Bringing a beloved franchise back to the spotlight years after it was popular has become a staple of our current entertainment landscape. Movies, TV, and video games have all been subject to this nostalgia frenzy as of late. Studios try to bring back classic titles in the form of reboots, sequels, spinoffs, and even remastered re-releases, all as a way to pull on your nostalgic heartstrings. The Crash Bandicoot series has done basically all of these things over the past couple of years, unveiling a full remastered collection of its original trilogy as well as a new racing game before delivering a brand new installment in the series. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is the first mainline entry in over a decade, and it may just be the best of the entire saga.
Crash Bandicoot 4 begins with Neo Cortex and N. Tropy figuring out a way to escape their time-displaced prison and once again wreak havoc on the universe. This time, however, they discover a rift in reality, allowing them to travel through time and conquer different eras. The adventure to stop them sends Crash, Coco, and Aku Aku to places in both the past, present, and future, including a land filled with dinosaurs and a futuristic, Mad Max-esque apocalyptic society. Along the way, Crash and his pals team up with some old friends and enemies as they all work together to stop Cortex and N. Tropy.
The level settings in Crash 4 are just out of this world, no pun intended. They're incredibly detailed and thoroughly plotted, not to mention much, much longer than the levels in previous games. Each different world is used in unique ways, as the levels really seem custom-tailored to the worlds they take place in. No two levels in this game feel the same. This is especially true when other characters from Crash lore join the mix, and you have a chance to experience the game with completely new sets of abilities.
Like other Crash games in the past, It's About Time is an agonizingly infuriating game, and I mean that in the best way possible. The franchise has always been tedious and difficult, it's something that longtime players and fans have come to expect from it. Crash 4 doubles down on the difficulty, while simultaneously making it easier.
Getting every box, gem, and Wumpa fruit in Crash Bandicoot 4 is going to take an impossibly long time, and you'll probably drive yourself crazy trying to find everything. This game is a completionist's nightmare. But the folks at Toys for Bob understand that people who want those things want to be deliriously challenged. Fortunately, you don't need all of those things to just play the game, even though that's still a difficult play on its own.
See, the rules have changed a bit this time around. Instead of collecting lives that you can lose, ultimately sending you back to the start of a level, Crash 4 simply keeps track have how many tries it takes you to complete a run. You never go back to the start of a level unless you choose to quit or restart, which is good news considering how long the levels are. At the end of the level, you get an additional gem for completing it in less than three tries (good luck). That's the only punishment for getting stuck on a certain piece of a course, you simply don't get that extra gem.
Gems in Crash Bandicoot 4 are used to unlock additional skins and goodies for your characters. So if you don't collect all of the gems in a level, you're only missing out on bonus content. That allows you to push forward and adopt a "come back for it later" mentality whenever you're too frustrated to see straight. It also makes the games more accessible while also keeping their challenge level high.
The challenges and style make the latest installment in the Crash Bandicoot series instantly feel like one of the classics, but there are so many new features and abilities that the game is several steps ahead of its predecessors. It's both a throwback to the past and an innovative glimpse into the future, striking a balance that so few reboots and sequels are able to find. If you love Crash, It's About Time is as close to perfect as you can get, even if it makes you break a controller now and then.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A PS4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was played on a base model PS4.