A clash between past and future where practically everything comes together wonderfully. An exercise in bravery with ups and downs that, in practice, works.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was quite a declaration of intent. Activision, in its quest to delve into a somewhat underdog genre of three-dimensional platforms, launched a probe balloon in 2017 capable of selling more than ten million units. Followed by the marsupial we had the purple dragon, then we got on wheels and … here we are, facing a return that we can qualify as legitimately demanded. It was not an easy undertaking to take on Crash Bandicoot in 2020 and put a four with his name; that is also a declaration of intent. Now, after completing a title a house brand home stretch, we can calmly say that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is what we’ve been waiting for.
And that is something we must celebrate. Because Toys for Bob has captured the essence: this video game feels like Crash Bandicoot. Any fan of the original trilogy, whether they grew up with the original PlayStation iterations or the 2017 remastering that Vicarious Visions recreated so well, will know that this license has a very particular way of understanding the genre of platforms. Jumps, time, cadence, inertia … Small details that are recorded in our brain as if it were riding a bike. The American study passes with flying colors in one of the two main tasks, the gameplay. The control is exquisite when we handle Crash or Coco; the problem is that this fourth numbered episode has decided to risk in some respects by introducing new items – the Quantum Masks, which we will talk about later – and selectable characters. Let’s say that not everything finishes working, and it is a pity, because it tarnishes the excellent work that is done with the more traditional phases. Ups and downs. Claroscuros that prevent the title today protagonist from having an outstanding rating.
The one that is coming, friends …
The Risk of Experimenting: The Day Crash Bandicoot Wanted to Be Something More
You are going to allow us to make a little mention of Skylanders. It is inevitable not to do a bit of retrospective with the group of professionals who have been in charge of giving color and shape to Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. For five years they worked with the Skylanders license, heir to the modern adventures for the smallest of the house of and pioneer of what would end up being the current Activision in this segment. It shows that there were ideas that they wanted to take advantage of again. For this reason, some levels open more than usual and the emergence of characters like Neo Cortex and Dingodile bet more on the interaction with the stage than when we use Crash and Coco, a traditional experience with all the letters. It is the latter that really shines.
Now, where are we and where do we come from in our hero’s universe? Broadly speaking, we are right where we left off at the end of Crash Bandicoot 3, but Neo Cortex and Dr. N. Tropy have escaped from the interdimensional prison, leaving behind a hole in the universe. Come on, it’s all upside down. Their plan is to conquer all dimensions, so Crash and Coco are in charge of stopping their feet. Twenty years are not in vain, however, and we have to say that the least of the problems is the artistic section chosen by Toys for Bob. Neither trailers nor screenshots do justice to how good the title looks on screen, how natural the color palette looks, and how accurate the movements are. As soon as you have been at the controls for two minutes, you feel that the essence is still intact, that the movements in the air while jumping are maintained and that, above all, there are levels with devilish difficulty, with no margin for error. An unforgiving title.
On PS4 Pro the game looks really good and at 60 FPS.
In this sense, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is more like the original title of the trilogy than any other, but its level design takes elements from all three; especially in the third, especially because of the difficulty, less aggressive except in the final stretch. It would be a mistake for us to ruin surprises for you in that regard, so we will limit ourselves to saying that the long thirty main levels, which are divided into dimensions —that act as worlds— make the old and the new converge. In fact, the legacy of other platform licenses is very respectful and makes it yours. Lianas; mounts; rivers with boxes that barely give a second before sinking; monsters that appear from the ship to devour us; chases … And winks, many winks that show that this studio loves and respects the character. It was essential, because otherwise this experiment would not have made sense.
Dingodile, Tawna and Neo Cortex; mixed sensations
The first hours are quite bearable. At the beginning of the game we can choose two modes of difficulty – which we can change at any time -: with lives or without lives. In the first, if we run out of lives we have to start over from the beginning, as in the original trilogy, while the second respects the checkpoints and simply reminds us of the number of deaths through a daunting icon capable of compromising self-confidence… It’s all so much fun. The difficulty curve is well measured, although except for the last two worlds it is surely the easiest game of the four. The sound effects, the animations of the environment and the structure of the levels, with sometimes surprisingly long and varied paths. This title has not been made lightly and it shows that there has been a meticulous trial-error study so that there is not a single unbalanced dimension.
It is a pity, therefore, that the incorporation of Dingodile, Tawna and Neo Cortex is not up to the pair. They have moments of lucidity, but they don’t quite fit into the equation in the way we expected. Tawna is the most interesting, almost certainly, because its leverage of the platform genre is the smartest in basing its precision on the verticality of the jumps. Sometimes, we will have to calculate the launch of his hook when we are at the highest point of a jump, and the truth is that it is very satisfactory; not to mention his kicks, whose animation is equally satisfying. The other side of the coin is with Dingodile, a regular attempt to replicate Luigi’s Mansion Suctionents that, in practice, ends up being used to absorb dynamite and destroy elements that hinder us. Pretty decaf. And Neo Cortex is a roller coaster. Some levels go very unnoticed and the use of his pistol, a solution to attack from a distance, is not particularly taken advantage of. It is only in the penultimate world when his aerial dash is used, a headache to fall right where we have to.
Without getting into plot spoils, the five will be forced to collaborate together to resolve the conflict and, unfortunately, the tone of their narration is excessively childish, with a humor more typical of a video game for children than the most hooligan tonic and teenager of yesteryear. A decision that surely obeys commercial decisions, but that collides in practice with the high difficulty of the adventure.
All in all, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has ups and downs. Although most levels stand out for their good staging – some of the phases are the best we have seen not only in this series but in the genre of recent years – there are sections that we could call valley where, in reality , not much is added to the experience. The need to introduce the other characters interrupts the flow of conventional levels. Luckily, we are facing a very generous project in content, with many hours ahead if we want to squeeze it all. From levels that replicate original classic confrontations to specific chapters to learn about and squeeze the possibilities of Dingodile, Tawna and Neo Cortex. It is there where they surely shine more, in their own space, and not in the main adventure.
The Quantum Masks, the great success of Crash Bandicoot 4
There were two ways to stand out in a new canonical iteration of Crash Bandicoot: with new playable mechanics or with a phase design capable of exceeding what was seen twenty years ago. Toys for Bob has done a bit of both. The laws of physics are there to defy them, so we will find a total of four Quantum Masks —which we are gradually incorporating into the levels— based on altering space and time with powers. Kupuna-Wa (Mask of Time), allows to slow down the passage of time to overcome obstacles with precision; Ika Ika (Mask of Gravity), to walk upside down; Akano, who turns Crash into a spinning top to take great leaps and overcome light barriers as if he were dark matter; and Lani-Loli, the mask to activate and deactivate objects in the environment.
The Quantum Masks, the real change for the series.
Elements that, in practice, are reminiscent of phases seen in other popular sagas of the genre, but without being a direct imitation. Those that are best used are gravity and the physical alteration of objects, because they really make you a participant in errors. Despite the superficiality of some of its levels, it is in the last two worlds where everything comes together and makes sense when the whole set of Quantum Masks is introduced almost at the same time. Not only are these difficult phases, but they are designed very intelligently. As for the final bosses, most of them take advantage of the use of one of these masks, but we would have liked a higher number in the main adventure and with a bit more challenge: they are a process, little inspired. Let’s say Toys for Bob’s top priority has been meeting high-level demand; above the final bosses, who are simply left in a remarkable result.
We have said that there is a lot of content in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and it is literal. Without wishing to surprise anyone, there is an inverted mode (N. Verted Mode) that, as we can imagine, invites us to go through the inverted levels with the particularity of not only changing the perspective, but it changes everything: the speed of the game, color and style. An idea that we applaud, very, very original. It can be hilariously frustrating, but here’s the fun: our subconscious is the biggest enemy. This mode, by the way, has been developed in collaboration with Beenox, who already made Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled last year. To this we must add the time trial mode with online scores, ideal for pikes with strangers. Finally, aesthetic rewards everywhere in the house: there are dozens of skins. Each one more extravagant. To unlock them we must complete the levels overcoming small challenges; in most cases it is governed by a certain number of deaths to complete a level. If we exceed that number, we will not unlock it in that attempt.
At the end of a level we unlock its Time Attack.
The local multiplayer mode is an interesting addition, but it doesn’t really add much either. This aspect has cooperative and competitive options (Bandicoot Battle). We cannot say much about the first: it allows us to pass the command to another player to help us complete the phases. The real interest resides in the competitive one, which divides its proposal into Checkpoint Race (races where the one with the most control points wins) and Crate Combo (races where the most points are awarded by breaking boxes).
We cannot finish this Reviews without talking about the audiovisual section. The music, to tell the truth, does not stand out too much. While there are recognizable arrangements with the main themes of the base saga, there are no overly catchy melodies nor do they make the experience any better. It is surely in the sound effects where it stands out the most, in the environment. Also aesthetically, with modeling of characters that may be more or less liked – we have been totally convinced – but that in setting design we can only take off our hats. In the version analyzed there are some performance problems, especially in some final phases that present more elements on the screen than usual. Nothing serious, but surely it can be corrected with patches. Little slap on the wrist for some loading times.
We have analyzed Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time on a PS4 Pro console through a download code provided by Activision.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a title that we have to celebrate. It was very difficult to take over from three video games that are part of the history of the platform genre and come out on the first try. Toys for Bob has managed to capture the essence and endow this project with its own idiosyncrasy; from aesthetics to the incorporation of Quantum Masks. It is a genuine, ambitious work that lacks courage, since it is in its attempts that most of its stumbling blocks are found. A more than a good starting point to build, who knows, a new modern trilogy that continues to give reasons to trust the impossible jumps and the devilish difficulty. We were unaccustomed to these kinds of challenges and, again, the marsupial has arrived to remind us that that era still has something to say in this competitive industry. Remarkable, with wickers to be excellent; fully recommended for any fan of the genre and character. Long live Crash.
- You still feel Crash: you breathe respect for the saga
- Quantum Masks: dynamism and variety
- Number of phases and their reinterpretation
- The final stretch, a show
- The new playable characters are not a success
- Ups and downs in the design of some levels
- The final bosses present no challenge
A game with a remarkable finish that we will enjoy and remember. A good buy, highly recommended for lovers of the genre. It is well cared for at all levels.