✔️Classic Crash is back! ✔️Toys for Bob deliver an authentic sequel that places it amongst Naughty Dog’s greatest achievements. ✔️A bountiful offering, with copious amounts of variety that will have you gaming for hours on end.
❌It’s hard. Like, very hard. Is that really a negative though?
If there’s one title I’ve been salivating that thought of getting my hands on this year, it’s this one right here. Crash Bandicoot has been ingrained into my very soul since childhood. The moment I laid eyes on the titian coated marsupial, I fell in love with his quirky demeanour and vocation for nonsense, albeit while delisting the dastardly efforts of the evil Dr. Neo Cortex. For those unacquainted with the Crash’s history, I would like to give a retrospective, just to present an idea of the trials and tribulations this classic series had faced for decades. The series had been shopped across numerous distributors after Publisher Universal Interactive Studios ended their relationship with Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide. In a bid to keep some form of exclusivity to the PlayStation brand, Mark Cerny had acquired the rights to the franchise after working closely with the initial development studio, but had enlisted Eurocom Entertainment in partnership with his personal development studio Cerny Games in producing Crash Bash.
While Crash Team Racing would see Naughty Dog’s withdrawal from the series Crash Bandicoot: Warped would the developer’s curtain call, and the studio’s penultimate title within the franchise. Thereafter came a myriad of messy sequels that only lead to what would be described as the demise of Crash Bandicoot, not purely as a mascot but a cornerstone figure of signature 3D platforming for an entire generation. Crash Bandicoot 4: The Wrath of Cortex saw British development studio Traveller’s Tales attempt to recreate the same magic that put the fiery blazoned furball on the map. Met with a mixed reception, gamers knew that the innovation and creativity that had been mastered by Naughty Dog was absent. Wrath of Cortex would see the traditional corridor format retire for the mainline series.
While spin-off’s and crossover’s were developed by Vicarious Visions for the GameBoy Advanced, Traveller’s Tales made a last ditch effort in rebooting the franchise with their own twist on the original format, giving the gameplay loop some needed improvements and enhancements. Published by Vivendi Universal for PS2 and XBOX, Crash Twinsanity stripped away the recycled familiarities seen in prior entries such as warp rooms and segregated levels, for a narrative driven one-take, linear platformer that engaged with cinematics to further any comical effect between the two protagonists, Crash and Cortex. Met with a critically mixed reception, fans praised the developer’s for thinking outside the box for their creativity in presenting a new spin on the series, accompanied with one of gaming’s most memorable soundtracks. However, this was not enough to keep the studio satisfied with the property, and bailed after Twinsanity’s release.
During Twinsanity’s development cycle, Radical Entertainment were in the process of acquiring full rights to the IP, all-while developing Crash Team Racing’s spiritual successor. In 2007, Crash of the Titans was revealed to a mixed reception. The title had been criticised by fans for butchering character models, and gameplay loop in hopes of delivering a brand new Crash for an entirely new generation. Omitting the signature spin-attack for a melee punches and instead of Wumpa Fruit, Crash is tasked to collect magical mojo beads all while scaling the clifftops of a newly sculpted Wumpa Island. The poor level arrangement made for cumbersome gameplay, while forcing players to control gargantuan mammoths known as Titans. It was awful, and it was not Crash Bandicoot. Mercifully, Radical released one last sequel Crash: Mind over Mutant before sending the Bandicoot into an overdue retirement.
Rumours of Crash’s imminent return began in early 2013, after the PlayStation 4’s initial campaign commercial aired with a silhouette of the screwball marsupial was shown on a street sign. After years of clamouring, President of Sony Interactive Entertainment Shawn Layden, took the stage at E3 2017 to reveal the return of Crash in Activision’s Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Vicarious Visions had been tasked with remastering the original Trilogy, using the original framework from the PlayStation classics in a bid to reboot the cadaverous corpse of Sony’s old mascot. The N. Sane Trilogy was 2017’s biggest game launch, with over 2.5 million copies sold within the first three months of release. Fans were overjoyed, and the title was met with critical acclaim towards Vicarious for reviving the Crash we all know and love.
You Spin Me Right Round, baby...
Just to give some context to my following statement, Crash Bandicoot: Warped released in October of 1998. I was 9 Years-old at the time. It’s now 2020, I’m 31, and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s about Time has just released. What a timeline we live in, right? As a fanatic of the Crash Bandicoot franchise – yes even the bad games I liked – The N. Sane Trilogy’s release bought me hope that Activision were no doubt planning on releasing their own true sequel to original Naughty Dog series. The respect Crash had earned through gamers had been lost through years of filtering and flushing, but the magic recaptured within Vicarious Vision’s re-imagining bought hope and promise, and resurfaced prominent placement for the Crash series to seat itself comfortably within our current gaming climate.
So the only question that remains is, how do you deliver a true Crash Bandicoot title in 2020 without it feeling antiquated? Toys for Bob have demonstrated that manufacturing a genuine Crash platformer can be quite the inventive task. With means of breaking new ground and carving a new path for ingenious mechanics surrounding Crash’s classic repertoire, It’s about Time overrides Crash’s bumpy chronicles and canonically places it just after the events of Crash Bandicoot: Warped with skillsets that had been acquired from the Sony PlayStation’s (PSX) third entry. The double-jump, Crash splash, the skid and crawl all hearken back to each unlockable move acquired from its canonical prequel. Paying homage to the original 1996 Crash Bandicoot, the overworld map is primarily guided by Crash traversing from one point to another, with some dynamic quirks affixed to its design.
With over 10 unique universes, and over 40 levels – not counting the N. Verted or additional 21 flashback levels – Crash Bandicoot 4 holds no scarcity in its lofty adventure. A magnanimous demonstration of originality placed within each blueprint, overshadows its primary adaptations from its forefather developers. The intimate corridor structure gets a slight overhaul for a broader, panoramic display in overture. Within each world, environmental assets and bodacious baddies are aesthetically appealing, and are highlighted through their own unique quirks. As the compact corridor scheme unfolds into the wider terrace, leaping over cavernous crevices to individual platforms or masonry megaliths bodes a terrifying, nerve racking risk. However, Crash Bandicoot 4 by default, omits the classic multiple lives system, but will display a death counter for each level.
Question crates crammed with Wumpa are scattered over each level. Unlike previous entries, each box that is destroyed will immediately dispense the fruit and add it to your total, relieving the burden of tirelessly collecting them yourself. Respective maps transition from the equilateral display to the traditional side-scrolling platformer, that is predominantly placed within Bonus Areas. Reaching the end of each world, you will be confronted by its respective boss fight. Each formidable foe, confronts Crash and Coco in the hopes of blasting them back in time just as the pair did to Cortex and Uka Uka in Crash Warped. Its formulaic approach in pattern demonstrates direct traits seen in Boss battles designed from the title’s direct predecessors. You wanted Classic Crash? Well, this is Classic Crash. But what’s new here?
It's just a jump to the left...
Crash Bandicoot 4 delivers a copious amount of all-new features. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, these newer mechanics are addendum to Crash’s already enticing escapades. Certain obstructions and obstacles may require you to adjust time and space itself for easy access. Yes, you get to control time in this game and it’s awesome. Rickety platforms that suddenly crumble beneath you are only stable for mere milliseconds, but activating Kupuna-Wa, your companion mask will slow down its deconstruction process in just the right amount of time to make that daring leap to the next platform. Other useful features that take advantage of this mechanic are timed activated crates that appear and disappear after striking the Exclamation Switch. While the title’s label may deliver a double-entendre’, It’s about Time encourages the player to pace themselves and to always think twice.
Lani-Loli is the mask of Phase. Lani provides the ability for matter to switch out platforms that exist within multiple universes, but can only be seen and used while adorning the uncanny visor. This helps Crash progress through levels that may have some jumps that are physically impossible to leap over. The feature also disables certain blockages and obstructions that may endanger our furry protagonist. Akano the mask of Dark matter enforces Crash and Coco to show an imposing side of our hero’s abilities. The mystical mask empowers the Bandicoot’s trademark spin to be a little more vicious than ever, along with the ability to hover while jumping. This of course was a feature that was attainable in Crash Warped. The only difference is the Spin attack may now disintegrate locked crates.
Finally, Ika-Ika is the mask of Gravity. As implied, the mask gives the player the ability to control gravity in-turn allowing Crash and Coco to scale walls and ceilings across multiple levels. Think of it like Super Mario Galaxy’s controlled gravity spaces where the arrows indicate which way gravity is pulling, only this time you have complete control over the way you traverse each platform. Flashback levels act as tape files that had been recorded while essentially having Crash run a gamut of courses, all testing the bandicoot and his newfound abilities while essentially acting as the evil scientist’s pet experiment. Much like a Bonus area, the map consists of scattered Wumpa crates for the player to slowly crush and collect. This helps train the player and their dexterity moving throughout the title’s rising difficulty.
I can say with the utmost confidence that Crash Bandicoot 4: It's about Time is in contention for Game of the Year.
Presentation wise, Crash 4 is gorgeous. Toys for Bob did a tremendous job rebuilding everything from scratch. While loosely basing each character off Vicarious Visions conceptual designs from the N. Sane Trilogy, there’s a smoother aesthetic, with more of a cartoony quirk given to each character. Not only do they look marvellous, but their silky smooth animations display authenticity, something the franchise had been missing since its departure from Naughty Dog (with exception of the N. Sane Trilogy). Upon initiating the campaign and making tracks through Wumpa Island, you soak in every minute detail that aims to stimulate every memory of the original title, right to Crash 4’s own respective areas that have been immaculately crafted for experienced Crash players, that know immediately that Crash is definitely back.
The Time of Your Life...
Spinning, slinging, skidding and trouncing your way through packs of baddies, each with their own offense and some with some minor defence, you will find use for each Quantum Mask that gives Crash the ability to fend off hoards with ease. Chase levels return with gargantuan titan like baddies giving chase towards our protagonist, in hopes of annihilating or feasting on the bandicoot’s bones. Some areas will favour our furry friends with Crash’s new ability to surf certain objects such as shrubbery, train rails, and other objects that may allow the mechanic. Simply sliding through a portion of each map, duck and weaving your way through, all while avoiding any oncoming hazards. You may surf along the top of each railing, or dip below and slide through the course like a flying fox.
Cinematics will break some monotony, and will deconstruct each given path modifying the narrative at some points. These are generally seen when the game switch’s our protagonists. Playing as Dr. Cortex, the scientist prominently scales through his given areas in the 2D platformer approach. Armed with his lazer beam, he is able to transform inhabitant surrounding each area into different platforms for any given circumstance. Solid platforms work as they’re intended, while gelatinous platforms work as a springboard for players to reach higher ground. Cortex entails the unusual ability to hover across deep chasms with his jetpack like boots. Now I will make mention of at least one more playable character, but will not be revealing or spoiling them as it’s such an awesome callback, and to summarise their abilities; probably my favourite playable character in-game.
Alright, let’s ship this one in a neatly contained crate and send it off to Wumpa Island. Crash is Back. If you adore this franchise as much as I do, this is unmissable. From your first steps through the sandy shores of Wumpa Island, right through the title’s multiple dimensions, you will feel wave after wave of nostalgia and newfound love for this epic entry. While Crash will remain synonymous as the face of PlayStation and Naughty Dog, Toys for Bob have adopted Crash into the fold as their own franchise. It has taken generations for the babbling bandicoot to make waves within the industry, but Crash and his friends have finally found a new home alongside his buddy Spyro at Activision. While I may wear these rose tinted goggles proudly, I can say with the utmost confidence that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s about Time is in contention for Game of the Year.
Crash Bandicoot 4 - Activision
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a platform game developed by Toys for Bob and published by Activision. The eighth main installment in the Crash Bandicoot series, a sequel to the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and the fourth game chronologically.