yes, I know I’m a few months late on this one but I couldn’t get it at launch! Sue me.

The day is June 19, 2019. At the time, I just finished writing my review for Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled and was getting ready to post it. Then literally, no joke, as I was about to hit publish, Crash Bandicoot 4 ended up getting leaked and was published EVERYWHERE online. We saw a new design for Crash, weird new masks, a new art style, and even a confirmed release date on October 9th of that year. I could not believe what I was seeing. A brand new original Crash Bandicoot game! At it looked good! I was super excited and wanted to get it at launch but due to some unfortunate circumstances (aka My Fucking Car Broke) I couldn’t get it.

Then Christmas happened and I got it as a gift from one of my roommates and here we are. After months of waiting and trying to be as fresh as possible, I finally got my grubby little mitts on Crash 4. Was it worth it? Was it fun! Yes! But………..

Damn right it is! This shit came out in OCTOBER!

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is an action platformer and the 18th overall entry in the Crash Bandicoot franchise. Technically this is the second direct follow up to Crash Bandicoot: Warped as Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex did come out back in 2001 and acted as the true fourth game in the series. The difference is that Crash 4 is actually good. The story is that Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. Nefarious Tropy found a way back from the past (The 100% ending of Crash 3) which causes multiple dimensional rifts in space and time to open up. This awakens the Quantum Masks and Crash has to stop Cortex and blah blah blah, you know how it goes. While this is coming off the heels of 2017’s N. Sane Trilogy it wasn’t developed by the same time, this time being spear-headed by Toys for Bob. While I’m not 100% certain why this change was made since VV proved they could make an excellent classic styled Crash level with the Future Tense DLC, I think it was for the best. While I’m sure VV would have made a great game, Toys for Bob just hit it out of the fucking park, man. This game feels amazing.

It’s like he never left.

Toys for Bob sure as hell made a game that plays like Crash Bandicoot. Crash and Coco play almost EXACTLY how they should. They retain their move set from Crash 3 outside of the run, the bazooka, and the death tornado spin which is totally fine as none of these would make sense with the level design. Running, jumping, and spinning all feel great and still feel fun to combine to help dispatch certain enemies and solve platforming challenges WITH ONE EXCEPTION! The slide and by extension slide jump feel off but not in a way where I can properly explain it. You don’t travel as far with the slide and it feels like you lose your forward momentum when you perform a slide jump, which can make the more difficult platforming challenges that much harder. I guess the only thing I can compare it to is Crash Twinsanity if you’ve ever played that. Which…you shouldn’t. Like, you really shouldn’t.

Destroying wooden crates still feels amazing.

Now just because Crash has his usual move set doesn’t mean that this game doesn’t bring something new to the table because Boy It Sure Does. The two most notable gameplay additions are the Quantum Masks and the extra characters. The Quantum Masks appear sporadically throughout the adventure and each has their own gimmick to play around with. I’m going to be saying some names so bear with me here.

I’M GETTING TO IT!

Lani-Loli (Blue Mask, the one in the image) is the first mask you get and gives Crash the ability to make certain platforms appear and disappear by hitting R2, which activates every mask ability. A pretty basic power-up honestly, but it’s great. I have a soft spot for timing jumps with disappearing platforms and the levels that use him are fun to mess around in. Akano (Purple Mask) will force Crash into an infinite, but deadly spin that is impervious to physical harm and can break all crates. ALL crates. If you hit a TNT or Nitro crate or get hit with a projectile, you’re still going to take damage. The spin also lets Crash stay in the air for a small bit of time and gives you insane airtime and forward momentum with your jumps. Probably my least favorite mask utility-wise since a lot of the levels that use it only focus on the long jump as opposed to its offensive capabilities, but it’s not bad by any means.

At least it looks cool.

Next up we have my personal favorite, Kupuna-Wa (Yellow Mask). This mask lets your stop time temporarily and it creates some of my favorite platforming challenges in the entire game. I love how you can slow down falling platforms to help get across the level and how it lets you jump on Nitro crates so they won’t kill you. Honestly, the whole game has amazing level design but the levels that let you use Kupuna-Wa are easily my favorite. Lastly, we have Ika-Ika (Green/Blue Mask), which allows you to flip yourself vertically. Yeah, this was another mask that didn’t do TOO much for me since outside of the final level its stage gimmicks weren’t that engaging, but it’s still good. Overall I LOVE the masks and I think they add a ton to the gameplay and while I wasn’t keen on how some of the levels used them sometimes, I still love that they’re here. But! That’s not all! We also have extra characters!

don’t worry this is only going to be a single, probably large paragraph

And not a moment too soon.

Crash 4, in addition to Crash and Coco, lets you play as an alternate universe version of Tawna, Dingodile, and Cortex. Each character has their own little gimmick that makes them unique and fun to use. Tawna has a grappling hook and an instant ground-pound, Dingodile has a vacuum (no flamethrower, sadly) that lets you suck up boxes and hover slightly over gaps, and Cortex has a ray gun that allows you to turn enemies into platforms. I thought all three of them brought a much-needed change of pace to the game but the issue with them is that the levels you use them in typically don’t focus on them the whole way through. Outside of the second to last world and their introductory stages you only use them for about half a stage before it kicks you back to Crash and Coco. The reason for this is that it’s meant to show you how certain events in your initial playthrough took place (A truck stalling at the start, boulders falling, etc.). I get what they were going for but I think it’s a shame they didn’t get more of a focus. They didn’t even get skins!

Oh god, skins.

Oh god, the collectibles.

Seriously though, why don’t the extra characters have these fun skins too?

Collectibles are a mainstay of Crash Bandicoot. They make up the franchise’s DNA. They are as constant as fish in water, birds in the air, me taking a week to write a review. Now Crash games have always been hard to 100% not so much by quantity necessarily, but by difficulty. Sometimes you need to find hidden exits, sometimes you can’t break and crates, sometimes you gotta beat a time trial or two, but they are at the very least manageable. Even WITH my complaints about Crash 3’s requirements, you can achieve 100% through perseverance, and very rarely will you need to play a level more than once after your first go-around outside of the time trials and colored gem gates.

CRASH 4 IS NOT LIKE THAT.

YOU THINK THAT’S ENOUGH?

Crash 4 goes WAY too far when it comes to collectibles like Jesus CHRIST. Gone are the crystals of Crash 2 and 3, we’re back to vanilla ass gems, baby and there are so many. 456 to be exact, 460 if you want to count the hidden colored gems. Each stage has 6 possible gems you can collect. The first three are tied to the amount of wumpa fruits you collect, which is manageable and gives purpose to the wumpa fruit since you don’t have limited lives in Modern mode (Classic retains it though). There’s also at least one hidden gem in each stage and you get one for dying three or fewer times which IS very hard and annoying and shitty and I hate it, but that’s par for the course. Does this sound bad to you? “No”, right? Well here’s the real demon in this group of challenges: The Box Gems. “The Box Gems? But Hunter, that’s normal for Crash isn’t it?” Yes, yes it is. There’s just one small problem though.

This. Is. The. First. Stage.

The box counts on these stages are astronomically higher than any other previous Crash game and I hate it. Bro some of these stages have counts as high as 300 and many of the crates are WELL hidden, off-screen even. I thought Crash 3 was bad but at least it was simple. This? This is crazy. AND YOU HAVE TO DO IT TWICE! Each level, bosses included (which are super good, by the way) have an alternate “N. Verted” version that both mirror the level and add a visual/gameplay quirk AND also have 6 gems. Now to be fair, I LOVE the N. Verted levels. Toys for Bob went crazy on the visual design for some of these and many of them have really cool gimmicks to make the multiple playthroughs sting a bit less. For example, the first world is all dark but it lights up after every action, like a radar, and the second to last world has water physics. I like them a lot but at the end of the day, it’s still just going through the same levels over and over again for gems and all those gems really get you are skins (which I love) and numbers for your completion.

Seriously though this is so sick.

Probably the most egregious collectibles are the Flashback Tapes and the Time Trials, which are NEEDED to get 106%. The Flashback Tapes are fairly simple to get in theory since all you have to do is get through a certain portion of the stage without dying to get one which is EASIER SAID THAN DONE FOR THE FINAL THREE but I digress. What these are, are tapes of the experiments Crash and Coco were subjected to before Crash 1 and 2. They give you some neat fanservice and lore building and are fairly challenging to complete since you have to break all of the boxes, but I really like them. Not so much the levels themselves, but the fanservice it provides. THE TIME TRIALS CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF THOUGH. YOU HAVE TO GET A PLATINUM RELIC ON EVERY STAGE TO GET 106% ENDING? ARE YOU JOKING? THESE STAGES ARE SUPER LONG YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT FUCK OFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!!!!!

……At least you get to learn Crash’s full name.

Do I think Crash 4 is worth 100% completion? Not REALLY since it’s kind of a headache and the ending you get isn’t that great but if you want to, go for it. Do I think it’s worth 106% complication FUCK NO! WHAT? ARE YOU CRAZY? THE ENDING IS EVEN LAMER!

Game is still great though.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is probably my favorite Crash Bandicoot game. I love the fun story, the tight gameplay, the gorgeous art direction, the stage gimmicks, really almost everything. It is NOT, however, my favorite game to complete. That honor goes to Crash 2 since the ending you get is far more rewarding and the collectible count isn’t a slap in the face. Honestly, unless you’re a psychopath that likes Platinuming every game you play, I suggest you just take Crash 4 at your own pace and just get the things you want. Maybe grind for a character skin or two and if you’re feeling up to it, grind for that 100%, but I would advise against 106 because it’s just not worth it.

I love Crash 4 a lot, I really do, but it is pain incarnate. Even with all my gripes and grievances, I would still wholeheartedly recommend this game to platforming fans. Just be ready to get super damn mad. I actually liked getting angry at it if we’re being real here. It reminded me that there’s still a heart beating in this chest of mine.

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