Tested game: Crash Bandicoot 4 – It’s About Time (Demoversion)
Format: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Tested format: Playstation 4 Pro
The autumn of 2020 seems to offer a real platform game renaissance. In addition to a brand new Ratchet & Clank for the Playstation 5 and Psychonauts 2 for the Xbox consoles, Nintendo and Sega are also rumored to be planning new games with their respective mascots Mario and Sonic. However, a much more unexpected comeback was recently revealed, when Activision unveiled Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. After successful remasters of the original trilogy and Crash Team Racing, our dear Crash should be in good hands, right? Or?
Our cautious optimism should not be misunderstood. Crash has not had it easy since the breakup with the creators Naughty Dog. A couple of brave attempts to innovate have been made by different developers. But with the result in hand, none of the subsequent games have made a particularly big impression – and is probably also the reason why Crash eventually fell into oblivion. So it was with horror-mixed delight that we started up a very early demo version of the new, upcoming adventure.
Writes about history
Just as it appeared in the trailer, Crash Bandicoot 4 takes place directly after Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped from 1998. In the said trailer, the characters even joke about the fact that Crash only defeated his nemesis Neo Cortex three times. All games post-Naughty Dog thus seem to be more or less blown away from the new timeline.
When we first get control of Crash, we are in the past, in what seems to be a snow-filled fishing village with zombie fishermen around every corner. In classic crash mode, the tracks are narrow and one-way. One problem with platform games in open environments is that we can pass around the antagonists, but in Crash Bandicoot 4 we are forced to deal with every obstacle.
During certain segments, the tracks can bypass the locked layout and open up slightly. In the demo version, it takes place halfway through the fishing village, where we suddenly have to jump between large blocks of ice and small boats. All the while avoiding the icy water as well as the iconic, exploding boxes scattered here and there.
However, all platform jumping requires precision, and fortunately the developer Toys For Bob has managed to capture the feeling from Naughty Dog’s original trilogy. Of course, the character model itself is updated and we notice that Crash moves more naturally. But when it comes down to it, everything is intact, and it only takes a couple of minutes for us to get back in sync with control. Much like yesterday we played Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped on the very first Playstation console.
It also means that the classic maneuvers are back. The famous spin attack is accompanied by a double jump, belly splash and glide attack. To master the courses to one hundred percent, it is necessary to use the skills in symbiosis with each other. When we go through extra difficult passages, we also notice that Crash Bandicoot 4 gives us the same rewarding feeling as in the first three games.
New and old acquaintances
Of course, Crash also offers new adventures with completely fresh elements. The game’s main “gimmick” is the new masks that give Crash special features. In the demo version, we get to test two of these. The first stops the time for a short while. Here, for example, it is important to sync the function to falling objects and thus get past difficult obstacles. Of course, the area of use is limited and the mask disappears automatically after a completed segment.
The second mask allows us to switch between objects that are in different dimensions. In practice, it is important to time which boxes, or obstacles, should appear and which should disappear. In the demo, this happens during “rail sections” where we already time jumps over various obstacles. The “dimension changer” gives these segments a new meaning and also has the potential to add more tricky platform segments.
A more familiar feature is the ability to control characters other than just Crash. Once the game is released, both Crash’s sister Coco and the old rival Neo Cortex will be fully playable. In the demo version there is a segment with the latter. Neo Cortex has a different style of play where his gimmick is to turn enemies into cement or rubber blocks. Here, the fast gameplay is broken into a more puzzle-like layout. Certainly an entertaining one, at least as a bonus.
A promising new start
With only three tracks, one of which is a variant of the very first, it is still too early to draw any conclusions as to whether Crash Bandicoot 4 can match the original trilogy. But so far we are pleasantly surprised. All classic elements are well represented, from death animations and victory dances to platform design and movement schedule. The new masks also have great potential to contribute with completely new ways of exploring the courses.
Now we just hope that the developer Toys For Bob leaves the more superfluous details (like the Bazookan from Crash 3) to the story and invests in balancing the new elements with the classic gameplay we all love. Because after more than two decades of substandard Crash games, it’s really time for us to get a game worthy of the name Crash Bandicoot 4.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will be released on October 2, 2020 for Playstation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X.