Crash Bandicoot 4 Review: A Cracking Homecoming
Gaming

Crash Bandicoot 4 Review: A Cracking Homecoming

Crash Bandicoot 4 "Tornado Spins" back with innovation, visual extravaganza & insane difficulty!

Crash Bandicoot 4 Tested On a PS4 Pro | All Images/Videos Captured In-Game

Since it’s reveal in June 2020, anticipation for Crash Bandicoot 4 has been at an all time high! Let’s have a look at whether it’s the Nostalgia that sparkles and coerces the 90’s generation into the Bandicoot Games or if this is a worthy sequel / reboot that can rejuvenate the series?

Introduction

Once proudly featured in TV Commercials and marketing campaigns as Playstation’s Mascot often talking smack and puns over competitors, our favourite Wumpa Fruit collecting Bandicoot – Crash is an often underrated hero, yearning to make a comeback since the past few decades.

Crash Bandicoot 4 Review
Crash Bandicoot 4 Review

Crash Bandicoot spun his way into our hearts and TNT boxes back in late 1996 when the OG PlayStation console was obliterating the console market with it’s new 3D Technology and impressive games library. Crash was Naughty Dog’s answer to a platformer taking inspiration from Donkey Kong & Mario.

Mark Cerny ( Video Game Developer & Console Architect) who was working with Sony in 1996, had asked Naughty Dog to create a game that would utilise the raw power and new 3D technology PlayStation 1 could bring forth and thus we got a ‘Failed Experiment’ as quoted by Crash’s arch-nemesis and creator, the nefarious and yet adorable at times – Dr. Neo Cortex.

Fast forward to 2017 and we saw the very well received NSane Trilogy which was a ‘Remaster Plus’ of the first 3 Crash games as described by developers Vicarious Visions who also teamed with Iron Galaxy & Toys For Bob.

Moving to present day, we now have ‘Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time’ and here’s a sample video of a racing sequence below to show you how visually great this game is.

Crash Bandicoot 4 Review

Story

The story picks up from ‘Crash 3: Warped’ where antagonists Dr. Neo Cortex, Nefarrious Tropy & Uka Uka after being defeated and trapped by Crash are looking at a way to make a comeback. The Plot of Crash 4 can be described as multi-dimensional with alternate timelines existing thereby not only influencing the actions the player takes as Crash or Coco but also introducing other characters such as Dr Neo Cortex, Dingo Dile (my personal favourite) & a kick ass version of Crash’s Girlfriend Tawna from an alternate dimension.

The game see’s villainous duo Neo Cortex & N Tropy escaping through a shift in the universe created by Uka Uka. They then create generators so that they can hop through time and the multiverses looking at conquering all of them, lofty as always the ambitions of our favourite baddies.

What sets the story apart from most Platformers or even it’s prequels, is that the addition of multiple characters into the timelines while the player is follwing his/her pathway is fantastic. I found myself looking forward to be able to play as Tawna or Dingodile again as not only do you play with their new sets of moves but the way they traverse the stage totally changes presenting a different approach to gameplay. Its far from a gimmick but something the player will look forward to.

Secondly, when going through the story as Crash or Coco, at certain points a road which is blocked or an enemy which is relentlessly chasing you, is magically trampled or hit! While you don’t get to see who or what did it at that time other than an exclamation mark on the Bandicoot’s head, it’s actually the other character who has done it and when you play as this character be it Tawna or Neo Cortex you get to do this action. I really found this quite a breakthrough from the style of usual gameplay and found it a fresh introduction into the tried and tested methods of the game.

The game then introduces four new masks and while these may seem generic at first, they actually bring forth new moves and gameplay mechanics which add to the already fantastic gameplay of Crash 4. Hopping through various stages that range from the futuristic timelines of 2043 to ancient prehistoric dinosaur-era deliver a well fleshed out story.

Crash Bandicoot 4

Gameplay

The phrase you can’t teach an old dog a new trick might be true but when it comes to Crash the Bandicoot you sure can! in regards to the gameplay mechanics the game is a meticulously well-designed algorithm with perfect feedback when it comes to the spin and jump mechanics. For this in-depth review, the gameplay section will be broken down further to accommodate the various additions.

From the get-go first level of the game you are firstly hit by a sense of nostalgia in how the stage looks like but then as you play the familiar ease with which crash jumps over crates is made apparent.

Opening Sequence Crash 4

Bandicoot’s Got New Moves

‘It’s About Time’ we got some new moves and the game does just that through the 4 masks who we wake from their slumber; a slew of exciting and stage defining moves. The Dark Matter Mask after meeting Akano, allows crash to spin for much longer and glide allowing to almost float and traverse areas not possible normally. As re-hashed as it may sounds it’s not the case pretty useful in also deflecting green energy attacks and is implemented well in it’s respective areas

Then we have the gravity mask which at first I was skeptical with but after playing the later missions on a ship as Crash, I changed my opinion. The accuracy at how the gravity mask by ‘Ika Ika’ operates is astoundingly precise. In the levels where you can activate said mask there are boxes both on the floor and ceiling breaking exactly the same way. Testing this out, I purposely played most of the mission upside down making sure to jump and break every box and it worked with pin point accuracy if you were to do it normally!

This shows the level and care taken to present the game without any issues/bugs or hiccups, a very important facet of a game such as crash 4, revival of not only this beloved bandicoot but platformer games as well. There was a time stopping mask and power which could have been implemented a bit more, hopefully in the future.

Crash Bandicoot 4
Crash Bandicoot 4 Review

Level Design & Improvements

Crash 4 also introduces a small shadow which appears underneath the character and it cannot be stressed how integral this little add-on is. Not only does it immensely help completionist’s and trophy hunters vying for 100% and the 0.1% Extremely Rare Platinum Trophy on the Playstation Network, but also for novice to intermediate players just looking to have fun or complete the game.

Crash 4 is a hard game, to be blunt it’s quite a challenging game. Although the Souls games are always classed as super hard but Crash 4 as the game progresses, can become frustrating at times. This is not necessarily a bad thing because as much as people tend to say how Crash 1 was easier back in the days it wasn’t.

This is where the shadow underneath Crash when he jumps platforms whether they are permanent or break, while gliding, being chased by animals to bosses, becomes imperative to survive. Make yourself familiar with this shadow as keeping an eye on it can help to complete sections which one might be dying at countless times.

Looking at the level design and without going into the aesthetic and visual aspect as I will in the next section below, Toys For Bob have done a tremendous job. The levels are fun filled little trap infested courses littered with new enemies ranging from dinosaurs to scientists and more. The tried and tested method used in the previous games is ever present and the little nuances to build up on the gameplay is what makes this part a stellar platformer.

Exciting New Modes

N.verted Mode is a different take on how you finish levels. Once you have beaten a certain baddie in a boss battle, this mode is unlocked and you can play the entire game in N.verted mode. From flipping everything horizontally to changing the art style to give a cell shaded look with at time washed colours which affect your vision ahead, this can be a challenging yet different take on finishing the levels. Apart from being a completionist looking to unlock all Trophies and Skins, N.verted mode is an extra helping of goodness in this already stellar package, big yay for fun replayability!

Pass N. Play

Taking inspiration from 90’s couch gaming where players would pass a controller while playing the same game, this new mode brings all what was so good before Online Multiplayer dominated the sphere of gaming.

This mode works by allowing up to 4 players to play on a single controller through a level where options like checkpoints and or deaths can be configured. Player 1 plays the game and the speed with which he finishes a level is then a benchmark for the other player to beat. This way one controller is passed between 2 or 4 players and this echoes the offline gaming days of the yesteryear’s when you would scuttle to the only friend who had your favourite game and a 21″ TV.

Crash Bandicoot 4
Bringing Back Couch Gaming Through Pass N. Play

Retro or Modern Play-style

Probably the most important aspect of the game was the introduction of Modern or Retro Play style. The previous crash games worked on retro play style where collecting wumpa fruits gives you lives and once all live are finished, the level restarts from the beginning.

Most probably after the developers were done with Crash 4 they realised or not, how hard this game is. So with modern playstyle the player has infinite lives and once a player dies you just re-spawn at the last checkpoint. To further aid the player (thank God for that ) the game also realises if a player keeps dying but bringing further checkpoints closer to where one dies and also awarding an Aku Aku on revival.

As mentioned earlier, the game is infuriating at times and I personally had multiple death with the modern play style activated, so I would strongly recommend to complete the first play through on this. For the glory hunting gamers (completionists), retro mode will be best suited as it will train you to complete levels without dying a single time and not missing any boxes to reap awards such as all gems and unlocking skins.

Choose Modern & Save Yourself!

Visuals

This bandicoot has never looked crispier, fluffier, cleaner and overall gorgeous. The first hour of the game had me amazed at how beautiful the game looked. It has a cinematic feel to it, almost like watching the Ratchet & Clank Animation that released in 2016 to accompany the game and just like an upgraded version of visual colours over the vibrant examples such as Rayman Legends.

Since the levels are slightly bigger and more haphazardly created to double our platforming fun, it is supported by smooth buttery frame rate when playing on the PS4 Pro as I did. The frame rate is locked at 60 fps and I am happy to confirm that apart from surprisingly a few in game movie scenes, the game works like a treat. A platformer has to be responsive which ‘It’s About Time’ is and it does so without a single glitch or hiccup as i tested the game right before and during launch, Toys for Bob’s care and hard work shine here making this game an overall gem.

Character models are well designed from Crash to franchise oldies like N.Gin & Neo Cortex. I really liked the new twist and look for Tawna from her different timeline to Dingodile’s model and area map. It really gives an outlook of where these characters come from and represent.

Although not a major quip by any regards, one thing i would have liked would have been to have a more wider camera angle shot when trying to look at surrounding areas using the right analogue stick on the Playstation Controller – Dual Shock 4.

The beautiful levels with small intricate details of half hidden characters is not done justice when you cannot zoom or even look at properly. I also found it a bit limiting when trying to map out how far i wanted to jump from one ice slate to another, but could only see a certain part of the edges of the map.

The lack of Photo Mode is something i sorely missed given the eye popping aesthetic that the game exudes. The sheer amount of modes deliver so much replayability that could be forever immortalised in perfect timed screenshots using different filters is a missed opportunity in my view. There are colourblind options which are very welcome and something the developers must have taken inspiration from The Last Of Us 2 although the level applied here is quite small, albeit a great initiative.

To summarize the visuals department,’ Crash 4 : It’s About Time’ surfs and glides with relative ease bringing 4K resolution and 60 fps for people with a PS4 Pro or an Xbox One X. The graphics are a synergy of all what was good in the older games with better HDR looking eye popping visuals. On this point, I will point out that the game did not enable HDR On my 4K HDR TV, so it seems the original colour palette of the game is so rich that it emulates HDR even if you didn’t have a High Dynamic Range capable TV.

Audio & Music

If there was one department which didn’t build up on the excellent base or could have done a much better and memorable job, that would be the Audio department. Now before you come at me with pitch forks, I can wholeheartedly say that the different audio cues from jumping to spinning to destroying crates via slide are all as they should be BUT there is no new innovation here, in contrast to the overall package that is Crash 4.

The music is great and works well with all the stages but nothing stands out from boss battles to the opening theme. The tempo of the music with the different settings and environments work well generally, for instance in the frozen stages when running down on polar or jumping on blocks of ice it all sounds like it should, but it could have been better.

Verdict

‘Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time’ is a brilliant showcase of attentive care and due diligence taken by the developers Toys For Bob in delivering an extremely entertaining new Bandicoot game bundled with tons of content without any micro-transactions.

22 Years after Crash 3 released, the series has been revived with an array of vivid & ‘anime like cinematic visuals’ coupled with fantastic gameplay that is responsive and innovative at the same time. Crash brings along not only a plethora of various gameplay modes but different timelines, new and old characters, alternate play through styles, flash back tapes that take you back to the basics.

The game is only slightly blemished with frustrating difficulty at times and a safe yet mediocre approach to sound & music which could have been better. To be blunt, this is one of the best platformers out there.

Crash is available at the PlayStation Store here

8.4

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

'Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time' is a brilliant showcase of attentive care and due diligence taken by the developers Toys For Bob in delivering an extremely entertaining new Bandicoot game bundled with tons of content without any micro-transactions.

THE GOOD
  • Eye-popping cinematic visuals
  • New moves, new characters, new timelines
  • NSane amount of replayability
  • Pass n Play + local multiplayer
THE BAD
  • Can be frustratingly hard for newcomers
  • No co-op campaign
  • No photo mode
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