Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 19.03.2021 3

Review for Crash Bandicoot 4: It

After the massive success of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4 review; Switch review), the remakes of the original PlayStation threesome of challenging 3D platformers that most of the elders among us will remember from the late 90s, it seemed a guarantee that Activision Blizzard would push for an all-original sequel in the coming years. Sure enough, that moment arrived last year when Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time released on PS4 and Xbox One - and now Nintendo Switch owners can go wumpa eating, crate smashing and mad scientist beating through dimensions, too!

Crash Bandicoot's absence has definitely been felt over the last couple of console generations. Sometimes a rest is necessary for franchises, though, as Crash looked to be going down the trap that Sonic the Hedgehog had found itself in for far too long, which was churning out very few hits and many misses without pause. Crash Bandicoot 4 brings with it some fairly high expectations, since the remakes of the original trilogy were met with hefty plaudits and fans have been clamouring for something fresh for far too long.

Following the ending of Crash's third adventure, recurring bad guys Neo Cortex and N. Tropy open rifts in dimensions, their goal being to rule over time and space and defeat those pesky marsupials once and for all. This being the case, Crash and sister Coco naturally get swooped up in events, where they meet plenty of recognisable faces from across timelines that determine the course of the past, present, and future!

What developer Toys for Bob has achieved here is commendable. Crash 4 blends the old and the new, innovating just enough that this 3D platformer rarely grows stale when played with the intention of simply beating each stage. After being forced to wade through and accept a rather intimidating set of terms of service and privacy policy agreements before being allowed to even see the title screen, it is clear from the get-go that this is the Crash Bandicoot game fans have wanted for quite some time - warts and all.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time on Nintendo Switch

Tropical isles, grand canyons, pirate ships, icy caves, prehistoric forests, spaceships, and a whole lot of other neat themes that are far worth discovering - there are all manner of backdrops and setups that stages take place in, and rarely do they overstay their welcome before introducing a fresh environment.

Crash 4 follows the same gameplay style as before - get to the end of the level whilst dodging hazards, spinning into or jumping on enemies, collecting fruit and smashing crates. It's simple platforming, and Crash's basic moveset stays the same throughout the game - except for once he obtains each of the four masks encountered in the story.

These masks provide a unique element to gameplay, whether it is to continuously spin and float through the air, make things that are invisible visible (e.g. crates and platforms), reverse gravity, and slow down time. At certain points in various stages, one of these masks will be forced onto Crash, until it is taken away again once its purpose is complete.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time on Nintendo Switch

When combining these masks with the fact that levels constantly play out in different styles - whether that is running away from or towards the camera, grinding along rails, escaping something chasing you, swinging on ropes, moving through 2D side-scrolling sections, riding jetties or polar bears, and doing a whole lot more - there is a magnitude of diversity when it comes to the platforming on offer here. That isn't even delving into the gameplay the other playable characters bring to the fold when their levels roll around, too!

Achievements are plenty, and that usually involves collecting fruit and smashing crates. Rewards are mostly in the form of costumes for Crash and Coco, whilst the rest of it is generally percentage points and bragging rights. Sadly, there are caveats to what is achievable, because this is one tough game, having far more in common with Crash's first adventure than the proceeding two.

Although getting through each stage isn't strictly difficult, when it comes to trying to collect the majority of the fruit and certainly if looking to destroy all crates, Crash 4 is pretty unforgiving. Even from the early stages, it is apparent that obtaining all crates is not going to be handed on a plate, and the bonus rooms, in particular, are extremely punishing.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time on Nintendo Switch

A welcome goal to aim for is completing a stage with no more than three deaths. While this does give some leeway that means even the best of the best players out there can afford mistakes, this, too, is one mighty feat, for there are so many examples of cheap failures, pinpoint precision platforming being required on so many occasions - and even then, it may not even seem like a fault of your own, just that the hitboxes and pixel-perfect timings of things give way to relatively little mercy.

Whilst lives are still a thing, Toys for Bob has changed things up a bit and allowed for the option to completely do away with them in what it calls the Modern gameplay style. Whereas the Retro style still utilises lives to further punish those that don't make it to the end of a level before having to start all over again once they run out, the Modern setup grants infinite retries from the last checkpoint that was hit, but keeps track of all the deaths accumulated on the current stage (thus the reward for three or less still encourages concentrated and good playing). In an era where lives are increasingly redundant, this is a great new spin on things that could go down well in Mario (and other) titles that still incorporate them.

A lot of love and passion has gone into the creation of Crash Bandicoot 4. The numerous references to past games, the high-quality animations and personality thrown into each character, the colourful and thoughtful designs of each stage that deliver constant scenic and gameplay changes, the way other characters' stages link into those of Crash and Coco's exploits - the developers have really tried to craft a worthy sequel to the original trilogy that had been sorely lacking since Naughty Dog parted from the franchise.

There are just a few niggling points that limit the amount of fun that can be had with Crash 4, though. Maybe it is coming from playing so many short and snappy levels in Super Mario 3D World, but stages in this title have a tendency to go on for too long. It makes all the crate hunting extra frustrating when getting to the end and finding out you missed just one or two. Often, the thought of replaying a stage over while going for boxes that total over three hundred is enough to not bother. The same applies when going for three-death runs, and just slipping up at the end to something so minor.

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Challenge is always welcome in games, and especially so when it is optional and centred on rewards secondary to the main adventure, but it sure feels like a shame that even the act of getting all crates in a level is a huge exercise in frustration that didn't seem like it existed in some of the earlier games in the series. Crash 4 might look like a game aimed at kids, but it doesn't play like one!

That all said, the effort to modernise the lives system, as previously mentioned, and throwing in extra checkpoints and Aku Aku masks to absorb a hit if dying too much are appreciated. An option to display a ring marker to show exactly where Crash will land when he is in the air is a hugely grateful feature, too (this would have been welcome in Super Mario 3D World!). Further respect must be expressed for the wealth of accessibility options in the menus, including full customisable button mapping and a host of colour-blind and subtitle text options. Bizarrely, these still aren't standard in video games, so they must be highlighted. Kudos to the developers here.

It shouldn't come as any surprise, but the Nintendo Switch version of Crash Bandicoot 4 is the most inferior of those available on other platforms. Switch owners likely don't need any heads-up about this these days, but it is worth mentioning, particularly since there is a large discrepancy between docked and portable gameplay. The big screen is where this looks its absolute best, and it certainly isn't bad by any means. Duller and missing many of the special effects of other versions, sure, but not bad.

The frame-rate is half of that of its brethren, though, hitting the 30fps range as opposed to 60. Portable mode takes an even bigger impact on the resolution, with lots of blotchy looking visuals. If you pretend it's going for the original PS1 effect, though, it's easier to accept. Ultimately, whilst there are major downgrades, it doesn't drastically alter the amount of fun that can be had, although docked is the recommended way to play.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Crash Bandicoot 4 is a raving success when it comes to producing a sequel worthy of the franchise's original trilogy. Any fan should have no hesitations in picking this up. The content on offer is huge, with tons to collect and aim for in every stage, costumes to unlock, different characters to play as, fresh gameplay that compliments the familiar, and bundles of humour and charm. This is not an easy game, however. Getting to the end is one thing, but be prepared for one of the toughest tasks in modern games if attempting to 100% every level. Despite the performance cutbacks on Switch, it runs and looks well enough, but if portable play doesn't matter to you, it might be wiser to opt for one of the other versions.

Developer

Toys for Bob

Publisher

Activision Blizzard

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I really didn't like Trilogy. I'd never played the originals, but just couldn't get into them in the re-release pack. I AM intrigued about this one, although I'm no longer the hardcore gamer I was in my youth, so that difficulty level seems a bit daunting Smilie Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I don't think you'll like it. For me it feels as if it was made only for those experienced with the previous games, as it goes straight to the more challenging levels much faster.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

Yeah, definitely one for fans of the originals and remakes. I was saddened by how frustratingly difficult it can be just to get all the crates in one stage now. I don't think it needed to be this difficult, especially so early on in the game.

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