After a successful grab at nostalgia with the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, developer Toys for Bob has taken the lead with Crash Bandicoot 4 It’s About Time, a title that’s part retcon, part homage and part sequel. The result is a highly enjoyable platformer that not only returns our favourite marsupial back to his roots but offers some modern, iterative gameplay too.
As we detailed in our preview, It’s About Time does away with anything beyond Naughty Dog’s original Crash trilogy and serves as an immediate sequel. Crash and Coco are tasked not to collect gems or crystals (though they do), but Quantum Masks this time around in an effort to fix a cracked space-time continuum. On their quest to heal various dimensions and points in time, they’ll partner with allies in an attempt to bring down Neo Cortex and his frenemies.
Crash was — and still is — known for challenging gameplay, and It’s About Time is no different. Those who want to go down the Souls-like platformer can do so in Retro mode with a set number of lives, but I reckon most of us will be quite happy with the Modern difficulty setting, providing infinite lives and the ability to start from your last checkpoint when felled. If you’re truly horrible, Crash 4 will even go as far as create new checkpoints, give you an Aku Aku mask for limited invincibility or even jump you ahead in a level so you can keep on playing.
Gameplay is as Crash fans know and move. Both Crash and Coco have a double jump, a spin, a crawl/slide move and a new springy double-jump that gives extra height when starting a jump from a charged crouch. Jumping doesn’t feel as floaty as it did back when we previewed It’s About Time, but I concede that could also me getting back into the feel of things after a long time away. Regardless, I’m in love with new modern sensibilities that show an indicator of where Crash or Coco will land after a jump, a much-needed addition to accompany some challenging platforming sections.
The new Quantum Masks are a big part of It’s About Time, with various new powers on offer depending on the one you’ve equipped (and they’re static in-level, not able to be swapped at will). One will phase objects in an out of existence, another will slow down time, one more will award you purple magic that allows you to infinitely spin and counteract green magic and a final one will let you flip gravity on its head.
The masks can sometimes feel gimmicky at times, but do a nice job of changing up gameplay overall, much like chase sequences and bosses used to do in Crash of old. At their worst, you’re simply toggling phase states between groupings of crates, but at their best, you’re doing things like grinding rails, looping underneath to grab collectibles before quickly clambering up top to jump, toggle a phase and pass through obstacles that are no longer there.
Additional characters add more enjoyment than the masks do, in terms of variety, with Tawna and her hookshot, Dingodile and his vacuum gun and Neo Cortex and some crazy traversal options the perfect companions to our protagonists. You’ll get more gameplay through the characters and dedicated levels themselves, but also just hitting up regular levels again to collect all gems and best time trial modes in order to unlock microtransaction-free (at least, thusfar) character skins.
There are also unique levels in the form of diabolically tricky Flashback levels (think a normal level’s secret area on steroids — lots and lots of ’em) and N Verted levels too. The latter are not my cup of tea at all, each boasting an insanely awful art style that makes my eyes bleed. While that feature is part of the advertised challenge, I just ended up avoiding them. Perhaps those levels are the best chance to try out Pass N. Play Mode, one that lets you tap into gaming methods of old my passing off your controller to a friend between deaths or checkpoints.
Simply put, It’s About Time manages to capture the feeling of old school, challenging Crash games of old while adding a modern spin to increase enjoyability for those of us who don’t enjoy bashing our heads against a brick wall when difficulty skyrockets. It’s full of quirkiness, humour, and is a worthy sequel in comparison to Naughty Dog’s previous outings. Kudos to Toys for Bob. There’s a tradeoff with Switch in terms of framerate and smoothness for portability, so if you’re staying put we’d recommend its Xbox or PlayStation versions.
Crash Bandicoot 4 It’s About Time was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One X (Xbox One version) and Switch, both as provided by the publisher. This review was originally published on 1 October 2020. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.
12 March 2021 (Switch, PS5, Xbox Series)