When Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy launched, I was off work for a month. Not because I booked time off for the game, but the simple fact that my persistent need to obtain a 100% completion ended up with me gaining carpal tunnel syndrome.
It was worth it, though.
With Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time I could feel my fingers tingling, both due to the nerve compression and excitement, but more mostly the latter.
The series is a franchise that has been a staple of my gaming life, as the initial trilogy was what carried me through my early years on the PS1. Returning after all this time after lacklustre sequels and a genre that has evolved back into mainstream popularity was always going to be tough.
Yet, despite all the odds against it, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a colossal success and the series at its peak
Taking place directly after the events of Crash 3: Warped, the masters installment carries the flame both narratively and mechanically.
Following an event that causes a tear in space and time, Crash is tasked to venture forth and to save the world with the help of his friends and magical masks.
Jumping off a numbered entry that launched in 1998 is a bold move, yet it’s instantly proven to do so with ease.
For those who have powered through the N. Same trilogy will find a natural progression in the gameplay.
As each entry built upon the previous with new moves and tighter platforming, Crash 4: It’s About Time is the culmination of all those ideas, and developer Toys For Bob proves it knows exactly what it’s doing.
To mix things up, four Quantum Masks have been added to the equation.
At specific points, Crash will don each mask and be able to use each’s ability. Situations may call for a shift between dimensions, the slowing down of time, gravity shifts, or dark powers to aggressively spin and glide.
Each is slowly fished out to the player and manages to use Crash’s move set and add new layers into platforming challenges, whilst also organically teaching you new rules.
Perhaps the masks are the centre point of what Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time does best - accessibility.
The main story pushes back enough to be simple, yet challenging, offering further difficulty for series veterans who wish to explore the world more.
As with previous instalments, hidden gems reside in each map, coloured gems unlock special paths, and time trials await those who believe they are simply the best.
Flashback Tapes can be found in certain levels and unlock challenging rooms that are the true testament of skill.
Set prior to the events of the first game, these gauntlets will have you performing some of the most precise actions imaginable and are not for the faint of heart.
Additionally, N. Verted mode unlocks later into the game and allows each level to be replayed in a completely new visual aesthetic, such as smashing boxes to paint the world, and even offers new gems to obtain.
The sheer amount of replayability is staggering, with each level offering 6 total gems to obtain.
3 are gained through finding a certain percentage of wimps fruit, whilst the remainder can be earned by finding all the crates, dying less than three times, and finding the hidden gem.
Gathering all 6 is no easy task, and the fact it’s entirely optional offers the challenge that speed runners and series veterans will no doubt embrace.
Each level is drastically longer than the original trilogy, too, offering upwards of over 200 crates to find in some areas. They’re also visually stunning and a benchmark for current-gen graphics.
Walking through each world is often like experiencing a playable Pixar film, with lush dense forests, to futuristic cities, the variety harkens back to past instalments whilst offering something new.
Although, the sheer loudness of overwhelming visuals can occasionally be a detriment, sometimes not realising that less is more. When each frame is jam-packed with visual treats, it can resort to the feeling of a kid who’s had too many sweets.
If there’s one detriment to the experience it’s when the game shifts perspectives to another character.
Past entries have allowed you to play as Crash’s sister Coco, yet here even more characters are available. Crash’s girlfriend Tawna is an agile, heavier character to control, equipped with a grappling hook to hit enemies, travel to hard to reach places, and smash hidden crates.
She is the best of the bunch and an entire expansion as her would have been wonderful, however, the other characters don’t fare as well.
Neo Cortex is simply a slog to play as. His move set involves a ray gun which can turn objects into platforms, either solidly or in a jelly form, and he can also dash forward. Unfortunately, his control scheme feels completely unmatched to the rest of the game and often feels too sporadic to appropriately deal with challenges.
Dingodile isn’t much better either, with gameplay segments that feel so out of touch with the rest of the experience. He’s slow, hulking and lacks the agileness of Crash.
These segments are luckily optional out of their initial introductions, but it doesn’t make them any less painful to get through.
Even with those sections, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time stands tall over the rest of the platforming genre. It’s a game which knows it’s fanbase, understands its players have different style of play, and creates one cohesive package to reignite the series.
The Verdict - 4.5/5
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In a year when the world has been very much doom and gloom, and even the games released have often had heavy subject matter, jumping into Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has been a blast.
Nights have often been spent playing until the sun comes up, and my wrists have remained pain-free, which is a likely indication that the game has etched its way into my brain and become a comfort blanket in a dark time.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time Reviewed by Daniel Hollis