Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time burst onto the platforming scene, offering new mechanics that shake up how players can engage in various levels. With a handful of new playable characters, each with their own unique mechanics, this game seeks to please old and new fans alike. And while the game does have a lot going for it, there are some areas that could definitely use some improvement.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is all about precision. The difficulty curve for this entry is steep, making early levels frustrating. And unlike its predecessor, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, you can’t alternate between stages if you’re finding yourself at your wit’s end. However, if the game has one thing going for it, it’s the ability to play the platformer in a new mode that is extremely generous.
The “Modern” Playstyle basically lets you die without any real penalty, with the exception of maybe missing out on collecting gems the first time around. If you repeatedly find yourself failing at a specific section of a stage, once your deaths have accumulated to a point you will be granted an Aku Aku mask to provide marginal help. I definitely took advantage of this in some stages as I got back into this style of platformer.
I won’t deny that I really did struggle through some levels, with the depth perception in some stages making it very difficult for me to judge distances between platforms at certain angles. And this is where that precision works against the player. If you’re off by even a millimeter, it means certain death. Which isn’t a problem if you’re playing with the Modern Playstyle, but this becomes infinitely frustrating when playing on Retro.
Retro is everything you could probably imagine it to be. You have limited stocks every level before you’re sent back to the beginning to try the entire stage over again if you exhaust your lives. This challenge can be exciting for players that enjoy the platforming of the Crash Bandicoot series, but for me it was just too difficult to go back to. If the Modern Playstyle wasn’t available, I don’t think I’d personally be able to get through the game.
However, unlike the levels, the boss fights in Crash Bandicoot 4 are extremely easy. I never had any difficulty clearing these instances and found them pretty fun for the most part. The only time I didn’t like in these segments was when the new “dimension swapping” mechanic came into play. Players are expected to swap between dimensions on the fly to access platforms, boxes, or anything really, to defeat the boss. Which isn’t an issue until you realize that you’re timed in these instances.
Failing to hit the boss due to an error in platforming or even killing yourself if you swap too early doesn’t make the experience any more enjoyable either. I had several instances where I’d swap and get myself stuck behind a box I needed to jump on in order to reach a boss. As mentioned before, the game doesn’t necessarily lend itself to handling the perspectives in each stage well. This becomes pretty evident as you progress, even as your skills get better and swapping between dimensions becomes somewhat more manageable.
If Crash Bandicoot 4 does have something going for it, it’s the visual design of the game. Everything is vibrant, fun, and characteristic. Honestly, the look is what kept me going most of the time, as I was interested in what each new area would have in store–not mechanically, but visually. The myriad ways Crash, Coco, and the Tawna can die call back to previous entries in the series, and they’re charming in the way that the Crash Bandicoot series is. The usual tongue-in-cheek style of humor returns full force, and those that have even a fraction of nostalgia for the series will enjoy these references.
Tawna makes her return as a playable character, and her gameplay segments were probably when I had the most fun with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. She has platforming elements that are new to the series, making her stages fresh and break the tedium between your average areas. Equipped with a grappling hook and a wall jump, you get to experience a different kind of traversal in comparison to Crash and Coco. That doesn’t mean that Crash and Coco’s stages aren’t fun, but they quickly become more of the same with a few new mechanics tacked on every so often.
Having more playable characters with stage variety really helps keep Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time going too. These stages are periodically unlocked through progression, similar to the Flashback Tapes. Players are sent back into the 1990s through these tapes to learn more about the backstory of Crash and Coco during their time as Doctor Neo Cortex’s experiments. Flashback Tapes are the most challenging content it has to offer, and these can be found scattered throughout various levels. These stages are meant to test the skill of the player with complicated platforming and segments that again, require lots of precision. Again, I cannot stress enough how great the visuals in this game are, and the Flashback Tapes are no exception to this. Film grain and muted colors comprise these levels, and you even see the occasional VHS screen tear from time to time.
It should be mentioned that Modern Playstyle isn’t the only accessibility feature It’s About Time has to offer. There is a color blind mode, subtitle options that allow for text size, style, and scaling modifications, and custom button mapping. This is great for the visually impaired like myself.
Those looking to play with friends and family will be pleased to learn that the Pass N. Play feature returns in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Two to four players can take turns to complete levels, with players passing control upon dying or reaching a checkpoint. Players can also participate in the Bandicoot Battle feature with friends. This is a pretty straightforward race feature where you’ll be, you guessed it, racing to the end of the level.
All-in-all, I don’t think Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a bad game. I just have qualms with the controls. Jumping and overall platforming feels floaty and sometimes inconsistent. Varied perspectives in levels create a challenge that otherwise shouldn’t be present. The Modern Playstyle is perhaps the game’s saving grace, since it allows players to get through levels with minimal frustration. However, fans of the Crash Bandicoot series will more than likely love this entry, and this game is great for family fun.
If you’re looking for a new platformer to sink time into, this is one you shouldn’t overlook. With amazing visuals, a fun story, and short bite-sized stages, this is a game you can easily pick up and put down.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is immediately available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.