Review – Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
During the final shot of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Lieutenant Aldo Raine and Private Utivich are staring smugly into the camera which has taken Hans Landa’s perspective, having just been forever marked a Nazi for good with a swaztika. As Landa deafens the audience with bloodcurdling screams, Raine, not looking at Utivich but instead at the work he’s has just created, proclaims “You know something Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece”.
Tarantino knew exactly what he was doing. He was speaking to the audience and used his character to make a claim about his own work. Call it an obvious stroke of one’s ego, but Tarantino’s bold move pays off as Inglourious Basterds is one of his absolute best, coming from somebody who doesn’t like to rank his films. If you’ve gotten this far, you may be asking yourself why I am going on an immediate tangent about a movie when the area of focus should be on Crash Bandicoot 4, the new installment by Activision and Toys For Bob.
Well, the reason is because the subtitle of the installment is called “It’s About Time”. This works exactly the way that Tarantino’s intention does. Players will soon realize that the focus of the game story revolves around time travel, but appreciators of fantastic video games and play in words will realize that it’s the developer’s bold claim that “it’s about time that another true, great, original Crash Bandicoot game has come to grace our consoles”.
While the first three Crash Bandicoot games were all solid installments, they weren’t without faults. After that, Wrath of Cortex and Twinsanity followed, and I feel like they should be mentioned merely only by association. Ultimately they both don’t feel like they belong in the group as they are riddled with bugs and lack inspiration. It’s About Time takes what was great about the first three installments and not only improves upon them, but also fixes the issues and concerns that prevented great games from achieving near perfection. Whatever faults I came across were simply too minuscule in comparison, as the game is overwhelmed in greatness. Crash Bandicoot 4 is a strong reminder that the wacky marsupial should be the superior platforming mascot compared to that “goddamn red and blue plumber”.
The story of Crash Bandicoot 4 is simple and similar to all Crash games: Neo Cortex, N. Tropy, and Uka Uka free themselves from a stranded planet by ripping a hole in time, causing a whole mess that Crash and his sister Coco have to clean up once again. Nothing too special, but storylines are never really the main focus of a level by level platforming game. Although, time travel is a nice simple plot medium to give the game developers reason to use literally any theme their heart ever so desires.
From the moment you take control, players are pleasantly reminded that Crash still controls and responds like melted butter on a warm English muffin. The mistakes made are your fault, rarely his. In rare occasions, the jump feels a little stiff in certain scenarios, but that may have been just me, not being serious enough to really hold it against the game.
Speaking of jumping, I must bring up one of the simplest, yet greatest changes they’ve made to this game to address previous criticism. When you jump, instead of a measly shadow, there is now a bright yellow circled shadow indicator that greatly helps you know where you are going to land. Many areas require you to be quick and precise, so it’s great to know where you are going to land at any time.
All previous abilities from the other games are given to you from the get-go, and you’re going to have to perfect them fast, because unlike the first three, Crash Bandicoot 4 gets demanding very quickly. A new feature has been introduced: pressing R2 when equipped a particular mask (depending the situation) will alter the effects of the platforms and items near you. It’s fresh and original, and really makes the game all the more challenging. Even the simplest of platforming situations took me multiple tries because of the added effect, requiring you to be precise with your button pushes and character movements.
Additionally, the game now lets you play as three other beloved Crash Bandicoot characters outside Crash and Coco: Dingodile, N. Cortex, and Tawna. Each character has their own separate abilities and specific maps to play on. Not only does this add more variety and challenge to the plate, but their involvement is a clever way to tie plot progression in between levels instead of it feeling like another generic level-by-level platforming game.
The visuals are gorgeous, which was to be expected, having witnessed the beautiful works of the N. Sane Trilogy that impressively transformed the original classics into polished, current-gen gems. The environments are a wonder to take in and the level design has a personality that simply outdoes its predecessors. Hell, even Crash himself has more character and personality than ever before, and given what we’ve already seen in the past, that’s quite impressive. Also, this time around, it looks like Crash has somewhat of a neck and not one that looks infused into his torso, so that’s always a plus.
What can be said about how the game sounds? Well, it sounds the same as any other Crash Bandicoot game does, and that’s a great thing. The soundtrack is nostalgic and appropriately themed for each world. Each track is catchy and iconic, and the sound effects are crisp and distinctive. The voice acting would probably be the biggest addition to the game. Even though it was introduced in Crash Bandicoot 2, it is now full fledged, well done, and vital to the game’s plot.
Aside from crisp, responsive controls, fantastic visuals, and delicious audio candy, Crash Bandicoot 4 is overwhelmingly fun, with plenty of demanding challenges to increase its longevity. The boss battles are a massive improvement from the insultingly easy ones from the other installments (Papu Papu is one pathetic dude). Additionally, players have the option to play retro mode (run out of lives, you start over), or modern, in which you can take all the damn time you need to beat a level, but at a cost.
See, there are six crystals per level that you can collect for completionist bragging rights. There’s three for collecting enough Wumpa fruit, one for collecting all boxes as usual, one hidden gem, and one for completing the level… having only died three times. Obtaining all six gems in a level also unlocks different skins for added effect. Being rewarded for good gameplay is much better than spending real money just to look different. This game is both a completionist’s wet dream and nightmare, and I applaud the evil intentions of the genius game developers. Having platinumed all three previous Crash Bandicoot games, I foam at the mouth for challenges like these.
Crash Bandicoot 4 just about accomplishes near perfection in terms of being an effective and original platformer, and is now my favorite one of the genre and series. What was once great is now fantastic, what was once flawed is now fixed. Questions are answered and demands are met with great results and improvement. This game feels like an apology letter for something not needing to be sorry about. It’s a validation of all our wants and needs. It’s refreshing to come across a rare game like this one. And let’s face it, the Mario franchise has a lot more installments and variety in comparison, but ultimately it’s quality over quantity. So, let’s take the crown away from that fat Italian plumber and rightfully place it upon this goofy marsupial’s head and deem him the king of all platformers, because, honestly… it’s about time!
Bold, beautiful, extensive, and colorful. Crash has never looked this good before.
Same great responsive controls with additional features to increase difficulty. Minimal and forgivable moments of odd movements.
Nostalgic soundtrack that stays true to the Crash Bandicoot name. Voice acting is believable and done with effort and passion.
A fantastic challenge, with lots of variety to make completionists very, very happy.
Final Verdict: 10
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was provided by the publisher.