It’s important to remember that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is the first piece of original platforming Crash Bandicoot content since 2008 (barring the all-new single level Vicarious Visions made for the N. Sane Trilogy). Of course there have been some fantastic victories reigniting the past with Nitro Fueled and the N. Sane Trilogy, but It’s About Time has to show that the old formula works whilst simultaneously trying to add enough to keep things fresh. This old bandicoot has a lot to prove.
Crash Bandicoot 4 takes place directly after Crash’s victory against Cortex in Warped, meaning that everything from Wrath of Cortex onwards isn’t canon in this timeline. This small detail should show you how seriously Activision considers this as a true classic Crash Bandicoot sequel. Dr. Neo Cortex and N.Tropy have teamed up yet again to use quantum masks to rewrite history and cross dimensions in order to finally beat the bandicoot. Along the way Crash and Coco use the powers of these masks and join forces with an alternate-universe Tawna and a retired Dingodile in order to even the odds.
Although there isn’t really a plot per se, the levels are moved along by some pretty funny and well animated cutscenes that show off a bunch of character and charm. Don’t go expecting any big narrative twists, deep character stories, or canon changes, but there are a lot of cool moments for fans of the series and it’s certainly enough to catapult things from level to level. One of my particular favorites was Cortex mentioning how he should have stuck with the wombat, which was a nice little reference to Crash’s origins.
One of the most immediately striking things with Crash 4 is its art style. Although it’s a bit of a departure from the semi-realistic style of the N. Sane Trilogy—leaning more towards what Toys For Bob did with Spyro Reignited—it’s unarguably the best the series has ever looked. It’s somewhere between Looney Tunes and the early Crash games, letting Toys For Bob respect the franchise’s history while adding their own unique flavor. All of the characters exude much more personality than they ever have before, with some really amazing stretch and bounce animations. The same amount of detail is applied to the levels as well, and It’s About Time is consistently beautiful. There are some really stand-out environments at hand here, such as an underwater alien world and a post-apocalyptic junkyard. In my opinion the music never really reaches the heights of the original games iconic accompaniments, but there are still some pleasant enough tracks here and it’s all very easy on the ears.
Fantastic presentation values aside, the most important thing Crash 4 needed to be is a fun platformer that shows that the old formula still works. Mission accomplished then, because It’s About Time is wonderfully fun and surprisingly deep.
On the surface most of what you’d expect to see is here. Crash runs and jumps through wacky stages smashing crates and bouncing off of enemies. All of this is just as fun as it was back on the PS1 (and subsequently, in the N. Sane Trilogy) thankfully, but there’s actually been quite a few changes to the formula to keep things fresh. For starters, Crash’s moveset has seen a bit of an overhaul. You can now double-jump from the start, but some moves have been removed like sprinting and the death tornado. Crash definitely feels a little different than he did in the other games, both feeling tighter to move and a bit heavier to jump with. The changes are pretty much all welcome, but sliding and slide-jumping feel like they’ve been done dirty. Sliding feels like it never travels far enough and slide jumping doesn’t feel like it gives you enough height or distance. Considering this was one of the most satisfying moves in the original trilogy, it’s a bit of a shame it feels almost useless here. Saying that, slide-spinning is absolutely awesome and easily the best little trick in Crash’s default moveset.
Crash has also been given some new moves that more than make up for the nerfed slide. You can now swing off ropes, grind on vines and run across walls. All three of these are fantastic additions that make things feel a bit more modern, although I actually wish they were used a little bit more throughout the game. Wall-running in particular feels really good, and it’s a shame it only really shows up in a few of the levels. These additions feel like natural extensions to Crash and are excellent at mixing things up.
The introduction of the quantum masks is arguably the biggest change-up made here. Surprisingly all four of them are a lot of fun and don’t feel too gimmicky or overbearing. They appear just enough to make things interesting, but not too much so that it feels like Wrath of Cortex all over again. I especially enjoyed Kapuna-Wa who lets you slow down time, which makes for some really interesting moments where you’re running on slowed objects as they fall away. Much like the new movement options, I’d argue that they could have actually been used even more.
It’s About Time also features some other playable characters, although that feature is a bit more mixed than the other additions. Tawna is a lot of fun and feels like a more competent bandicoot that can do everything Crash can and more, but Dingodile and Cortex feel like pace-stoppers. Dingodile is fun enough but his levels drag on, whereas Cortex’s missions felt achingly slow and too easy to die on. Neither of them are bad per-say but they don’t hold a candle to the other characters with just how different their move sets are overall. If you don’t enjoy them though, most of their levels are held off as optional which is a great choice.
With all of these new features and changes, it’s a wonder that It’s About Time feels so much like classic Crash. It’s got everything you loved about the originals, but just mixed up enough to feel like a modern continuation of the series. The quality of the platforming here is awesome too—there are moments of platforming perfection here and some devilish sections that really test you and make it clear that Crash is back and here to stay.
One of the best things I can say with It’s About Time is that it is absolutely stuffed with content. For fans like me who have been waiting a long time for a proper sequel, you’ll have loads to get through. There are a ton of levels across a whole range of hub-worlds and none of them are quick affairs either. Each level will take you some time and once you’ve completed it you’ve also got the relic and gems to go for, alongside some secret gems that are much harder to find. Up to six gems can be earned by doing various different tasks like collecting enough Wumpa Fruit and not dying many times within a single run. These gems are used to unlock unique skins that are totally worth the effort and look awesome. Alternate skins are all unlockable in game, no microtransactions in sight.
Not only that but each stage also has an N. Verted variant that changes the graphics and adds some little gameplay tweaks here and there. These levels are just different enough to be worth replaying and they all come with their own gems too. There’s even a multiplayer mode and a retro mode that makes things more difficult, and honestly, the amount of time and effort that has been put into this game is incredible. When you combine all of this together, you’ve got a lot of content on offer here. Getting through the main story will take you about 8-10 hours but actually managing to get all of the gems and relics is easily going to triple that playtime thanks to how difficult each level is.
There was a lot of laughter on the internet when the N. Sane Trilogy was compared to Dark Souls for its difficulty but after playing through It’s About Time I honestly don’t know if some people will be able to get through it. Although the first Crash Bandicoot could be difficult in certain stages, It’s About Time is genuinely challenging throughout its whole playtime, with even more difficulty to be found in bonus levels and time trials. For the Crash die-hards it’s very cool to see this level of challenge front and center, but there were moments when I wondered if it was leaning a bit too hard into challenging the player, even at its most basic level.
There are times when the difficulty spike seems more like a mountain and it can actually sometimes feel a little cruel. This isn’t helped by the fact that some levels have pretty sparse checkpointing to the point where it can feel like a marathon to make it to a safe point. Combine this with the fact that each level can be pretty lengthy and there were a few times when I felt a little too challenged playing It’s About Time. I consider myself to be a pretty competent platformer fan and on my first run of some levels my death counter was going above 20. Thankfully the game includes a modern mode that doesn’t have limited lives (instead counting those deaths, but letting you retry infinitely), otherwise I think the challenge would be a bit too much. It’s also made pretty clear that this was the developer’s intention, in which case I’d say they’ve done a wonderful job. Just don’t expect Crash 4 to go easy on you.
As a Crash Bandicoot fan, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is everything I’ve dreamed of since the original trilogy ended all those years ago. It’s a jam-packed, brutal platformer that expands on what makes Crash great with some really cool twists and turns. The challenge may get a little too much sometimes, but it is more than worth fighting through and proof that Crash Bandicoot is king of the platformers.
Crash Bandicoot 4 It’s About Time review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.
Crash Bandicoot, Toys for Bob, PlayStation 4
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