Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time | Review

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time | Review
When Activision announced that Toys For Bob was working on an official fourth installment of Crash Bandicoot, we cannot hide the fact that a thread of anxiety assailed us. On the other hand, that number until now had only been seen in the Japanese version of Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, and represented a "mystical canonicity" that required a wise knowledge of what the marsupial fan base really wanted from a saga, which had seen its decline begin just as its creators left the brand. After having had the time to dissect it in all its parts, we can finally tell you that Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is exactly what lovers of the most famous videogame marsupial of all time have been waiting for since 1998.

A marsupial… a thousand dimensions

The story of Crash Bandicoot 4 connects directly to the ending of Warped, with Cortex, N.Tropy and Uka Uka captured in the dawn of time and looking for an escape. By exasperating her powers to the extreme, however, Uka Uka manages to open a temporal gap through which N.Tropy and Cortex can finally escape and try to gain control of space and time.

It will be up to Crash, Coco and Aku Aku, aided by the four quantum masks that hold the order of space and time, try to stop the evil plans of the fearsome duo, embarking on an adventure that will see them travel between parallel dimensions and different timelines. Although the plot created by the Toys For Bob guys is very basic, we appreciated how they managed, in addition to maintaining the goliardic spirit of the original chapters, to create a credible script that manages to wisely mix fan service, introduction of new characters and respect for all the productions dedicated to Crash that have taken place from 1998 to today.

From the very first moments of the game, in fact, we can see how much love towards the fans there is in Crash Bandicoot 4. The first level, in fact, takes up the famous N.Sanity Beach and proposes it in a guise halfway between the old and the new. The musical theme is the original one of the first, iconic, chapter and, all around the initial area, we can find references to the Pop Culture of that precise videogame period.

Even the decidedly inflated stratagem of dimensional travel it is used with remarkable skill, flaunting lines of dialogue here and there that catalog the marsupial's previous adventures as something that took place in other parallel universes. A little attention that in addition to respecting the past work, goes to underline the total canonicity of Crash Bandicoot 4 and a potential new beginning for the series.

The introduction, finally, of playable characters such as Tawna, Dingodile and Neo Cortex takes place in an intelligent way, taking advantage of the different parallel dimensions, the randomness of temporal events and the various twists present in the script, to introduce the game phases dedicated to the new characters in a natural way. The dialogues always turn out to be pungent, demented but never excessively absurd or childish, creating a narrative sector that perfectly hits the target and manages to insert the story of Crash Bandicoot 4 in a harmonious way into the lore created, over twenty years ago, from Naughty Dog.

Many, many things to do

A platformer, in order to function at its best, must have three characteristics: a level of challenge that can embrace all types of players, flawless gameplay and well thought out level design. Crash Bandicoot 4, net of a few flaws, succeeds in the arduous task of excelling in all three "golden rules of good platforming".

Before devoting ourselves to the analysis of the latest Toys For Bob effort , however, it is fair to point out that Crash Bandicoot 4 is a "linear platform", or a production that follows the model of the first chapters of the series, requiring the player to go from point A to point B overcoming a series of increasingly complex obstacles . We are not, therefore, facing a wider production, such as Super Mario Odyssey for example.

The final result, however, is not to be considered inferior to those titles where exploration frees the is the master. Crash Bandicoot 4 is a game that follows a very specific style, embracing a type of platform that has been left in the shadows for too long while still having a lot to offer to today's players.

Starting with the analysis of Crash Bandicoot's contents 4, and therefore also of the longevity of production, we can only be satisfied with what Toys For Bob offers. The title contains 43 levels, divided between the main ones and those dedicated to the secondary stories of the various supporting actors, which offer a level of difficulty managed in an almost excellent manner.

To complete all the levels in the game , and see the first available ending, it will take about seven hours. This duration takes into account a minimum of basic exploration and the obtaining of some collectible accessories. In terms of level design there is nothing to complain about what has been achieved in Crash Bandicoot 4, each of the stages is well balanced in terms of difficulty, grouping within it a plethora of secrets that will require the player to repeat them several times before they can be. complete at 100%.

Each level, in fact, provides, in addition to its completion, to collect six gems present inside. Three of these will be obtained by collecting a certain percentage of Wumpa fruits, scattered throughout the stage, while the others can be obtained, respectively, by dying less than three times, destroying all the crates in the level and discovering the location of the hidden gem. within the internship.

Within 21 levels of Crash Bandicoot 4, moreover, you will be able to obtain VHS, if you are able to reach them without dying up to that point of the stage, which will allow access to the respective Flashback levels . These stages will offer specific challenges to the player, such as the destruction of a certain number of crates suspended in the void, and will present a higher level of challenge than the main levels.

At the end of the offer we find the "N.Vertiti" levels which, once unlocked in the early stages of the main adventure, will add an additional challenge to players devoted to "completeness". Each level, in fact, once completed will guarantee access to its mirror version where the player can get six other gems, which will follow the requirements already seen for the original stages, within a level that, while not offering substantial differences in terms of level design, will propose some graphic filters designed to put the player in difficulty.

To give you a practical example, the inverted mode in the first level features a sonar-style filter that forces the player to perform constant spins for being able to see around you. In addition to all this, finally, those who want to reach the coveted 106% completion, and therefore be able to see the secret ending of Crash Bandicoot 4, will also have to obtain all the relics of the timed challenges present in the various levels, as well as all the No warned trophies that will only be released to those players who can complete mirror levels without ever dying.

Jump, dodge, run!

In purely content terms, Crash Bandicoot 4 is presents full of things to do but the level design, and the consequent challenge offered by the title, are they worthy of attention? The answer is a thundering yes. The work done by Toys For Bob can easily be compared to what we saw with Sonic Mania: a production made by fans for fans.

The developers, in fact, have managed to take the excellent foundations of the original trilogy , created by Naughty Dog, and refine, improve and expand them in every possible direction, all without distorting the original concept of the game. The introduction of quantum masks, able to modify the game mechanics in an almost exaggerated way, has proved to be an excellent ploy to expand the gameplay in directions hitherto unexplored by the series.

Being able to control the time, gravity and the elements on the screen, in fact, generate fresh and fun level design solutions. Confining the use of these peculiar masks to certain portions of the levels, moreover, guarantees an excellent balance, without ever creating situations where our marsupial proves to be too advantaged compared to the challenge offered.

For what it concerns the actual level design of the levels present in Crash Bandicoot 4, however, we can only praise the work done by the developers able to mix old and new solutions creating a perfect harmony between level of challenge and game progression. Having to be honest we found a couple of points in the main story excessively unbalanced, almost trying in an exasperated way to propose an excessively difficult challenge, but it was, literally, a few minutes in a couple of levels so nothing really serious considering the totality of the production.

Going into the challenge offered by Crash Bandicoot 4, we appreciated the "middle way", between the first chapter of the series and the other two of the Naughty Dog trilogy, sought after by the developers . The main campaign is not too difficult but not too simple, allowing players less accustomed to the genre, to reach the end of the story with a bit of commitment and guaranteeing hours of "fingertip torture" to lovers of more complex platformers who want to put hands on over 400 gems featured in the title. In addition to all this we find a Retro Mode designed to re-enter a number of lives that defines when you will run into a fearsome Game Over, forcing the player to start the level from the beginning.

As for, instead, the level design of the stages dedicated to Tawna, Cortex and Dingodile, the general feelings were more bittersweet. Not for what concerns the actual structure of the levels, but for the fact that we found them not very thorough, especially after having been able to test their potential firsthand.

The three characters, in fact, have unique movesets and totally different compared to Crash and Coco and this means that even the levels built around them have original level design solutions that can make the player detach from a routine made up of millimeter jumps and breathtaking races.

Tawna, with her grappling hook and the ability to attack melee, transforms the experience into a three-dimensional action game with platform elements; Dingodile, with its powerful size and the game mechanics linked to its aspirator, allows you to face stages in a more relaxed and exploratory way; Cortex, finally, with the ability to transform enemies into platforms, to compensate for the reduced movements given by his slim build, requires the player to think about how to best use the opponents in the game environment.

While it is a great addition to ensure a varied experience within Crash Bandicoot 4, we did not appreciate the excessive trend towards trial and error in some levels dedicated to Neo Cortex, as well as the little in-depth study of these characters who, in terms of pure gameplay, would have needed a dozen more levels to be able to express their full potential.

This is a note, more than a real problem , given more than anything else by the fact of not having been able to "enjoy" more of the excellent work done by Toys For Bob in implementing the game mechanics so different from the canonical ones of the series, for these secondary characters. It remains undoubted, however, that in terms of content, Crash Bandicoot 4 really offers many hours of fun, a well-balanced challenge and a satisfaction in achieving certain objectives that few other platformers have managed to give us back.

A 90s multiplayer

The guys from Toys For Bob, to fully celebrate the years when Crash was an icon, have introduced a couple of multiplayer modes within Crash Bandicoot 4. Nothing transcendental, or that turns out to be a real game changer, but the "Pass and Play" mode, which allows two users to exchange controllers every time you die or reach a Checkpoint, made us smile nostalgic, especially for the care shown in making it. Each of the players, in fact, will receive at the end of the level of statistics to evaluate his game, decreeing a winner each time. In the same way, the multiplayer modes dedicated to timed challenges, or to the destruction of the largest number of crates, with their "only local" nature reminded us of the afternoons spent as kids by passing the controller from hand to hand. A minor addition, it is true, but one that shows a strong desire in the developers to preserve a past that now seems remote.

The technical side of Crash Bandicoot 4

The technical sector Crash Bandicoot 4, as expected for any self-respecting platformer, is solid in almost every part. The frame rate remains stable at 30 frames per second in every moment of the game as well as there are no traces of input lag, guaranteeing the player always precise and responsive controls.

We have, however, noticed some flaws in terms hitbox, albeit infrequently, as well as in some very complex portions of the game, the required speed of action seemed not to be perfectly aligned with the mechanical response times of the controller. Nothing serious but it seemed to us, as already mentioned above, more a forcing of the developers, in looking for an excessively difficult challenge, than a technical deficit. Furthermore, the management of the double jump is peculiar, which seemed to us deliberately slowed down in order to avoid providing the player with an evasive maneuver that is excessively unbalanced in the positive.

In artistic terms, however, Crash Bandicoot 4 is a riot of fan service and references to the past of the series. From the animations of the protagonist to the multiple more or less obvious easter eggs, the title is an apotheosis of vibrant colors, exciting landscapes and atmospheres halfway between nostalgic and unprecedented. Between surprise appearances of Fake Crash, and N.Oxide, return of iconic bears and levels with an extremely sophisticated design, such as the one inspired by the festivities of the day of the dead, moments will never be lacking in which a nostalgic smile will mark your face or your jaw will open at the artistry the game's designers have achieved.

Numerous character skins, unlockable by achieving certain objectives within the levels, also mix old and new to the delight of marsupial fan. Between models that reflect the first appearance of Crash, biker jackets and colorful leggings, each of the costumes in the game turns out to be well made and almost always inspired by design. The audio sector is also top-notch with famous songs rearranged, unpublished melodies that blend perfectly with the past and a dubbing in Italian that is excellently recited and free from gross errors.

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