Crash Bandicoot became a towering force of the PlayStation, and he didn’t disappear as time moved beyond primitive 3D gameplay. While his contemporaries evolved, and new stars rose, Crash fell into a bit of a mess beyond his debut. He struggled to find his footing in a space dominated by the likes of Kratos, Master Chief, and Samus Aran. In more recent generations, Crash focused on beat-em-up gameplay. An era fans would rather forget. While Wrath of Cortex and Twinsanity tried their hardest to recapture the feel of Crash Bandicoot, fans were never given something worthy of being called the fourth entry. After the standout N’Sane Trilogy, it was inevitable that Crash finally got another chance at making history. When a game truly titled Crash 4 was announced, cautious optimism soared through online communities. When we found out that Vicarious Visions was busy, and the project would be helmed by the creators of the Spyro Reignited collection, I grew incredibly apprehensive. Toys for Bob had a lot to prove calling this “Crash Bandicoot 4,” and I couldn’t wait to find out if they hit it out of the park.
After being flung far into a void with no time, Dr. Neo Cortex, Uka Uka, and N. Tropy have been testing ways to escape for decades. With a machine of enough evil genius to make Dr. Eggman blush, and at the expense of Uka Uka, Cortex and N. Tropy have found a way to generate portals and break their way through the multiverse. It’s up to Crash Bandicoot, Coco, and anyone they can gather to find the Quantum Masks and put the universe back together.
Crash Bandicoot 4 takes the soul of the original trilogy and multiplies it. Cutscenes feel chaotic, but not annoying, similar to the likes of CTR: Nitro-Fueled. Each character feels well written and the story keeps a good tone of sinister but fun. This game feels like the perfected version of the tone Battletoads (2020) went for, and I like it a lot here. The developers were fans and had fun, you can see it! Every little line and animation feels like what I’d expect from these characters.
Crash feels just as nimble as ever! You have access to all of the staples. Crash may spin, slide, belly-flop, and double jump to his heart’s content! In specific areas, Crash will be granted new powers by the Quantum Masks. You’ll be swapping dimensions, spinning infinitely, slowing time, and flipping your gravity. Crash will go through all the level variants you’ve become accustomed to.
Crash and Coco aren’t adventuring alone! Crash Bandicoot 4 offers three other playable characters. Tawna Bandicoot, from an alternate dimension, has become a hardened adventurer. She’ll run and jump the same as Crash and Coco, but she has many more differences. A kick, a grappling hook, and a wall jump are all within her repertoire. Her kick often felt too short-ranged, and her double jump felt extremely finicky. She’s fun to control, but I’d still prefer Crash and Coco.
In a far off universe, Dingodile has settled down to finally chomp at his dreams of culinary mastery. His diner is destroyed in the chaos, but he has more than enough tricks to take a bite of revenge. Good ol’ Dingo is much slower and larger than Crash. His jump is much lower too. Alongside a spin, Dingodile has repurposed his flamethrower into a vacuum! He can hover for a short time and suck up TNT crates to shoot at enemies. Dingodile is my favorite of the extra playable characters, but that might just be my bias for Dingodile.
There’s an attractive force behind the concept of getting to play as the villain. This itch was first scratched in Twinsanity, but that didn’t scratch it well. Neo Cortex is easily the worst this game has to offer. His jump is pitiful, his hitboxes are too big, his gun barely hits your target, and his dash often overshoots. His levels, supposedly puzzle focused but just about timing, were the bane of my playthrough. He’s distinctively harder than the other three, and the game expects you to pull off some wild tricks. He feels undercooked. I’ve thrown a lot of shade in this review, but Twinsanity certainly did him better than this.
Crash Bandicoot 4 gave me quite a few reasons to love it, but there were some common issues I kept running into. Levels felt too long without enough checkpoints. It doesn’t help that checkpoints often felt hidden. Depth-perception was a common issue. Every character has a yellow circle under them, but it often didn’t help. You’ll see a ton of levels with invisible holes.
It can be hard to justify a $60 price on a 3D Platformer. They often fail to provide enough content to keep players engaged. Crash Bandicoot 4 goes above and beyond to give a challenge to those with an itch to collect everything. The typical time trial relics and colored gems are back, but now, you can hunt unlockable costumes and go through a remixed version of every level. Unfortunately, the challenge can feel a bit too arbitrary. Such as requiring the platinum time relics for completion or crates hidden in blind leaps of faith.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time lives up to the title in every conceivable way. Toys For Bob is the first to recapture the magic of the original trilogy without relying on it. The trap of retro-revivals is that they often over-rely on the original idea or completely abandon it. The difference between games like Crash 4 and Mega Man 11 is that Crash 4 feels like it’s a new game with an old character. It feels no different than any new Mario or Halo. Mega Man 11 feels like an outdated game with, frankly, an outdated skin. If you’re a fan of the original trilogy, 3D Platformers, or making sure that Spyro the Dragon will also get this treatment, I can’t recommend you pick up Crash 4 enough.