A Crash To The Past
HIGH A perfect return to form for one of gaming’s best mascots.
LOW Oh boy, am I bad at this game.
WTF Does falling in love with an alternate-reality version of yourself count as incest?
A lot has changed since Crash Bandicoot hit the scene back in 1996 and Naughty Dog struck gold with the first of three games starring the titular bandicoot thwarting the nefarious Dr. Neo Cortex. After Sony sold the Crash license and it bounced between different publishers, Activision managed to get their hands on the property and… did the best they could?
Regardless of what happened to Crash in the mid-2000s, new-to-the-franchise developer Toys for Bob (most famous for reviving Spyro) gets to flex their development muscle with an all-new, all-original 3D platformer, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
Taking place directly after the events of Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Crash and his younger sister Coco witness the insidious Dr. N. Trophy taking advantage of a tear in the space-time continuum to travel back in time and wipe the bandicoot siblings from existence. Crash, Coco, Aku Aku and a few other faces both familiar and new are tasked with saving the day.
Gameplay follows the original trilogy closely, with Crash 4 structured as a linear platformer. Players must run forward and reach the end of each level while breaking boxes, completing bonus rooms and collecting items along the way.
The formula hasn’t changed much in comparison to Crash’s original style, but honestly, it didn’t need to. Instead of trying to reinvent the platforming wheel, Toys For Bob has added meaningful tweaks. Crash can still jump, spin and slide, but things like the ability to wall-run across specifically marked paths add freshness.
However, the most significant gameplay changes come in the form of the Quantum Masks. These four witch doctor-style masks each have a special ability to help Crash navigate levels. For example, one can make certain platforms appear and reappear at the click of a button. One can be used to slow time and give players a chance to jump on difficult-to-reach moving platforms, and another completely shifts gravity, allowing players to dodge lasers and other hazards on the ground.
Another big change comes in the form of playable characters. Crash’s younger sister Coco is playable by default, and a few other faces can be controlled during certain parts of the story, like an alternate-dimension version of Crash’s old girlfriend Tawna who uses a grappling hook. Players can also look forward to Crash’s old foe Dingodile, who now has a large vacuum used to throw TNT boxes at enemies and maneuver across large gaps. Cortex is also playable, with a raygun that turns enemies into platforms.
The variety in each level is great, and I love how much personality is injected into each one since the time travel theme lets the devs go crazy with some far-out ideas. I especially loved the New Orleans-inspired Bayou that housed Jazz playing ghosts as well as prehistoric-themed levels where moving dinosaurs acted as platforms.
It’s About Time is also packed with much to do — the campaign offers more than 100 levels and an “inverted” mode that changes things up significantly by not only mirroring the level, but also adding colored filters to the mix. I especially love how some levels can be played with different characters outside of the main story arc for a different perspective on the plot.
If I have one complaint about Crash 4, it’s the difficulty. The game offers two modes — “Retro Mode” which follows the original style closely and gives players a limit of lives. Once they lose them, they’re kicked back to the beginning of a level. The more accessible “Modern Mode” ditches lives and instead offers a death counter that tracks how many times a player dies in a level. Dying more than three times prevents players from earning bonuses at the end of the level, but doesn’t affect overall progression.
I admit that I might not be the best at platformers, but I was close to throwing my controller (maybe even crying!) when I accumulated more than 100 deaths in one level. The Crash games have always been about precise platforming and I’m always off in my jumps — I always miscalculate where I’ll land or how close an enemy is. Still, I felt like these deaths were my fault, and it was never a matter of Crash being unpolished or unfair.
Difficulty aside, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is arguably the manic marsupial’s best adventure yet, and an imaginative, enjoyable and welcome return for one of gaming’s most beloved mascots. It’s by no means a revolution, but it does feel like the game Naughty Dog intended to make over 20 years ago, this time fully realized by the devs at Toys for Bob. Crash fans and platforming fans alike would be N. Sane to miss it.
Disclosures: This game is published by Activision and developed by Toys For Bob. It is available on PS4 and XBO. This copy was obtained via paid download and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 15 hours were spent in singleplayer and was completed. There is co-op and competitive play but no time was spent in those modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10 for Alcohol Reference, Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief and Language. The site states that: “This is a platformer game in which players help Crash Bandicoot travel through time to stop a destructive force. Players traverse platforms, jump on enemies (e.g., pirates, robots, dinosaurs), and use a spin/kick attack to knock characters out. Some characters (e.g., lizard pirates) use cartoony guns, rockets, and/or dynamite against others; characters generally disappear amid puffs of smoke and whimsical sound effects when defeated. There are a handful of depictions of alcohol: barrels, jugs near a tavern, with a frothy-mug sign; neon signs of barrels with the word “Tavern.” The game contains a comical depiction of a man vomiting. The words “a*s” and “bastard” are heard in the game.”
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are present in the options menu.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: Everything in this game is subtitled, and the subtitles can be resized. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, the controls are remappable. The Y-axis can be inverted.