Crash 4 main image

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – Or Is It?

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a 3D platformer, developed by Toys for Bob and published by Activision. It is the first mainline Crash Bandicoot game in quite some time.

Released on the 2nd of October on the PS4 and Xbox One. I, myself, played on the Xbox One X. There are rumors that it will also be coming to Xbox Series X. This would also suggest that it will be coming to PS5 in the future as well. No official announcement as yet.

Gameplay? 8/10 – Solid Crash Bandicoot gameplay of old. Marred only by a few slips.

The general gameplay is quite varied on Crash 4. In the sense that there’s a lot to do, many characters to use and a lot to collect.

Crash 4 is a real return to form, it harks back to the old school Crash. The level design, the level variety, and the challenge all met expectations for me. I genuinely like the whole gameplay loop, as I always have with Crash. Bar Cortex and some strangely placed difficulty spikes mid-level.

I’ve done my best to break it up a lot here, hope it’s still legible.

Levels

The levels are much like in the past. There are no crystals to collect  just boxes to smash. The biggest difference is that there are I believe 6 gems per level. Which are unlocked through various objectives.

Crash 4 level

Like a percentage of boxes smashed, or dying less than 3 times. There are also hidden gems in each level.

My favourite of which was a treasure chest that you could spin to open it. Out pops a big ol’ shiny gem! That felt good!

After you’ve gone through a level once, you can unlock an alternate run. This will change how the level works. Going through will allow you to get another bunch of upside down gems. I guess because, why not. These gems work the same as normal clear gems, only you can basically collect them all again.

Then you can also go through the standard time trials. Just as you would in previous installments.

Crash 4 gems

Finally if you get far enough in a level without dying you can collect flashback tapes. This gives you access to a retro level where you can get even more unlockables.

These tapes let you play through flashbacks in challenge levels. These seem to be Cortex testing Crash in the days of old on breaking boxes. I guess it all makes sense now? It also brings back the some classic soundtracks.

All in all there’s a lot to do in every single Crash 4 level.

Accessibility

I think now is a pretty good time to talk about a couple of the accessibility options that are available to you in Crash 4. This might actually be the most accessible Crash game to date, or at least that I can remember. This is an area that is picking up a lot of steam in the community of late, which is fantastic.

Crash provides 2 new options that can make it easier for more people to jump in.

The first is a choice between 2 game modes. One is Modern the other is Classic. Classic lets you play like the Crash of old, with lives that you can gain or lose. When you lose them all it’s game over and you are thrown out of the level and have to start again.

Crash 4 boss

The Modern mode, which I used thankfully, instead just tracks your deaths. So you’ll never run out of tries and have to restart a level. It does tell you when you finish a level with say, 58 deaths… Not that I would know, it was a friend of mine, I swear…

This just makes it easier for more people to actually get through the game and finish it. The other option is an improved shadow system.

This provides a circle underneath the character whenever they jump. This can be really helpful as some of the jumps are very exact. So if you have this little circle on the ground, you know when you’re about to actually correctly.

Anything else?

I don’t think this is an actual option but one other option that I did notice, is new checkpoints. After dying a bunch of times a particular area, sometimes, a new checkpoint box would appear. This did happen a  few times and I didn’t keep track of how many deaths were required unfortunately. 

Crash 4 ball thing

Again though, this just makes it easier for anyone to finish the game. If you get stuck on a section a lot, you may end up getting a new checkpoint. This makes it easier for you to progress, which I personally think is a grand addition.

Crash & Coco

There isn’t much to say here. Crash and Coco are the protagonists and the play as they always have.

Jumping, spinning, and body slamming. The only changes from 1, 2, or 3 is that you start with the double jump. You also get a slide spin. When the moment you finish your slide move, you do a low spin. I should have done this myself but it looks like you could get boxes under TnT or Nitro crates.

Crash 4 coco and crash

You can switch between these two pretty easily from the map, these also the costumes. These’ll be mentioned below as well but there are plenty of costumes for each to be unlocked. 

Masks

Not all Quantum Masks are made equal. I’m sure someone famous said that once… right?

Anyway, Crash 4 introduces the 4 Quantum Masks. These are powerful beings, like Aku-Aku, that have their own abilities. Like slowing down time or reversing gravity. 

I like them as an idea and the gameplay with them at times is great. Just not all the time, and not with all the masks.

They aren’t all equally fun and interesting  which is a shame. There is one that lets you spin a lot and jump higher and further. It’s not a great power and regularly the controls become inconsistent and laborious as a result. I hate this mask. 

Crash 4 masks

The masks basically replace the ability unlocks from Crash 3. I would have to say that the trade is not equal. The gameplay just isn’t developed as much as they were before.

I would rather have the abilities gained after a boss battle and then have the masks too. To keep the progression and momentum going. Maybe that’s just me though.

Tawna & Dingodile

These are very serious highlights for me. Tawna is a cool cat, or bandicoot, going for the hard nut punk look. With a grapple hook, I sure do love me a grapple hook. In almost any game grapple hooks improve things, Crash 4 is included in this list. 

You don’t get too much use of it I must admit, however what you do get is good. You get some zipping around, some enemy bashing, and TnT sploding! All parts of a balanced diet.

Crash 4 tawna and dingo

Now for Dingodile, he’s my favourite of the playable characters. Not only because he’s always been a pretty cool character and design. He’s got an air gun now.

The air gun is used to hover, do a little double jump, and suck up and shoot out some crates. He also gets a pretty wide spin attack too.

I really enjoy the Dingo levels. Sucking up a TnT and shooting it back at enemies is so satisfying. No longer will TnT only kill the gang. Nor will they be the enemy. No, now they are a tool to destroy everything else!!

Too much? Probably. 

My only issue with the Tawna and Dingo levels are they’re a bit short. During some of Crash’s levels there will be some unseen interference. Such as a potion blowing up a door, or a boat exploding. Going through one of these other timelines shows you how these other characters caused these events. Then when you finish the timeline and affect Crash in some way, you go back to Crash and continue until he finishes his level.

My personal preference would have been to extend their levels. Then don’t go back to Crash at all, shine the light on the rest of the cast more.

Crash 4 wall run

Eurgh. Cortex…

I did not like the Cortex levels. Like Tawna and Dingodile, Cortex gets his own timeline levels, only his are awful. Mostly because he’s not a good character to play as.

Rather like Tawna and Dingo, Cortex gets his moveset. The main issue, off the bat, is that he has no spin attack, or double jump. This might not seem like an issue at first, until you realise how much use and versatility these provide. Cortex not having either just makes everything more tedious and annoying.

Crash 4 cortex

What he does get is a dash and he has a new raygun. His raygun now changes living matter into blocks. Well, kind of stone platforms or jelly. You get the idea though. This is how you get your elevation, without the double jump, you can jump higher using the jelly or stone.

I think it’s hard to really explain what I don’t like about the Cortex levels. I think it just comes down to them feeling wrong and restrictive. It loses the fast paced, goofy fun of the rest of the cast.

One positive for Cortex is that, when he dies instead of an angel flying up, he has a little red devil ghost. This is the only fun thing with Cortex.

Pass N Play

What an absolutely fantastic addition! This is a couch co-op mode, I love that these are coming back too! 

Crash 4 cool coco

You go into this with some choices on setting and player number. Then as you play, maybe you die, then you pass it on to the next player. It’s dreadfully simple but so effective in a game like Crash.

I know technically Crash is a kids game but this would work perfectly for a drinking game. The mode is already built into the game as well! What could be better?

Visuals? 10/10 – The only thing worth saying is that this is the best looking Crash game to date.

There is no question. Crash Bandicoot has never looked so damn good. By far, this is the best looking Bandicoots and environments.

So the character models themselves look fantastic, they’re animated and lexpressive. Near perfect animations for this kind of game, and I absolutely love it. The goofiness of Crash and Cortex are dialled up to an 11, which is where they should be!

Crash 4 teeth

Cortex with his expressive face as he grovels and complains, as he does. Crash with his… being Crash really. 

That’s without mentioning the costumes, of which there are quite a few. Now, to be fair, Crash has never really needed costumes. He’s a goofball on his own. However! If you can have a robot Crash, or a strange Triceratops Crash, you should. There’s no doubt there, if it’s there, you must use it. That’s what Crash 4 provides you, just that daft cherry on top.

My favourite costume is the Classic Crash. Which basically turns you pretty much into the polygonal Crash of old. Love. It.

Despite Crash really being all about the animations and characters, clearly a lot of effort has been put into the levels themselves. These too have never looked so good. It feels like there’s more colour, it’s more vibrant, and there’s more.

With the story involving dimensional tearing, the levels are wide and varied. I particularly like the Dinosaur levels, in one of them you get chased by a rather determined T-Rex. The rex looks fantastic, and his movements are on point. 

Crash 4 crashy

He also casts a deep contrast with the rest of the scenery. The deep purples of the stone, the bright yellow and orange lava, and the lush greenery. 

Honourable Mentions

As an honourable mention just at the end here, there are a few little touches that I really liked. Both are at the beginning but both give a little smile and a chuckle. 

Firstly, you can spin a sombrero and make Crash wear it. This has use and disappears after a little while but its Crash in a Sombrero, need I say more?

The second is that you can spin the TV near where Crash was sleeping. This changes the channel, it switches between the main menus of the other mainline Crash games. It’s just a nice call back to the old right off the bat.

Audio? 7/10 – Although the sound effects and mixing are good, the sound track comes nowhere near capturing the originals.

This might be the weakest and least “Crash” part of Crash 4. The sound effects are pretty good, they hold up, and the mixing is pretty on point.

C4 injury crash

It just doesn’t hit the way that the older Crash games did and do. Not one track stuck out or was particularly impressive. It does seem a shame to basically write it all off but it just never captured me.

I can still hear the starting track from the original Crash game, that’s the level they needed to achieve. It sadly didn’t quite meet that, or really come close.

Story? 8/10 – A pretty good story held up by some great humour and characters.

Actual story has never really been Crash’s strong suit. It’s always bad guy, collect shiny stuff, jump on bad guy. That’s the general principle.

Sometimes you’re just running through the levels, other’s you need power crystals. It all equates to about the same thing, at most you’ll get a little bit of dialogue goading you. That’s normally it.

I don’t think that the story will garner any awards or critical acclaim. It has clearly had more effort put into than previous entries, which is at least something. It’s still pretty shallow, with bad guys doing bad things, and you jumping on their heads.

Crash 4 dingo diner

Only now, there’s a connected narrative behind it. With worlds colliding and the 4 Quantum Masks required to fix a tear in reality. 

There are also improvements to the way that stories connect, like re-introducing Tawna. Or my personal favourite showing a retired Dingodile with his less than hygienic restaurant.

It adds even more character to old characters, and the villains of old. It’s a fantastic touch that I think really improves this entry.

Acting? 10/10 – Top notch voice acting,

The simple fact is that the voice acting in Crash 4 is perfect. I really like the voice acting throughout.

I especially like all of Crash’s dialogue. He is afterall known for being a chatterbox so it’s good they’ve provided a proper performance. With long monologues and heartfelt speeches. You know, the classic Crash thing he does…

The 2 actual performances that were really good are the Quantum Mask Lani-Loli and Cortex.

For Lani-Loli, voiced by Raz from Psychonauts and Zim from Invader Zim, the recognisable voice fits perfectly. For a slightly dumb and cowardly character, a little extra sauce was put on and I like it.

Cortex is just perfectly Cortex. No more needs to be said I don’t think. I really like this performance a lot. I also really like Cortex talking to himself too, it has a very Gollum feel to it. Where there are 2 slightly different tones that contrast in a great way.

Writing? 10/10 – I love the writing in Crash 4. It feels silly like the games of old with some pitch perfect call back humour.

The writing in Crash 4 is fantastic. There is no other word for it, it’s truly delightful. It captures the essence of the old games in 2 ways.

The first is it still has the weird over-the-toppiness that embodied the originals. The second is that it is deftly self aware of references to older games.

Crash 4 crash cortex hug

There is one part of the game that is particularly weird. This is also, kind of, a spoiler. So be warned. 

It has been shown in the trailers but there alternate universe versions of characters in Crash 4. One in particular is N. Tropy, who also has a visit from an alternate universe version. This version is also female. Now, for normal people this wouldn’t mean much but N. Trophy is already in love with himself. So now there’s a female version… so… well… there’s a weird flirting scene between the two of them. I actually love it because technically it’s mental but also its… romantic..?

Other than N. Tropy love there’s a lot of self awareness. Like joking about how many times the Bandicoots have beaten Cortex. This was shown in trailers already but there are plenty more. I won’t ruin anymore here, they should be experienced , as they are good for a real chuckle.

I mentioned this above but it really feels like there is more of an emphasis on the story. There’s full cutscenes and actual dialogue around, not just reiterating exposition all the time. It’s really appreciated in a game series that’s never really needed it.

Performance? 8/10 – Other than some slow loading and the occasional frame rate, Crash 4 runs pretty damn well.

During actual gameplay it seemed like the performance was almost perfect. There were however some issues that arose, these were pretty few and far between.

Crash 4 sombrero

The first is that on occasion there would be some slight frame drops, this can actually cause some issues. For platforming in games like Crash 4 every frame counts, you can miss a jump, or mistime it. Luckily it wasn’t a regular occurrence, so not too many deaths attributed to the drops.

The next issue was some of the loading screens. Not only were some of them quite long, even on the Xbox One X, they were some freezes. Only temporary ones mind, it never failed to load or crash, it was just annoying. 

The one issue that was definitely more annoying was the soundtrack completely stopping. For the latter half of an entire level there was no music, just the sound effects. It is quite jarring when it just cuts out completely. Dying didn’t fix it either, it was just gone for the rest of the level until I finished it.

Still, other than these few things, it looked and played beautifully. 

Fun Factor? 7/10 – It’s an incredibly fun game except for some genuinely hellish sections and Cortex.

Let’s just get right to it here. 98% of the game is fun as anything. It really harks back to the old days of Crash, only with a fresh paint job and self awareness.

Crash 4 love thy self

The voice acting is fantastic and the general humour is beyond anything previous. Toys for Bob did such a fantastic job the whole way through.

The issues come with only a few sections. The biggest one being Cortex. You get to play as him through some of the timeline missions and he is not good. I didn’t enjoy any of the levels that he was playable in. 

I mentioned above how restrictive Cortex’s gameplay is and that’s the main issue here. Taking away a double jump and a spin attack makes everything, just, less. The rest of the cast all have fun mechanics, with Tawna’s grapple, and Dingo’s air gun. Cortex is a real let down in an otherwise very fun cast.

Then the other, really main issue is the hellish sections. Some sections, of only a few of the levels are unreal in terms of difficulty. On the final level before the end boss I died 58 times. That is 40 more deaths than any other single level in the rest of the game. This is coming from a man who really likes difficult games, [I literally wrote about how much].

These parts in Crash 4 though, they are something else. Almost throw your controller at the wall hard. I say almost because there’s one saving grace, it was all my fault.

Crash 4 tripple spin

Like some other games before, a lot of the deaths in Crash can be directly attributed to one’s own failure. Not pressing the right button, or sequence, jumping too early. All of these happen regularly, but it mostly keeps the gameplay rewarding.

Value? 8/10 – For the collectors and completionists among us this is an incredibly worthwhile game.

The short answer is: If you like Crash Bandicoot, then yes it’s worth it. If you’ve never clicked Crash or don’t like 3D platformers then don’t buy it. 

That’s all there really is to it, it’s a pretty faithful successor to the Crash legacy. 

The main story is a little short which does always dock a point for me personally. It is also a £60 game which is pretty expensive. 

I will say that there is definitely plenty of content to keep you busy, even after the story is finished. With all of the clear gems per level, then the alternate version of each level. You also have all of the retro levels, and the time trials. There’s also a bunch of costumes for Crash and Coco for you to unlock.

Crash 4 missed gems

So if one were to be inclined, you could be playing this game for quite a while. Trying to unlock everything, certainly for me, would take dozens of hours.

The collecting, replaying, and improving is where the Crash games have always been at their strongest. Crash 4 follows this trend perfectly, adding in some more little treaties to collect.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 9/10 – I loved Crash 4 overall. For Crash fans its a must.

Overall, Crash 4 is a great entry into the series and a return to form. Nothing has been lost over the years or even with switching studios. If you’re a fan of Crash Bandicoot, the originals or the N. Sane Trilogy, this is a must buy.

Crash 4 classic crash

I really mean that, it’s such a good Crash game. It would genuinely be a shame and a disservice if you didn’t at least try it. Crash has always been pretty high up on the list of great platformers and this is a return to that.

The 3D platformer is coming back strong going into the next generation and I hope this trend continues. I really hope Toys for Bob get some more creative freedom. I’d love to see what they could really do with all they’ve clearly learned up to and with Crash 4.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – Or Is It?
Written by Kyle Munn.

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