Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has finally arrived! The long-awaited sequel offers an overwhelmingly vast amount of content in an incredibly simple way. The game’s controls are tight and it feels mostly smooth to play, making each and every level a delight to bounce across. With lots of variety between levels and worlds, I never grew bored. It’s not the perfect sequel however, with lacklustre boss fights and a frustrating checkpoint system hampering this otherwise excellent experience.
A Wumping Wild Ride
Going into Crash 4, I certainly didn’t expect a long experience. I had questioned, along with many other fans, whether the game would be worth that £60 price tag after the cheaper N-Sane Trilogy collection. These questions were answered fairly quickly. There are far more levels and worlds than I expected, and each one has a vast amount of other content to discover. There are the bonus stages in each level, flashback tapes (extra bonus stages), timeline levels (in which you experience other characters’ adventures), N-Verted levels and Time Trials to complete. One thing’s for certain: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is packed full of content.
That list might seem a little complicated, but in the game it all makes sense. This overwhelmingly vast amount of content is delivered in an incredibly clear way. Crash 4 is refreshingly simple, and feels like an excellent love-letter to gaming of old. It harkens back to the time when one didn’t have to worry about microtransactions, levelling a battle pass or about future updates to deliver the game people were initially promised. There’s a huge amount of content for you to discover, and you can take it at your own pace. It’s all focused around one premise: pure, simple fun.
This doesn’t mean the game is repetitive. Each level felt unique, with it’s own charm and challenges. For example, in one level you might be wearing a different mask that gives Crash a new ability, such as slowing down time or inverting gravity. In another level, you may be riding a little polar bear down a mountain, avoiding the various rocks and trees. The developers are always trying to give you something new to try out, and that feeling resonates throughout the game. This isn’t a cash-grab sequel. The developers clearly love Crash, and want to do the series justice by going all-out, and they’ve succeeded in that regard.
If you do somehow start to grow tired of Crash’s antics, you’ll quickly be introduced to other characters like Tawna and Dingodile. These have their own set of levels (the aforementioned Timeline Levels) to show you their part of the story. These are excellent additions to the game, developing the story and showing us other perspectives whilst providing unique new mechanics to ensure the gameplay feels fresh. For example, Tawna can use a grappling hook to zip around her levels. Dingodile has a nifty weapon that sucks crates and fruit towards him, and also allows him to briefly hover around. The content is as deep as it is vast, and that’s a testament to the developers, who have put their all into giving us heaps of new Crash gameplay to enjoy.
Simple fun definitely doesn’t mean easy. Series veterans will be happy to know that Crash Bandicoot 4 has plenty of rage-inducing moments that we love to hate. The game, of course, retains the franchise’s simplicity to welcome newcomers into the game. However, if you are wanting to unlock every skin and get 100% then there’ll be some tough times ahead. You’ll need to master every little part of the game to stand any chance of fully completing it. You’ll need to be incredibly precise, yet quick. You’ll need to fully understand the Dimensional Masks abilities, and know when’s best to use them. You’ll need to fully embrace Crash Bandicoot, in all he says and does. That’s going to prove very tough for all, even the most seasoned gamers.
The challenge usually seems fair. I wasn’t precise enough on that jump, so go back and try again. I was too quick and got burned, go back and try again. It’s infuriating, but entirely my fault. There are, however, a handful of circumstances in which I was more frustrated at the checkpoint system than I was at the specific section that had me beat. Checkpoints are sometimes just spread too far apart. This leads to a lot of repetition when most of that section can be passed with ease, apart from one annoying part at the end. I’d rather just retry that one part rather than be subject to whole thing over and over again. It becomes extremely mind-numbing.
Boss battles seem at odds with the rest of Crash Bandicoot 4. They consistently deliver a lacklustre finale that left me wanting something more extravagant. Most worlds in the game end with some kind of boss to fight, but they all come down to the same thing. Crash runs around whilst the boss uses attacks that you have to jump over. Do this enough and you win. That proves to be rather boring and there’s little innovation on this structure throughout the game. The rest of Crash 4 feels extremely creative, which just makes this even more disappointing. These fights feel formulaic and bland, and that’s at huge odds with everything else I feel about this game.
Plot might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think Crash Bandicoot. Indeed, it isn’t something I particularly expected to put much stock in. Yet there I was, thrilled by every twist and turn. The main story itself is fairly simple – our favourite characters unite to collect the masks and repair time and space. Okay, maybe not simple, but it’s an easy story to follow. Yet Crash Bandicoot 4 had me engaged at every step, mostly because of the characters and their funny dialogue. I was always excited to see when Tawna, Dingodile and Neo Cortex would cross paths with Crash and Coco.
Actually getting to play as those three characters frequently throughout the story was an absolute delight. Going back to see how they factor in is a great way to enrich the story. It ensures players are always enjoying gameplay rather than sitting through long flashback cutscenes, which certainly would’ve hindered Crash 4. The developers took the long route, fleshing out each character with their own sub-section of missions, and it certainly paid off. The cutscenes that we do get are funny, and a joy to watch.
The gameplay and story are mostly great. The visuals and music are equally as delightful though. They fill every world with their own unique charm. From prehistoric jungles to space stations, Crash 4 covers it all. Every step of the way, these worlds are a feast for the eyes and ears. It really is a spectacle, a sentiment perfectly shown through the carnival world, which put a big old grin on my face.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time Verdict
Crash is back in a great new adventure. Most of the game is a spectacle of creativity, and it was an absolute blast to play. Lacklustre bosses did hamper this experience a bit, but they are a small part of a very large and varied game. Crash 4 is welcoming to newcomers and series veterans alike, and will have everyone shaking a fist at the TV screen in rage at some point. There just might be a few times where this is due to an annoying checkpoint system instead of your own failure. The story is an unexpected delight, and I was laughing at the characters throughout.
Crash Bandicoot 4 was always going to be a hard sell. People love the original trilogy, and no one wanted to see that legacy tarnished. Toys for Bob have tackled the impossible and come out on top. They’ve crafted an excellent sequel and cemented themselves as greats in the platforming genre. I’m eager to see what comes next (Spyro 4, anyone?). Crash Bandicoot is back and I was delighted throughout, despite the few issues it contains.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer.
What do you think of Crash Bandicoot 4? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below, or over on my social media! Check out some of my other reviews:
Stay tuned to The Games Freak and Generation Xbox for all your gaming news!