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Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS5/XSX)

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS5/XSX)

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Release: 12/03/2021
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Toys for Bob
Genre: ReviewsXbox Series X Reviews
PEGI: 12+
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Crash Bandicoot 4 finally gets its next-gen port. It’s About Time? Yes, it is.

That barmy bandicoot is back on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X – but if you’ve waited this long, is it worth taking a plunge?

That depends on how nostalgic you feel. Crash 4 is a throwback to a different time, and it pushes that idea often. It’s retro in almost every way that counts, including the difficulty.

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It’s a great game marred by occasional technical difficulties and a peak difficulty that’s going to mean the vast majority of people never see the true ending. You’ll enjoy it, but how much of it you’ll enjoy is almost entirely down to your own skills.

Spinning Up to Crash

After the Crash Bandicoot Trilogy did so well, it was only a matter of time until a true sequel was released. This is that true sequel – it follows up on the originals perfectly, building a new game that feels familiar but developed. That’s a hell of a compliment for a development team that’s no Naughty Dog. That’s a hell of compliment for a development team that had to make a sequel to a twenty-year-old game.

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If you loved Crash as a kid, you’ll at least get a kick out of this. There’s even a “modern” difficulty mode that takes lives out of the equation so you can actually finish it even though you’re old and grey now. Toys For Bob thought of everything.

If you played any of the other games, you know what to expect. Run through a course, trying to survive while breaking boxes, collecting not-apples and smashing enemies. Crash 4 adds an extra layer with masks. These masks are given to you automatically in certain levels and change the way you play. Maybe you can slow down time or switch gravity upside down.

Masks add a new layer of gameplay to what is otherwise a very familiar experience. They also add a new level of difficulty.

I keep coming back to this point, so let me say it emphatically. Crash 4 is hard. There are levels that are SNES-era hard. I played with the idea of getting the platinum in Demon’s Souls before getting distracted, but I’m not even kidding myself here. This game has me beat.

Next-Generation Wumpa

Just getting through the story while trying to collect all the boxes had more than enough moments to frustrate. There are levels where I died 20 or 30 times. This is not a complaint by any means, but a warning. You will get your ass kicked. It may be you might not want to get the 100 per cent ending, or even the 106 per cent ending. If that’s a dealbreaker, look elsewhere.

But if you decide against it based on difficulty, you’ll be missing out on a hell of a game. Even if you just get through the main story, that’s 10-15 hours of pretty decent retro PS1-like platforming. And it plays best on the next-gen consoles.

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The base PlayStation 4 barely managed 30fps most the time, and even the Xbox One X sunk below 1080p occasionally. This is a game that pushed the last generation to its limits, and the only way to play without compromise is to jump on the PlayStation 5 or Series X.

The graphics are crisp, the framerates stable – everything is as it should be. It’s still the same game, but it’s the best version of the same game, hands down. If you haven’t played it yet, you did the right thing waiting.

Whether you’ll want to return or not is up to you. Are shinier graphics enough for you? Is that more stable framerate a dealbreaker? Then come back, else you’ve probably seen everything you’re going to see.

Friends In Odd Places

Honestly, this is a lovely-looking game. It looks like the originals still do in my head. The only time that isn’t true is the cutscenes, when things take a turn for the ugly. They must be pre-rendered and the patch didn’t get high-resolution versions, because they look awful compared to gameplay.

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I’ve seen some people describe this game as looking like CGI. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s true that it’s very, very pretty. It’s easy to see why it was so scaled back visually on the PS4 and Xbox One S – and, if we’re honest, on the Switch.

Music feels new but nostalgic which, given everything else I’ve said so far, makes perfect sense. The voice work is decent, even for the new playable characters. Yes, you can play as Dingodile, and it’s great fun. These levels are mostly optional, the characters never outstay their welcome and are used in an interesting way. It’s not like the Big missions in Sonic Adventure.

These missions play into your 100%+ completion, as does every single other thing in the game. Each level has an N.Verse mission, which plays around with the art design and colours for some incredible-looking levels. Finish each of those – on top of the main game – while collecting everything in the level and not dying? Then do platinum time trials where you need an exactly perfect run to get the top relic?

My anxiety is flaring up just thinking about it.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS5/XSX) – Review Conclusion

And here we are again, back to the difficulty. It’s hard not to mention it as the overriding thing about this game. It’s fun, it’s bright and colourful, and it will beat you down.

But if I’m going to lose all confidence in my gaming skills, I’m going to do it on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. These are subtle but important upgrades over the original release, and current-gen console owners who waited are completely vindicated for their decision.

It helps that it’s a great game in and of itself. I can only imagine the pressure that was on Toys For Bob in creating the first official numbered Crash sequel since 1998, but they outdid themselves. This isn’t just a great game, it’s a great Crash game, and that’s a massively impressive feat.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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