I’m going to level with you. This past week and a half, a big chunk of my childhood died. Taken too soon by the cold, uncaring hands of the economic aftereffects of this damned pandemic. First it was LaserQuest, a laser tag haven of fun in which I’ve spent oh so many nights with my friends, from my 7th birthday party all the way up until the night before I got married. That place carried so many memories for me. Then the ghost of a pandemic present came for my movie theater. Same deal. Basically grew up there, so many movies and so many friends. Gone and soon to be replaced with an Amazon fulfillment center. I hate it. What’s this got to do with a certain manic marsupial and his return to platforming excellence? Well, I guess my boy Crash just timed his return just right so that he showed up to comfort me in a time where it seemed like everything was changing for the worse. He showed up this past Friday to let me know that some old, comforting things are back and here to stay and to help us forget about our troubles for a while.
I’ll just say this right up front: I am having a ton of fun with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Is it the full blown, more open, exploration based Crash Bandicoot adventure of my dreams? No, but it’s everything that made Crash great in the 90s, distilled and juiced up to 11, and that’s pretty much exactly what I needed right now.
Let’s break it down:
Here’s the deal; Cortex and his band of idiots have been stuck in another dimension since their defeat at the end of Crash 3: Warped, and 20 years later they finally break out. Hijinks ensue, causing Crash and Coco to spring into action to stop them. There’s a smidge more plot this time, short comical cutscenes that play out every few levels to keep nudging you along, it’s not much but I appreciate the effort for sure.
The gameplay is nearly identical to the Crash games of the past. Jumps feel tight and responsive, if you die, it was probably your fault. As of this writing I’m about halfway through, and can’t wait to get through the back half to see what other crazy levels are waiting for me. The big change up to the classic formula this time around are the additions of four new masks, each one changes how Crash interacts with the game world. There’s one that can phase platforms and items in and out of existence, one that gives you a super powered spin move, one that can flip gravity and finally one that can slow down time. Lots of neat tricks added to the standard Crash Bandicoot bag. The masks are used sparingly, so they don’t overwhelm the experience, and never feel like they’re dragging you down, I dig ’em.
What I’m finding that I enjoy the most however, is that if you want cosmetic skins you have to EARN them. This is no joke. I’m halfway through the game and I’ve only unlocked one skin, and that’s because I basically learned an entire level bit by bit by replaying it ad nauseum over the course of a few hours, eventually I collected every wumpa fruit, every box, hidden gem and beat it without dying, in a single run. These requirements all together will earn you a skin. Toys For Bob is not fucking around. I honestly appreciate this a lot, they could’ve added some half assed premium currency like they did to the Crash Team Racing remake, and let you buy costumes and such, but they didn’t. Instead, they make you work your ass off for them and actually, you know, play the game! What a novel concept in this day and age!
After you beat the main story some other modifier options are unlocked to make replaying the levels more and more interesting, I haven’t quite got there yet but I can’t wait to try them out. You also can play some levels as other characters, namely, Tawna, Crash’s old girlfriend with a post apocalyptic makeover, Dingodile, who happens to be my favorite Crash character from back in the day, and of course Dr. Cortex. These levels are brief but offer some side story fun, it’s a win/win.
This game looks beautiful, simple as that. I was going to get it on Switch, but after seeing the trailers I just really wanted to see this looking the best it could, so I went with the Xbox version. In game and in cutscenes the characters bounce and contort with the animated fun and precision of Walt Disney’s finest. The different worlds are a joy to run through as well. My favorite world so far is the third one, it’s sort of a fairy tale world with a japanese spin. Ghostly dragons, yokai spirits and beautiful japanese architecture fill this world and I love it so much. There are other worlds like a Mad Max style desert, and a Pirate world with ramshackle style buildings, beaches and angry hermit crabs with scimitars. The music is great as always as well, no complaints there.
To sum it all up, not every game needs to be a 50 hour open world quest fest, sometimes you just have to get from point A to point B and collect all the fruit along the way. For me at least, Crash 4 is a breath of fresh air this year, and I’m going to try my best at 100%’ing the whole damn thing. Pray for me.