Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a brand-new recreation that’s already hopelessly old-fashioned.
Regardless of the 18 spinoffs and reboots which have come out for the reason that unique trilogy of Crash Bandicoot video games, Crash 4 is the primary true sequel to 1998’s Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. When it comes to advancing the story, it’s the primary official entry within the franchise in 22 years. Sadly, as an alternative of updating the collection and bringing the enduring orange bandicoot into the long run, developer Toys for Bob made a sequel that ought to have been left previously.
This time round, Crash and his sister Coco (you possibly can swap between the 2 at any time, and so they play precisely alike) are tasked with discovering 4 ultra-powerful Quantum Masks that management the universe with the intention to put it aside from the machinations of their common forged of villains, like Neo Cortex and Physician Nefarious Tropy. (N. Tropy is the joke right here, simply so we’re clear.) Past that preliminary premise, the story doesn’t issue into the sport a lot, aside from as a solution to get Crash and his mates — together with some guests from different dimensions — from one setting to the following in the hunt for the Quantum Masks.
Crash 4 controls and performs precisely like its predecessors, in that it’s a linear 3D platformer the place gamers information Crash by means of ranges stuffed with lethal obstacles and enemies. Crash has a double leap, a spin transfer, and a physique slam, and that’s in regards to the extent of his talents. Within the trend of basic platformers, if Crash will get hit by the sport’s enemies even as soon as, he’ll die immediately — until he has a magic Aku Aku power-up that can take up the hit for him. In fact, when you fall into one of many recreation’s 1000’s of pits, you’ll die regardless of which power-ups you may have.
Moreover Crash’s signature talents, It’s About Time additionally introduces new powers courtesy of the masks that Crash has to rescue. As soon as he’s discovered them, they’ll periodically present up in ranges and supply the character with a brand new reality-bending energy, like flipping gravity the wrong way up, slowing down time, touring to an alternate dimension, or unleashing a wild new spin that virtually lets the bandicoot fly. These powers are among the few actually new issues about Crash 4, and so they’re additionally one of the best a part of the sport.
Ranges of curiosity
Similar to among the earlier video games within the collection, Crash 4 is separated into ranges that gamers will choose on a world map. These ranges take gamers to varied settings, from a vibrant house future to the times of dinosaurs to historical civilizations.
All these ranges and settings look attractive, utilizing the identical vibrant, vibrant colours the collection has at all times had, besides transported 20 years ahead in time and introduced all the way in which into excessive definition. Sadly, regardless of how good they give the impression of being, every of the sport’s dozens of ranges feels roughly the identical to play, simply with totally different mixtures of floating platforms, enemies, and limitless pits for Crash to leap over. The few exceptions to this are available in a couple of shock ranges that allow you to take management of characters aside from the primary two bandicoots, however these ranges are too few and much between to make for greater than a pleasant change of tempo.
Whereas some ranges are constructed on their very own concepts, like a sure sort of platform or their very own distinctive enemies, these variations are not often memorable. Many of the ranges have one or two enjoyable platforming sections, however these moments are typically linked by uninteresting hallways stuffed with the identical obstacles and enemies you’ve cleared 100 instances already.
What makes the tasteless degree design worse is the gameplay itself. The controls for maneuvering Crash round a degree are free and imprecise, which is an issue, for the reason that recreation is so relentlessly unforgiving. Should you miss a leap by a couple of pixels, otherwise you occur to get simply one in every of Crash’s ft on a platform as an alternative of each, you’re going to die.
New recreation, usual issues
The Crash Bandicoot collection has at all times had a fame for being tough, and Toys for Bob co-studio head Paul Yan advised Polygon that the group wished to stay as much as that in Crash 4. However the studio appears to have mistaken issue for frustration. Whereas the concept of making a real sequel to Crash 3 is completely interesting on paper, Crash Bandicoot is a collection that wanted to be introduced out of the ’90s, not one which wanted to attempt to re-create the video games of that period.
Within the years since Crash’s final numbered sequel, dozens of demanding titles, from Tremendous Meat Boy to Darkish Souls, have proven the methods wherein tough video games might be rewarding. Nearly all tough trendy video games have extremely tight controls to make sure that if you die, it feels such as you had the facility to forestall it. One other trendy addition is letting gamers attempt to shortly right their errors. However Crash 4 doesn’t have sturdy sufficient mechanics to ever really feel honest.
Crash 4 requires excellent jumps. I want the sport had tighter, extra exact controls that will make me really feel like I used to be at all times accountable for the precise spot that Crash would land. As a substitute, I continually felt fortunate when Crash landed the place I wished, or I’d really feel cheated when he missed a platform by mere inches and I obtained despatched again to the final checkpoint. Talking of checkpoints, they’re nearly at all times positioned a really great distance from the sport’s most tough obstacles, forcing me to leap by means of loads of monotonous and straightforward areas simply to get one other shot on the problem that killed me. Should you wrestle on sure sections for too lengthy, the sport often creates new checkpoints for you which can be additional alongside, however making them the default would assist alleviate a little bit of the tediousness of replaying sections.
Getting by means of Crash 4’s most “tough” segments at all times felt extra like a reduction than an accomplishment. Relatively than leaving a piece pondering again on how enjoyable or rewarding it was, or how a lot I favored the design, most areas simply left me grateful that I’d by no means need to return.
Compounding all of that is the truth that for a lot of the recreation, the most important menace to my survival and success was the sport’s fastened third-person digicam, quite than any of the particular obstacles in a degree. I’d typically leap towards a platform, solely to find that it was bigger or smaller than I had thought, merely due to the digicam’s unusual perspective and the warped depth notion that resulted from it. Different instances I’d die as a result of an enemy’s assault vary wasn’t fairly clear, due to the digicam being located at an odd angle.
Perspective shifting and a set third-person digicam have at all times been hallmarks of the Crash Bandicoot collection, and previously, there have been points with that. The digicam in previous Crash video games typically felt prefer it was taking part in methods on you, however that by no means felt like a characteristic — only a drawback that dozens of PlayStation 1 video games handled, due to the shortage of a proper analog stick to manage your view. Even with a set digicam, there’s no motive in 2020 for Crash 4’s obstacles and enemies to be purposely obscured. However that is all a part of the obvious bigger determination to make Crash 4 really feel like an unique PlayStation recreation.
I’m not right here to disparage the previous Crash video games, both. Crash 3: Warped was one in every of my favourite video games as a child, and it’s one I’ve revisited a number of instances since. However there’s a distinction between taking part in a recreation that was truly made in 1998 and taking part in a recreation from 2020 that’s merely aiming for PlayStation 1 cosplay. In a way, Crash 4 is an interesting experiment in recreation design, and phenomenal proof of how a lot builders have discovered within the final twenty years. Crash 3, for all its enjoyable moments and nice design, is a essentially unfriendly recreation. It’s nonetheless good, partly as a result of it was working throughout the restricted powers of the PlayStation 1. The place Crash 4 goes flawed is in mistaking that old-game unfriendliness for an essential characteristic.
While you’re taking part in a recreation from 1998, the tough edges are a part of the allure. I nonetheless really feel nostalgia for these tough edges after I play a recreation from that point interval. However when those self same edges crop up in a recreation designed in 2020, they begin to really feel actively hostile. Quite a bit has occurred in 20 years, and a number of recreation improvement classes have been discovered about find out how to make video games extra pleasant for gamers.
Nevertheless, it’s value noting that Crash 4 does add one huge replace from earlier video games within the collection within the type of an issue selector. The sport lets gamers select “Fashionable,” which helps you to respawn at checkpoints each time you die, with no concern for lives, and “Retro,” which supplies Crash a restricted variety of lives, and if you run out you need to begin the entire degree over once more. The sport itself recommends the Fashionable possibility, and I positively agree. Ending it on Retro would have made the entire expertise much more irritating than it already was. However even with the Fashionable mode, the checkpoints nonetheless contain a irritating quantity of backtracking by means of obstacles you’ve already cleared.
The facility of masks
Regardless of all this frustration, there’s nonetheless enjoyable available with Crash 4, significantly in case you have a nostalgic comfortable spot for the earlier video games. When the sport’s degree design and digicam aren’t actively sabotaging you, it may be a enjoyable expertise that provides a sort of quasi-3D platforming that you simply actually can’t discover anyplace else.
Many of the moments when Crash 4 actually begins to hum are a direct results of the sport’s new Quantum Masks. The masks’s distinctive powers let the sport introduce new mechanics to the collection, and permit Toys for Bob to experiment a bit of extra with the methods and challenges of degree design.
Sadly, these masks and their powers present up far too sparingly in the primary recreation to alleviate the frequent monotony of its common degree design. Nevertheless, they do all get utilized in an impressive closing degree that seems like a short glimpse at a a lot better recreation. Within the closing degree (spoilers?) you need to information Crash by means of challenges that pressure you to make excellent use of every masks’s powers, then mix them, utilizing one proper after one other with out lacking a beat. It’s exact, it includes a digicam angle that makes all of the details and nuances of every space seen without delay, and it feels prefer it’s difficult you to play the sport to one of the best of your capacity. It’s simply probably the most enjoyable I had in the whole recreation. It’s only a disgrace that extra of the expertise couldn’t stay as much as this degree’s requirements.
The masks, alongside Crash’s masks companion from the opposite video games, Aku Aku, present Crash 4’s finest moments in cutscenes, thanks largely to the expertise Toys for Bob has introduced in to voice them. The forged consists of animated TV present veterans like Richard Steven Horvitz (Invader Zim) and Greg Eagles (The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy), who’re at all times enjoyable to hearken to. They each do an admirable job of promoting jokes that aren’t fairly humorous.
One other place the place Crash 4 shines is throughout its few boss fights. These have been at all times highlights of the Crash collection, and It’s About Time isn’t any exception. The battles make attention-grabbing use of the sport’s masks powers, and have distinctive and difficult designs that by no means final lengthy sufficient to wear down their welcome. One seems like a cross between a platformer and a rhythm recreation — an attention-grabbing replace for a collection whose earlier entries basically predate the whole rhythm recreation style — and all of them have extra creativity than the degrees that precede them.
It’s unattainable to not at the very least respect the experiment of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. It’s a sequel that’s 20 years late, and to honor that concept, Toys for Bob appears to have made the best-looking HD PlayStation 1 platformer of all time, full with all of the frustrations that gaming has outgrown within the final twenty years. Who is aware of — maybe in one of many different dimensions that Crash travels to within the recreation, there’s a world the place Crash Bandicoot will get a modernized replace that brings the collection into the current. However in our world, Crash 4 is stubbornly caught previously.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time might be launched Oct. 2 on PlayStation Four and Xbox One. The sport was reviewed on PS4 utilizing a obtain code offered by Activision. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You could find extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.