Though I was many years behind when it came to experiencing the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy (and even then, it was the N. Sane Trilogy on the PS4), I am pleased to say there is finally a Crash game that I got the opportunity to play not so very long after its release date. Yes, I’m talking about Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, a game I really loved despite some mixed feelings concerning the difficulty level….
To start, I got 100% in every game in the N. Sane Trilogy despite it being my very first time playing the games. I would not recommend the same when it comes to Crash 4, however, and I’ll get to why later. If you only commit to beating this game and not getting 100%, this might actually be the best Crash game yet. Just looking at the surface, the graphics are gorgeous (I feel like these graphics are as good as what I’ve been seeing advertised for the recently released PS5), and the cut scenes are beautifully animated. Any doubts I had about the characters’ redesigns have been squashed because everyone looks really amazing, and I appreciate the extra bit of story this game has.
Let me digress for a second and say that I wish the game had delved a bit deeper into the story, but I can’t really hold this against the game, either, because, well, a lot of platformers don’t have very complex stories. So while I would have liked the story and the characters to have been explored a bit more in some additional cut scenes, I’m not exactly going to subtract any hypothetical points from the game just because this wasn’t the case.
Anyway…back to the review. This game picks up from where Crash 3 left off, with our heroes setting off to collect the four quantum masks on their quest to stop Dr. Cortex and N. Tropy. This game is quite substantial, and there are a good number of different worlds, each with unique themes spanning all sorts of different locations and time periods, like a futuristic city, the time of the dinosaurs, and even one of my personal favorites, a Mardi Gras-themed level. Of course, the most important thing with these kinds of games is the gameplay, and this game definitely feels like a classic Crash Bandicoot game with some modern updates.
Crash and Coco have the same move set from Crash 2 and 3, with the four quantum masks adding new gameplay that feels completely natural. These masks give you such new abilities as slowing down time and switching the direction of gravity, and by the end of the game, they have you swapping between masks in order to traverse some truly diabolical obstacles. Most of the masks are very easy and straightforward to use, but I will say that Lani-Loli is the most frustrating to figure out. This mask allows you to phase objects in and out. This seems easy on the surface, until you add in tricky platforming. I did get used to it eventually, but it can be pretty confusing to coordinate correctly.
This game also has new playable characters, which is pretty fun, as well. Tawna is an alternate version from another timeline, and she plays similarly to Crash and Coco, except she can wall jump and has a grapple hook for hitting distant boxes, attacking or stunning certain enemies, and grappling to other locations. Dingodile has some sort of vacuum that can be used to suck up crates, launch explosive projectiles, and as a temporary jetpack of sorts. Cortex can shoot enemies and turn them either into normal platforms or bouncy ones. He’s probably the most frustrating to play as due to his lack of a double jump. He can dash forward to traverse horizontal distances, but I’d really have preferred some added ability to jump vertically instead.
Each character has their own dedicated stage, and then there are a few stages where you play as one of these characters for the first half, then you replay the rest of a normal stage you’ve already done before, but it’s a bit harder. These levels were optional, but I didn’t really like having to redo previous levels. Take away the second half of these stages, and you have some pretty fun levels with the optional characters, though.
This game is also huge, because not only are there a lot of levels, but there are inverted versions of every level, as well, which incorporate some interesting changes, such as the final world being pixelated or the swamp level appearing like an old-timey movie, complete with static and appropriate piano music. Every stage also has six gems (twelve if you include the inverted version) and an unlockable skin for Crash and Coco. The skins can be unlocked by collecting enough gems in that stage, and there are a lot of good ones. My favorite for both is probably Cat’s Meow, which makes Crash very dapper and puts Coco in an adorable black dress. Certain stages even have flashback tapes, which can only be obtained by reaching them without dying a single time. These unlock some truly devious obstacle courses where you must navigate crates and try to destroy them all by the finish point. It’s basically the bonus stages found in each level, but dialed up to 11. There’s also the classic time trials, as well.
It’s a bit difficult to truly get across how good this game is, though it’s a bit easier to properly explain the most apparent negative aspect of this game, the difficulty level. Beating the game is certainly a challenge, but it’s do-able, especially if you just play in modern mode, which takes away the need to worry about lives (if you want a more traditional experience, you can still play in retro mode). But in order to get 100%…you’ve got to have some serious skills and some astounding patience, both of which I lack. This is also where the game’s immense amount of content becomes a bit of a problem….
I’m definitely not against difficulty. I like a challenge. I also can’t really say that it’s a bad thing for a game to have tons of content. But again, getting 100% in this game is really asking a lot. Like I mentioned before, ever stage has a whopping six gems! In previous Crash games, you got one gem for breaking all the boxes and sometimes a special, colorful gem. (As a result, I think certain stages in Crash 2 and 3 had two gems…I haven’t played in a while, though, but I think that’s right….) In this game, each stage has a gem for getting every box, a hidden gem, a gem for dying three times or fewer, and three gems for getting 40%, 60%, and 80% of the wumpa fruit. The hidden gems aren’t too tough to get…if you’re not against cheating. The fruit gems are simple, as well. The gem for getting through with a minimum number of deaths can be easy or very hard, depending on how tough the stage is.
The box gem, though. This is the classic gem found in the previous trilogy. I had no trouble getting most of these in the N. Sane Trilogy, with only a few stages requiring some extra effort. I think I only managed to find ever box in one stage in Crash 4. What the heck is up with these boxes? Where are they! I’m not joking, I would cheat and look up the locations of the most hidden boxes, and I’d still finish the level without every box. Maybe I’m just completely oblivious and missing some really easy boxes. But I really think these things are way more hidden than they need to be. Just the box gems alone are enough to keep me from finishing this game 100%.
Also, the later flashback tapes aren’t even fun anymore. The early ones are a fun challenge. The later ones are a nightmare.
In general, Crash Bandicoot 4 is an excellent reboot to the franchise. Toys for Bob did an amazing job, and frankly, it is hard to believe that these are not the same people who made the original games. I’m just not sure the requirements for 100% needed to be so extreme. There is too much you need to complete, and some of it is too difficult. I understand that getting 100% is optional, but it’s still a bit disappointing for someone like me who gets 100% in most games I play.
With that said, unless the barrier to 100% is a problem for you, I would definitely recommend this game to any fan of Crash Bandicoot or anyone interested in giving the series a try. I had many hours of fun that more than made up for the frustration I felt when the game became a bit too challenging, and I really look forward to what Toys for Bob has in store for Crash’s future. And while they’re at it…a new Spyro game would be nice, too. Please?
What about you, dear readers? Did you enjoy Crash 4? How did you feel about the difficulty level? Also, what are your favorite skins for Crash and Coco? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!