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PLATFORMS: PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE, PC
RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2020
DEVELOPER: Toys for Bob
ESRB: E for EVERYONE
NOTE - A digital copy of this product was provided by Activision-Blizzard. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon affiliate and does get financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.
Crash is Back
Crash is finally back after over two decades. The last mainline sequel was released in 1998 and was titled Crash Bandicoot: Warped and was the third flagship game. Fast forward 22 years later the next chronological installment - Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time - is finally here. While there were other Crash games during those years, none of them were mainline sequels or core entries, but rather spin-offs. In 2017, the N'sane Trilogy was released for current-gen consoles, which included the first three flagship titles: Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.
Gameplay and New Mechanics
The core gameplay of Crash Bandicoot 4 consists of playing through different levels, destroying all possible boxes, collecting all the gems, wumpas (fruits) and trying not to die for 100% completion. The player uses the left analog stick to traverse environments, A to jump and X to attack with their spinning move, B button to do a secondary dash attack and slide under obstacle,s and the Y button to use a mask power. Before starting the game, gamers get to choose whether they want the game to have the rules of Modern or Retro Crash games. Modern let's fans have infinite lives so they can just play and learn the levels at their own pace, and Retro is more challenging because players only have a limited amount of lives and will have to restart the entire level if they waste them.
At first the game may seem easy, but as players progress to later levels they will come to realize the platforming gets more complex as they get introduced to newer challenges that require them to make proper use of jumping mechanics, timing, obstacles and enemies, or the Nitro boxes that explode when touched and cause instant death. Combine all those elements with the mask powers in later levels and players are in for a difficult time, but very enjoyable and satisfying once they get their 100% completion on a complex level. Getting 100% completion will reward gamers with a new cosmetic skin for both characters, Crash and his sister, Coco. Another nice addition is that players can swap between Crash and Coco and play whoever they want because they have the exact same move-set.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time contains 107 levels. 43 of those levels are the core levels of the main story line, and then gamers can also play the "Nverted" versions of those levels, which is another 43 levels, 21 Flashback levels, and 5 boss battles. The Nverted levels are flipped to the other side and are color coded. Anything that's red will hurt players; green is something they can grab onto, such as a rope; yellow is a moving platform; purple indicates fruits; brown is regular crates; and teal is for checkpoint crates. Also, the world in Nverted levels gets dark if players do not keep using their spinning attack move. This adds another layer of challenge to the game and also has its own unlocks and rewards, if 100% completed, such as achievements and more skins, and it adds a nice amount of "replayability".
The Flashback levels can be obtained via tapes found throughout the core stages. Players can then travel to a specific location in the Dimensions map and play these levels. Flashback levels are short platform puzzles where fans have to figure out which crates to jump on while trying to destroy all of them before getting to the end. The first few levels are easy to solve, but as players unlock new ones they get more difficult. The more boxes destroyed, the better medal earned at the end. Achieving platinum medals in every Flashback level will reward players with an Xbox achievement/PS trophy and also unlock new in-game cosmetics. Again, this adds more replay value to the overall game.
The game has a fantastic variety of different themed worlds: the tropical islands, pirates, snow, and much more. Each world feels unique both in its artistic choice, theme, enemy design, layout, and complexity. Throughout gamers' journey they will also come across well-known characters, such as Tawna and Dingodile. Both Tawna and Dingodile have their own levels and their own unique move-set that changes the platforming mechanics and gameplay to a different style opposing that of Crash and Coco.
Dingodile is a ton of fun to play, as he uses his vacuum to suck in crates at a medium distance or suck in TNT boxes and launch them at enemies and break barricades or hit crates that are far off in the distance. Tawna, on the other hand, is able to use a grappling hook to close the distance to smaller enemies from a distance, grab crates that are out of reach, and grapple onto certain points to traverse the level. These new additions spice up the already-great platforming gameplay that Crash Bandicoot games are known for and give it more variety and life.
The Visuals and Performance
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is arguably one of the best-looking platformers ever seen. The game is running on Unreal Engine 4 and is performing at a silky smooth 60 FPS on the Xbox One X at full 1080p HD. Unfortunately, there is no 4K native or any sort of 4K scaling on the Xbox One X. Regardless, the game looks beautiful and plays well without any stutters or graphical bugs. Every world in It's About Time is crafted with some beautiful art, gorgeous hand-painted textures, and has a good art direction overall. There is little to complain about here or even nitpick.
The cosmetic skins players unlock also add variety to the visuals and give the opportunity fans to experience their favorite characters from the Crash universe in new outfits and aesthetics. Character models and animations are smooth as butter and easy to read and understand, which is vital in a platforming game, where every bit of timing and jump can make the difference between making that Time Trial run for that platinum medal or not.
Audio and Music
The audio is 100% late '90s nostalgia at its best, just higher quality and better than ever. The musical score in each of the worlds and levels is fitting and a joy to which to listen. A certain music track never felt out of place or in this specific Crash universe. The pirate level has a memorable tune and the first level is a hardcore throwback to the original OST of the first Crash game. Again, there are no real complaints here, nothing but praise and appreciation. Kudos to Walter Mair, the individual who is responsible for composing the music for Crash 4: It's About Time.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is not only a fantastic nostalgia trip for a modern age and old-school hardcore fans, it's also a great game on its own merit and proves that modern day platformers can easily co-exist in a market that's saturated with shooters, battle royales, competitive online games, and RPGs, if done right. Everything from the smooth controls, the gameplay, and brand-new mechanics make this the best Crash game yet. It is not Super Mario Oddysey by any means, but it's still a fantastic platformer regardless, and it's not something that's comparable to Jak & Daxter, Spyro, or Ratchet & Clank.
All of these platforming games are different in their gameplay choice and pacing. Crash is all about fast, nonstop running and destruction of all the breakable boxes and collection of the wumpus. While a game such as Spyro is more about exploring and taking the time to ensure players have found every Dragon and all the gems in the levels. Ratchet & Clank is about collecting bolts, leveling weapons, and killing enemies in crazy and fun ways. Toys for Bob has proven once again they can make great platforming games; they did it with the N'Sane Trilogy of Crash in 2017, Spyro Re-ignited Trilogy in 2018, and now a full-fledged Crash sequel.