Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, from Toys for Bob and Activision, looks like an amazing adventure platform game. The colourful characters and worlds are vibrant and eye catching, and you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a kid’s game at first glance.
This game is definitely not aimed at kids though, but rather at nostalgic oldies such as myself that would like to experience more of the goodness that was found in the Crash Bandicoot franchise more than two decades ago. (That’s not to say kids can’t play it. They can, but whether or not they’ll enjoy it depends on various factors including their patience levels.)
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time kicks off directly where Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped ended with N.Tropy, N.Cortex and Uka-Uka trapped in their dimensional prison. The baddies, however, manage to use Uka-Uka’s power to escape and are now wreaking havoc across multiple dimensions. It’s up to Crash and Coco to put a stop to their dimensional meddling and that’s where you come in as the player.
Players will take on the role of either Crash or Coco and adventure through multiple different dimensional worlds and timelines. You’ll have to find the Quantum Masks and put a stop to the evil forces at play by using their power. Pretty simplistic plot that only gets a tad more complex as you adventure throughout the game’s various worlds. Story is not the game’s strongest feature.
As you visit each dimensional world you’ll gain abilities that are key to progressing through the world and its levels. One world, for example, will have you phasing in objects from another dimension while in another world you’ll be spinning like a whirlwind to deflect green magic from traps. Another world employs time slowing and precise jumping between platforms.
Gameplay in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time doesn’t break any platforming moulds. It uses tried and trusted formulae established by platformers decades ago and by its predecessors themselves.
You’ll be able to jump on crates, trigger TNT crates and explode nitro crates just like in the old days. The game also makes heavy use of 2D sidescrolling and 3D platforming just like its predecessors with swaps occurring between the two throughout levels.
It may not exactly play like the old school Crash Bandicoot games thanks to some modern attunements, but Toys for Bob have done a great job in crafting gorgeous worlds and environments to platform your way through. The soundtrack used in the game is also excellent with the level themes being quite catchy.
Playing as either Crash or Coco is purely a cosmetic difference though since either character can perform the exact same actions. Speaking of cosmetics, there’s an entire page worth of skins to unlock for Crash of Coco. This was a nice touch from the developers since it is rewarding to unlock a skin.
No microtransactions here thankfully. Strangely though, you can’t preview the skin without actually unlocking it first and we hope that this is patched soon.
Gameplay gets a slight change up with the introduction of a brand new character named Tawna.
She’s a dimensional hopping Bandicoot from an alternate timeline that has a hook shot up her sleeve. Her levels play out a lot better thanks to this additional gimmick. She isn’t the only additional character you can play as.
There’s two more returning characters from the Crash franchise and their levels also feature a slightly changed up platforming formula thanks to their abilities. Playing these character levels adds a tiny bit of context to what happens during the levels that Crash or Coco adventure through.
So while everything mentioned so far has been positive, there’s one major caveat to the entire game that needs to be mentioned. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is infuriatingly difficult at times.
Movement in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is slightly iffy with the analog controls being a bit of a nightmare in extremely tight platforming sections. The physics also doesn’t follow its own rules in the game at some points and it’s inconsistent between 2D and 3D platforming segments.
If you plan to collect all crates in every level, you will probably end up rage quitting the game. The game establishes its difficulty curve right off the bat with the first few worlds being incredibly challenging.
Chances are, you are going to die, multiple times… probably in excess of 10 times per level in some cases just trying to get some crates.
There are sections of platforming in the game which are so downright dastardly you’d think Toys for Bob’s level designers were a bunch of sadistic geniuses. For example in an early level, right after a particularly difficult segment involving a lot of jumping there’s a nitro crate placed just out of plain sight.
On your first run through the level you will most certainly die to this crate. We highly suggest enabling the “Modern” difficulty mode and not playing with the Retro setting on your first run through the game.
Modern mode enables checkpoints and does not force you to restart the entire level when you run out of lives whereas Retro mode does.
The difficulty only slightly lets up as you progress further. Some levels are relatively easy to get through while others will frustrate you to no end. The addition of bonus levels and the “Flashback Tapes” compound this since those levels feature some of the toughest challenges on offer in the game.
The Flashback Tapes are extra bonus levels which are recordings of Crash and Coco in N.Cortex’s labs. These are unlocked by collecting the relevant tape in a level by reaching it without dying. This is truly a challenge in its own right, nevermind the actual Flashback Tape levels themselves.
The placement of TNT crates, traps, enemies and pitfalls make it incredibly challenging to get through levels. If you’re trying to get all crates, there’ll most likely be a point where you’ll make a decision to either just give up on doing this or tell yourself you’ll do it later purely because of how infuriating and frustrating it is to repeatedly die over and over and over.
If you have any sort of anxiety or cannot handle games that are challenging, I’d suggest finding something else to play. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is not for the faint of heart.
This is an incredibly difficult game and one that suffers because of it. People who enjoy challenging games will definitely have fun with this title up until a particularly hard section puts them off it completely.
There’s hours and hours worth of platforming to be done here and while the initial run through the game might only take you around 10 hours or so to complete depending on your playstyle, the unlockable content (including time trials, “N.verted” alternate levels and the bonus gem levels) will keep you busy with this game for upwards of 40 hours or even more as you try to get everything done.
Ultimately, this is a game which has gorgeous worlds and a great soundtrack, with inconsistent gameplay marred by some baffling level design decisions which take away from its overall fun factor.
If you’re planning to buy this game for your kids, you may want to consider something a lot less difficult.
DISCLAIMER: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 console. Review code was provided by the game’s publisher