The early Crash Bandicoot games of the 90s were experiments in part as a way to navigate the 3D space. The crash did not pass freely in the open world; the march descended through digital tunnels that were built solidly. The camera zoomed in and into action and surrounded the character, which seemed to be a novel at the time.
Crash’s movement, however, is limited in ways that seem to be limited by today’s standards. In a way, the Crash Bandicoot game was a product of those technical limitations just as it was one creative idea. And yet, those restrictions helped produce one of the most memorable 1996 characters. Crash Bandicoot 4: About Time proves that the old formula is still valid in 2020.
The excitement of knowing the Crash 4’s most challenging levels is rewarding, but some of the most deadly traps appear in blue, which means you have to play the stages over and over again to memorize the make-up of each level. The “modern” difficulty allows you to play with unlimited lives, which removes some of the abuse, but remote testing sites still test my patience, as they force me to jump on regular buttocks to get back to the platform I stumbled on.
While the Crash explosion sounds like an outdated one, this bandicoot has a few new steps. Throughout his journey, Crash collects a handful of Quantum Masks giving him new advanced skills. For example, one mask allows you to change gravity so that Crash can run on the roof, while the other allows you to turn it into a spinning vortex that floats over large chasms.
I really liked the Kupuna-Wa mask, which reduces the time, so I was able to meet the falling objects and avoid projectile moving fast. These masks go in and out of the game at set times, so you can’t access them whenever you want, but I was always happy when someone else came along. Plus, I’m excited about how Quantum Masks is adding new wrinkles to the old Crash Gameplay in a way that sounds realistic in the franchise atmosphere.
With Crash 4, engineer Bob Toys send Crash and his sister Coco for fun in space and time. In one set of levels, I battled sailors as I dodged a cannon fire. In one, I pulled out dinosaur heads and over a stream of moving mud. On another occ asion, I walked along a busy highway, miles above the future big city. Every level is full of views and wacky sounds that made me smile, and I couldn’t wait to see where I was headed next.
However, this experience is about a journey beyond the destination, and Crash’s stage setting remains faithful to his original sacrifice in both good and bad ways. On the other hand, the controls are more responsive than ever, and I loved tying from one dangerous platform to the next while I hit boxes full of Wumpa fruit. On the other hand, the exact sequence of Crash 4 requires practice.
In addition to Quantum Masks, Crash and Coco are joined by a number of lesser-known groups, such as Doctor Neo Cortex, Dingodile and Tawna. These new characters have their own unique movesets, which show them a handful of dedicated levels scattered throughout the game. These special levels offer a refreshing change of pace. Cortex, for example, is unable to jump twice, so his levels are focused on using the gun to turn enemies into turbulent platforms that introduce him into the air. However, my favorite newcomer is Tawna, another real change of Crash’s love interest from the first game. Tawna comes in with a dangling hook that allows her to break away from large spaces and blow boxes away, and I always jump to her special levels the second time I open them up.
In many ways, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time sounds like a game that shouldn’t work. Single-player players, driven by scots, hardcore platforms are few and far between these days. In addition, many franchises born in the mid-’90s have had to continue to reinvent themselves to match the ever-changing market preferences. At its core, Crash 4 stays grounded in the old way of doing things, but that’s not a bad thing. The visuals are clean now and Crash has a few new jokes, but when you shake it up, Crash 4 looks like the old platform you used to love.