N.Odyssey of Galactic Proportions
After a 20-year hiatus, Crash is back! Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a direct sequel to 1998’s Crash Bandicoot: Warped, taking place right where the PlayStation classic left off. Keeping true to its roots, the action-platformer maintains its style, charm, and gameplay while amping up the graphics and feel to modern standards. While Crash’s facelift is fresh and exciting, Crash 4 also perpetuates some of the issues that have plagued the series since the beginning, with inaccurate platforming and irritating difficulty that will frustrate you into ripping up your favorite pair of jorts. Regardless, Toys For Bob has brought forth an authentic rendition of a gaming legend, allowing series fans and newcomers alike to experience the marsupial madness that tried to take down Nintendo’s platforming juggernaut.
With Uka Uka’s help, N.Tropy and Neo Cortex, the title’s antagonists, escape the time prison and force Crash and Coco to go on another adventure to gather the four Quantum Masks to save the multiverse from certain doom. Utilizing alternate timelines to try to change the past, these villains send our heroes on a mind-bending journey where getting help from familiar—but slightly different—faces from the series’ past titles is necessary to keep things as they are. While nostalgia tugs at the heartstrings, Crash 4’s story feels a bit scattered between the diverse eras and settings, where a Super-Mario-Odyssey-esque voyage takes place. Some series knowledge, while not necessarily needed, also helps make the connections that really bring this one together. All in all, as incredible as it is for original Bandicoot fans to see more from this eclectic cast of characters, newbies will often be left to focus on the gameplay while a lot of what is happening is lost to Crash games of the past.
Platforming in Crash 4 is a serious love-hate relationship. As the primary mode of gameplay, jumping around is obviously Crash’s thing. Paired with his iconic spin attack and special abilities like time-pausing and gravity-flipping given to him from the Quantum Masks, things stay diverse enough to keep your attention. Additional playable characters in Tawna and Dingodile add new mechanics—wall-jumping and a vacuum ability—that add to the flavor as well, making sure you’re never left bored with the actions you’re taking. The issue that comes in with the old-school style of platforming on offer in Crash 4 is that it simply doesn’t feel great. Perspective flips from 3D to 2D and directional changes where the path takes you towards the camera as well as away from it make getting into a rhythm vastly more difficult regardless of the twist that they add. Failing leads to a restart at the last checkpoint, with multiple failures forcing you to start the whole level over entirely. An easier mode is available to keep multiple deaths from forcing a level reboot, but even with that implemented, it can get pretty dicey. Combine that with level design that regularly tries to end your runs and you have a melting pot of chaos. While Crash’s platforming is a style beloved by many, it’s one that feels outdated.
Where Crash 4 makes up for its platforming woes is in its replayability. Besides the main path taken, there is an additional series of alternate timeline levels that feature the side characters Tawna, Dingodile, and Neo Cortex. These provide more context into what is happening in parallel to Crash and Coco’s quest and keep the player using these extremely-well-designed alternate characters. Flashback levels add some higher difficulty options following a found “Flashback Tape,” and the N.Verted Mode offered partway through the game allows you to replay each level backwards. On top of that, each level keeps track of crates bashed, gems found, skins unlocked, and time taken to complete the stage, allowing for a 100% completion path for those diehards out there. A multiplayer mode is also available for those looking to challenge their friends in checkpoint races and crate points. For those looking for maximum content offerings in their game purchases, you could do a lot worse than going after all the goals in Crash 4.
In terms of performance, Crash 4 runs well and looks alright. Minor frame dips in certain sections occur rarely, but the visuals are quite grainy, as has come to be the norm for most ports to the Nintendo Switch. Besides the graphical downgrade, the vibrant levels and cartoony soundtrack create an experience that series veterans will love to immerse themselves in.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time resurrects this classic series in an authentic fashion. While a modern adventure with maximum replayability is a godsend for fans, a lot of what made the original Crash games rough around the edges is also present in this iteration, with inaccurate platforming and frustrating difficulty. However, for those looking for a return to form for the Bandicoot, Toys For Bob has proven themselves yet again in this long-awaited sequel.