There aren’t many marsupial gaming superstars. While koalas likely just can’t be arsed, we had Kangaroo in the arcades and, of course, Crash Bandicoot – and he’s back, baby!
While the likes of numbats, opossums and quokkas may dream of being the lead in a massive games franchise, they just haven’t made it. But Crash is not only quite legendary now, he’s also got staying power. This is his first new outing – he popped back for the N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing do-overs – since the late PS2 days. That’s quite a siesta, yet the story follows straight on from that of Warped.
The reason the Crash Bandicoot games have had such longevity is down to their challenging-but-fun 3D platforming action. That’s the go with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, which wisely doesn’t mess too much with the formula that made the series so successful in the first place.
The big difference? Current day sensibilities. The production here is real AAA stuff, with captivating cutscenes featuring top voice acting and a sensational classically-styled animation vibe that really adds character to old favourites. From these to the in-between map screens to the many options, Crash has never been this slick.
“Anybody who played any of the classic Crash games will feel right at home in It’s About Time.”
The story? It goes a little like this… Doctors Neo Cortex and N. Tropy are after four Quantum Masks in order to enslave the multiverse. It’s up to Crash, his sister Coco and assorted other associates to keep the whole freedom of choice thing happening multiverse-wise.
Anybody who played any of the classic Crash games will feel right at home in It’s About Time. It takes familiar mechanisms, such as the behind view running and flipping to a side view right through to dastardly crate placement, and adds craftily to the mix. The biggest new thing is those Quantum Masks, which give Crash or Coco (or, at various points, Tawna, Dingodile or Neo Cortex) funky new ways to change up gameplay, such as slowing time or flipping universes to solve puzzles. Add vine swinging, wall running and more and there’s a lot to get to grips with.
Crash’s controls have also been given a working over. You can double jump right from the get-go, and while the slide ‘n’ jump mechanism remains, the sprint and death tornado spin functions have been retired.
There’s a potential downside for some with It’s About Time being so loyal to its roots, and that’s the frustration factor. The original games were classic-styled challenging, rather than the more hand-holdy vibe that tends to be the norm nowadays. This is even acknowledged by the game with the initial choice of playing “retro” you-die-you-lose-a-life or the less fiendish “modern” you-die-don’t sweat-as-you-have-unlimited-lives. Some levels have sections that are totally trial and error, and believe us, there will be error. Still, the controls are generally solid, and if your plucky protagonist goes south it’s usually patently obvious why – you stuffed up.
As for longevity, It’s About Time is bulging with the stuff. It’s one thing to get through a level, it’s another to complete it with a full complement of relics and gems (secret and otherwise). Too many deaths has an effect, as does the amount of Wumpa fruit that you gather on your travels. Add variations on levels, time trials, unlockable costumes, reversed levels, a fun retro mode and even pass the controller play (just like the olden days!) and there’s lots to dig into.
If you’re a long-time Crash fan then you’re going to adore the Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time experience, but be warned… If your platforming chops have become softened in recent years then you’re in for many a rude shock.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.