Crash is a character that people basically fought for. It’s been 10 years since a proper, entirely new game, though after a seven and nine year absences we finally saw Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled breathe new life into the series. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is about coming back again. And, honestly, the Crash Bandicoot 4 demo feels like Toys for Bob’s means of assuring people that it’s got this.
Which makes sense, technically speaking. It’s one of two Activision studios that has, basically, been trading back and forth on certain staple series. Both it and Vicarious Visions have worked on series like Skylanders and Crash Bandicoot before, almost trading back and forth on the former. With Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Vicarious Visions took point on much of it, with Toys for Bob involved with the Switch port. Coming off of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, the developer is basically using this demo as a sample to show that it understands what makes Crash feel like Crash.
The first thing is that the Crash Bandicoot 4 demo lets you choose between the original way to play and a more forgiving modern option. The difference being the latter has unlimited lives, but will throw a little shade your way by indicating exactly how many times you’ve died. In the case of my time with Dino Dash, it was A Lot as I learned the nuances of the phase-shifting Lani-Loli mask while on the rail-riding vine trying to dodge obstacles. It felt like a nod to acknowledge people might want a more of a challenge.
With both of Crash’s levels, Snow Way Out and Dino Dash, it’s also about showing an understanding of what people expect from the levels and Crash’s movements. They shift easily from over the shoulder to a perspective where you’re watching from the sidelines as he runs to the right until he can’t run any longer. A proper execution of each affair comes down to understanding the sense of flow.
Like with Dino Dash, a constant sense of motion and timing is necessary, even when you aren’t riding the vines, as you avoid poison-spitting plants, properly handle spiky flying bugs, know which platforms won’t hold up for long, and determine which crates are actually safe to jump on or hit. With Snow Way Out, it’s more about timing. Yes, you still need to move swiftly and accurately, but you also need to know when to trigger the Kupuna-Wa mask to ensure platforms are in place, deadly fishing hooks aren’t blocking your way, and platforms that would normally disappear under you remain in place. All while, you know, sometimes having to stay moving due to icy surfaces.
Meanwhile, the Dr. Neo Cortex level is more thoughtful. Ship Happens seems to take place before Snow Way Out, as Cortex is already atop the mountain by the time Crash and Coco show up in the latter. There’s still a sense of movement and being ready to act, as evidenced by his dashing, but it’s always more thought out. You have to wait for enemies to get in the right place to be transformed into a platform, then determine if they should be a static one or a bouncy gel. You need to get the right positioning and momentum. You also might need to be ready to immediately dash or zap again. It’s a different sort of progression, but one that seems like it fits in this example.
It’s a select sample of a final game, to be sure. But what is here seems to look and feel consistent with trademark Crash adventures. The perspectives work. There’s the signature style. The three levels all force you to pay attention and learn, so you grow as a player and realize how to best approach and find a groove when getting through an area. It’d be nice if it wasn’t locked behind a pre-order, since it’s perhaps telling people who committed what they already know, but it is at least a sort of a reassurance.