Crash Bandicoot is a series as close to my heart as I’m sure it is to many of yours. Fond memories of hours spent with the original trilogy and the disbelief that somehow my Mum could complete it 110% where I couldn’t even finish it. And then along came the absolutely brilliant N. Sane Trilogy, a ground-up remake of the first three games for modern consoles.
Now Toys For Bob brings us Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, a direct sequel that creates an entirely new canon, disregarding every game that came before it. So, shiny new Crash sequel? Let’s take it for a spin (ha HA).
It is, in fact, about time (and space! And dimensions!)
Crash 4 follows on directly from the previous 3 games, establishing a new canon in the process. Essentially, the plot is that Cortex, that nasty little man, has found a way out of the time prison he was sent back to in 3, along with all of his equally terrible friends. This way out happened to tear open a big ol’ hole in the multiverse, which, naturally, he and said friends are intent on conquering.
Though along with this, the four Quantum Masks have also awoken, and Crash must find and team up with them to restore balance. Along with Crash is a cast of characters, including Coco, his playable sister. She’s a purely aesthetic choice, with players able to swap between Crash and Coco between levels.
Other characters also get caught up in the mayhem, including an alternate dimension version of Crash’s ex girlfriend from the first game, Tawna, and Dingodile who was just minding his own darn business. Not to mention, both of these characters, as well as Cortex himself, are all playable.
The plot itself isn’t the deepest in the world, and it doesn’t need to be. Though it still adds a layer of depth to the characters involved that hasn’t been previously seen. A lot of care has gone into constructing a plot and characters that are interesting, while also being unobtrusive to the main gameplay, ensuring players are never watching a cutscene for too long before control is back in their hands.
There’s a mask for that
If you’ve played the N.Sane Trilogy, then you’re ready for Crash 4. The gameplay and format is largely the same platforming as the first three games, with a few quality of life updates. Abilities like the body slam are available from the start, wheras others (like 3’s whumpa fruit bazooka) are absent. Though this is made up for with the new masks.
Each mask controls a different element. For example, the first mask you get your hands on controls dimensional objects. It can phase objects, such as platforms, in and out of reality. Another mask can slow time, to allow for precision platforming, or slowing things that are moving too fast. There are four of these masks in total, each with their own abilities that will be required for certain segments of the levels.
The other welcome introduction is the modern mode, which does away with lives in favour of infinite continues from your last checkpoint. You are absolutely going to need this. Of course, retro mode is always available to those who like doing things the old fashioned way.
The levels are long, fast paced and have very little room for error. Crash 4 is a game that demands you to have played the previous 3 and know how these work, acting as a sort of exam game, a test of your skills. And it’s far more brutal than anything the first three games threw at you, right down to the first level which contains hazards that wouldn’t normally be seen until you were a good way into the game.
Along with Crash and Coco’s traditional gameplay, there’s Tawna, Dingodile and Cortex’s segments, called ‘alternate timeline’ modes. The new characters also play relatively similar to Crash and Coco, with similar levels, though they each have their own unique elements. Tawna has a grappling hook, Dingodile has a big air cannon thing and Cortex has his gun.
The levels function as normal, until they change something in one of the levels you would have played with Crash previously, at which point you replay that part of the level with Crash, only as a harder mode. And if that wasn’t hard mode enough for you, there’s also the ability to play each level backwards.
You’re going to need to do this if you want to unlock skins easier. Skins are unlocked via gems, of which there are 6 per forward and 6 per reverse level. To unlock a skin, you need six gems for that level, and that includes getting all the crates (as well as getting 25%, 50%, and 80% of the crates), finishing a level in three deaths or under and finding the hidden gem. It, like most things in this game, is not easy.
The Dark Souls of bandicoots
This game is, in a word, difficult. But in a lot more words, it is, in reality, the literal Dark Souls of Crash Bandicoot games. I say that as someone who generally hates when people do that, but, akin to Dark Souls, it demands a certain element of mastery. It’s difficult, but not in an unfair way, and if you figure out how to play it well, you’re rewarded for it. But also, it hates you, and wants you to fail and expects you to fail a hell of a lot.
But that’s what’s fun about it. And it’s still fresh enough with new elements like different characters and abilities to ensure that you’re willing to endure those next few deaths to see what comes next. It is, in essence, an exam for the previous games, as well as a letter to the fans. Though it remains accessible enough through updated features to ensure newcomers can get into it as well.
So, anyone interested in a challenge, and a fresh coat of paint on an old favourite, this is probably one of the best platformers out this year.