Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a brand-new recreation that’s already hopelessly old-fashioned.
Despite the 18 spinoffs and reboots which have come out because the authentic trilogy of Crash Bandicoot video games, Crash 4 is the primary true sequel to 1998’s Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. In phrases of advancing the story, it’s the primary official entry within the franchise in 22 years. Unfortunately, as an alternative of updating the sequence and bringing the long-lasting orange bandicoot into the longer term, developer Toys for Bob made a sequel that ought to have been left previously.
This time round, Crash and his sister Coco (you may change 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 so as to reserve it from the machinations of their common solid of villains, like Neo Cortex and Doctor Nefarious Tropy. (N. Tropy is the joke right here, simply so we’re clear.) Beyond that preliminary premise, the story doesn’t issue into the sport a lot, aside from as a solution to get Crash and his pals — together with some guests from different dimensions — from one setting to the subsequent looking 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 via ranges stuffed with lethal obstacles and enemies. Crash has a double leap, a spin transfer, and a physique slam, and that’s concerning the extent of his talents. In the style of traditional platformers, if Crash will get hit by the sport’s enemies even as soon as, he’ll die immediately — except he has a magic Aku Aku power-up that can take in the hit for him. Of course, in case you fall into one of many recreation’s 1000’s of pits, you’ll die irrespective of which power-ups you could have.
Besides Crash’s signature talents, It’s About Time additionally introduces new powers courtesy of the masks that Crash has to rescue. Once 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 other 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 the perfect a part of the sport.
Levels of curiosity
Just like among the earlier video games within the sequence, Crash 4 is separated into ranges that gamers will choose on a world map. These ranges take gamers to varied settings, from a vibrant area future to the times of dinosaurs to historical civilizations.
All these ranges and settings look attractive, utilizing the identical vibrant, vibrant colours the sequence has all the time had, besides transported 20 years ahead in time and introduced all the way in which into excessive definition. Unfortunately, irrespective 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 countless pits for Crash to leap over. The few exceptions to this are available in just a few 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.
While some ranges are constructed on their very own concepts, like a sure kind of platform or their very own distinctive enemies, these variations are not often memorable. Most of the degrees have one or two enjoyable platforming sections, however these moments are usually linked by uninteresting hallways stuffed with the identical obstacles and enemies you’ve cleared 100 instances already.
What makes the tasteless stage design worse is the gameplay itself. The controls for maneuvering Crash round a stage are free and imprecise, which is an issue, because the recreation is so relentlessly unforgiving. If you miss a leap by just a few pixels, otherwise you occur to get simply one in all Crash’s ft on a platform as an alternative of each, you’re going to die.
New recreation, usual issues
The Crash Bandicoot sequence has all the time had a popularity for being tough, and Toys for Bob co-studio head Paul Yan instructed Polygon that the group needed to reside as much as that in Crash 4. But the studio appears to have mistaken issue for frustration. While the concept of making a real sequel to Crash 3 is completely interesting on paper, Crash Bandicoot is a sequence that wanted to be introduced out of the ’90s, not one which wanted to attempt to re-create the video games of that period.
In the years since Crash’s final numbered sequel, dozens of demanding titles, from Super Meat Boy to Dark Souls, have proven the methods by which tough video games might be rewarding. Almost all tough fashionable video games have extremely tight controls to make sure that if you die, it feels such as you had the facility to stop it. Another fashionable addition is letting gamers attempt to rapidly appropriate their errors. But 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 might make me really feel like I used to be all the time in command of the precise spot that Crash would land. Instead, I consistently felt fortunate when Crash landed the place I needed, or I’d really feel cheated when he missed a platform by mere inches and I received despatched again to the final checkpoint. Speaking of checkpoints, they’re nearly all the time positioned a really good distance from the sport’s most tough obstacles, forcing me to leap via loads of monotonous and straightforward areas simply to get one other shot on the problem that killed me. If you wrestle on sure sections for too lengthy, the sport often creates new checkpoints for you which might be additional alongside, however making them the default would assist alleviate a little bit of the tediousness of replaying sections.
Getting via Crash 4’s most “difficult” segments all the time felt extra like a aid than an accomplishment. Rather than leaving a bit considering 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 should return.
Compounding all of that is the truth that for many of the recreation, the most important menace to my survival and success was the sport’s mounted third-person digicam, moderately than any of the particular obstacles in a stage. 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. Other 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 all the time been hallmarks of the Crash Bandicoot sequence, and previously, there have been points with that. The digicam in previous Crash video games typically felt prefer it was enjoying tips on you, however that by no means felt like a characteristic — only a downside 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 cause in 2020 for Crash 4’s obstacles and enemies to be purposely obscured. But that is all a part of the obvious bigger determination to make Crash 4 really feel like an authentic PlayStation recreation.
I’m not right here to disparage the previous Crash video games, both. Crash 3: Warped was one in all my favourite video games as a child, and it’s one I’ve revisited a number of instances since. But there’s a distinction between enjoying a recreation that was truly made in 1998 and enjoying a recreation from 2020 that’s merely aiming for PlayStation 1 cosplay. In a way, Crash 4 is a captivating 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 basically unfriendly recreation. It remains to be good, partly as a result of it was working inside the restricted powers of the PlayStation 1. Where Crash 4 goes mistaken is in mistaking that old-game unfriendliness for an vital characteristic.
When you’re enjoying a recreation from 1998, the tough edges are a part of the appeal. I nonetheless really feel nostalgia for these tough edges after I play a recreation from that point interval. But when those self same edges crop up in a recreation designed in 2020, they begin to really feel actively hostile. Loads has occurred in 20 years, and a whole lot of recreation growth classes have been discovered about methods to make video games extra pleasurable for gamers.
However, it’s price noting that Crash 4 does add one huge replace from earlier video games within the sequence within the type of a problem selector. The recreation lets gamers select “Modern,” 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 it’s important to begin the entire stage over once more. The recreation itself recommends the Modern possibility, and I undoubtedly agree. Finishing it on Retro would have made the entire expertise much more irritating than it already was. But even with the Modern mode, the checkpoints nonetheless contain a irritating quantity of backtracking via obstacles you’ve already cleared.
The energy of masks
Despite all this frustration, there’s nonetheless enjoyable available with Crash 4, significantly when you have a nostalgic comfortable spot for the earlier video games. When the sport’s stage design and digicam aren’t actively sabotaging you, it may be a enjoyable expertise that provides a kind of quasi-3D platforming that you just actually can’t discover anyplace else.
Most 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 sequence, and permit Toys for Bob to experiment slightly extra with the tips and challenges of stage design.
Unfortunately, these masks and their powers present up far too sparingly in the primary recreation to alleviate the frequent monotony of its common stage design. However, they do all get utilized in an excellent remaining stage that appears like a short glimpse at a a lot better recreation. In the ultimate stage (spoilers?) it’s important to information Crash via challenges that power 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 contains a digicam angle that makes all of the info and nuances of every space seen directly, and it feels prefer it’s difficult you to play the sport to the perfect of your means. It’s simply probably the most enjoyable I had in your entire recreation. It’s only a disgrace that extra of the expertise couldn’t reside as much as this stage’s requirements.
The masks, alongside Crash’s masks companion from the opposite video games, Aku Aku, present Crash 4’s greatest moments in cutscenes, thanks largely to the expertise Toys for Bob has introduced in to voice them. The solid contains animated TV present veterans like Richard Steven Horvitz (Invader Zim) and Greg Eagles (The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy), who’re all the time enjoyable to take heed to. They each do an admirable job of promoting jokes that aren’t fairly humorous.
Another place the place Crash 4 shines is throughout its few boss fights. These have been all the time highlights of the Crash sequence, and It’s About Time is not 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 appears like a cross between a platformer and a rhythm recreation — an attention-grabbing replace for a sequence whose earlier entries basically predate your entire rhythm recreation style — and all of them have extra creativity than the degrees that precede them.
It’s inconceivable to not not less than 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 sequence into the current. But in our world, Crash 4 is stubbornly caught previously.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will likely be launched Oct. 2 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The recreation was reviewed on PS4 utilizing a obtain code supplied by Activision. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.