Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is not officially the fourth game in the series but is considered a soft reboot for the remainder of the franchise after Crash Bandicoot Warped with all games coming after that now considered non canon to the official storyline. It was developed by Toys for Bob and Published by Activision. The game was released in 2020 for the PS4 and Xbox One with Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X versions being available from 2021 onwards.
After their defeat in Crash Warped, Uka Uka attempts to free himself, Dr Neo Cortex and N.Tropy from the past by opening a rift in time and space. Cortex and N.Tropy manage to escape leaving an unconscious Uka Uka behind.
The two remaining villains soon discover that the rift connects all universes together and they both hire N.Gin and N.Brio to create an army to help them both conquer the multiverse.
Aku Aku soon discovers this great danger and supports Crash and Coco Bandicoot in collecting the quantum masks to help them seal the rifts and prevent the plans of their arch enemies.
As with previous games in the series, the gameplay follows the third person 3D Platforming gameplay from the predecessors by having the camera situated behind the players character and seeing the stage from that perspective instead from the side angle, the traditional time trial challenges return to the game these help players work towards the 106 percent completion but are very challenging and require almost perfect runs.
New additions to the gameplay really help to make this game not only feel more modern but help it to stand out compared to what we were given with the N.Sane Trilogy.
The biggest change in this game is definitely the Quantum Masks which give Crash and Coco additional powers to help them proceed through through specifically designed level segments.
There are 3 masks in the game which swap between stages, Lani Loli allows the ability to phase between specific objects and terrains.
Akano gives the ability to spin for longer periods of time as well as have an additional spin while jumping to help clear long gaps.
Kapuna-Wa is the first female mask to appear in the series, she allows Crash and Coco to slow the pace of time making passing through limited timed segments much easier to bypass, this ability also allows them to jump on the Nitro crates (normally insta-kill) giving them a few seconds to get away before they explode.
Ika Ika allows players to apply a gravitational pull which will allow the ability to walk on ceilings as well as temporarily float over dangerous terrains, although if not turned off quick enough a death from above by being sucked into rift is inevitable.
Players can swap between playing as either Crash or Coco at anytime throughout the game, both characters play the same so the only real difference is who you control, additional costumes unlocked by collecting Gems are awarded for completing specific tasks such as only using up to 3 lives in a stage, collecting certain numbers of Wumpa fruits, breaking all the creates and finding the hidden gem of each level.
Other additional characters who have their own levels and storylines are Tawna, Dingodile and Cortex, each of these play differently and offer a variation to the gameplay.
Tawna uses a whip to hit enemies from a distance as well as cross otherwise impossible gaps, Dingodile uses a vacuum which he can use to defeat enemies and grab TNT crates before launching them and finally Cortex has a transfiguration gun which he can shoot at enemies to change their DNA to evolve them into different platforms (Stone, Bouncy and transparent)
The final new addition to this game is the N.Verted stages, these are the same are the normal stages but mirrored horizontally with interchanging art styles to make them more challenging and a real treat for players looking at replay value, these also count towards the gems so are necessary for 106 completion but have no real affect on the games story minus some of the secret endings you can unlock.
The game is visually cartoony and it works wonders for the art style, like previous games the story isn’t taken that seriously and the use of bright vibrant colours along with artistic choices such as squash and stretch not only helps the characters and cutscenes come to life but the consistent use of the techniques throughout the games stages really makes this a fantastic game to look at and play.
The N.Verted versions of each stage each have a unique visual style and sometimes even affects the pace of levels to add additional challenge, my favourite visual choice is definitely the paint effect where the entire stage is a white canvas but colour is added everytime you spin its very cool and is one of the most creative and unique directorial choices of the entire series so far.
This is surprisingly the most difficult game in the series, even with the modern setting allowing unlimited lives the challenge is brutal, Its hard to pin point why this is but personally I would argue that it could be the powers you use, these small segments are extremely difficult to pull off without precise timings and concentration, the game definitely isn’t for casual play but is not unfairly hard and is very rewarding to finish, those who reach completion should be particularly proud as only few have managed to platinum the game.
The soundtrack is once again absolutely amazing, it carries the upbeat and energetic creativity of the original trilogy, each track fits perfectly into each level and it even uses new versions of older tracks specifically in the VHS retro stages you can unlock by reaching certain point in stages without dying.
Before wrapping things up I need to discuss what I consider to be the biggest issue with the game, aiming for completion is one of the most infuriating things you can ever do and this is due to ridiculously unfair box and gem locations and a need to replay levels multiple times. Each stage holds 6 gems, 3 for collecting Wumpa Fruit, one for breaking all the boxes, another for beating the stage with 3 or less deaths and finally finding the hidden gem, you even need to do the same requirements on each of the N.Verted versions of each level, There are also four hidden coloured gems to find with a final total of more than 400 in the game, on top of this you also have to get the flashback tapes and beat those, collect all of the platinum time trial relics and beat every stage in a perfect run without dying and breaking every box.
For me the worst offender is the fact that after finishing the alternative character stages they throw you back into the second halves of stages you have already played and the box count still needs you to perfect those stages again as well, its pointless replaying of stages when it doesn’t need to be there and just seems to expand the playtime of what otherwise is a fairly short game without any of the of the completion stuff which overall only unlocks secret endings that you could just watch on Youtube.
Crash Bandicoot 4 is easily the best game in the series if you only play the game casually but it is easily the worst for its completion requirements, this is my only real complaint though and if you can look past it then you have a game that is honestly really impressive considering what Toys for Bob had to live up too, rebooting Crash 4 was a big ask and they nailed it by giving us a hilarious adventure with perfect controls, visually entertaining cartoony graphics, gameplay which expands upon its predecessors and another absolute banger of a soundtrack. I loved the new playable characters and the fact that Coco was really included in the storyline, I had a really great time playing this one and I cannot wait for Crash 5 if that ever happens 8.8/10
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