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Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time review

Crash is back, and he was well worth the wait

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time review
(Image: © Activision)

Our Verdict

A top-tier platformer that recaptures the magic of the late '90s, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is an absolute blast to play, and a visual feast for the eyes.

For

  • Multiple playable characters
  • Tried and tested gameplay
  • Beautiful levels, full of secrets

Against

  • Frustrating checkpoints
  • Might feel too familiar for some
  • Neo Cortex levels aren't great

It might have taken 22 years to get here, but Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is a glorious return for the cheeky marsupial. With the recent releases of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, it's become clear that there's still a lot of love for the jorts-wearing mascot amongst the gaming community. And it helped that both remakes were handled with aplomb, too. 

But a question that often arises with any reboot, remake or sequel – particularly after such a long period of time has passed – is whether it’s really necessary. Some things are better left in the past after all, and there was a chance that a poorly executed modern-day Crash Bandicoot game could spin Sony's old mascot straight back into the depths of obscurity.

Review information

Time played: 12 hours
Platform: Xbox One X

Thankfully, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a Wumpa-filled win for the orange-furred hero and is arguably one of the finest platformers available to date. There are so many elements that fans of Crash’s older outings will adore, and the buffet of box-smashing fun that awaits newcomers is bound to please. Simply put, Crash Bandicoot has never been better. 

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time price and release date

  • What is it? The sequel to Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
  • Release Date? October 2, 2020
  • What can I play it on? PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
  • Price? Standard edition is roughly $59.99 / £49.99 / AU$99.95

Wumpa load of this

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time Crash and Coco

(Image credit: Activision)
  • Enjoyable boss battles
  • Rewarding difficulty level
  • Five playable characters

The linear-platforming formula that Crash first championed in 1997 is just as enjoyable today as it was all those years ago. Shifting between a 3D and 2D plane, along with grinding down rails, might not be as ambitious as more open-ended titles such as Super Mario Odyssey, but by ditching the sandbox nature many platformers pursue, Crash's levels are far more refined. 

They can often present more of a visual spectacle, too. Whether you're bouncing through a vibrant carnival-style stage, escaping a pursuing T-Rex or riding on the back of a baby polar bear as you career down a mountain, there’s so much detail packed into each level that it’s almost a shame you’ll be mostly fixated on smashing crates and discovering hidden gems.

"This is a challenging and sometimes rage-inducing game, but yet it always manages to feel fair."

From the game’s nostalgic world map screen to its simple run and jump gameplay, there’s definitely an air of familiarity to proceedings. However, the game throws enough perilous platforming sections and new abilities your way to make the experience feel suitably fresh. Oh, and it's noticeably difficult, too, which is a hallmark of the Crash Bandicoot series. Don’t let its child-like presentation fool you – this is a challenging and sometimes rage-inducing game, but yet it always manages to feel fair.

Mask up

Crash Bandicoot Coco

(Image credit: Activision)

  • Toe-tapping soundtrack
  • Tons of replay value
  • Exceptional presentation throughout

This time around, Crash will need to harness the power of the Quantum Masks. The masks grant the wearer the ability to phase objects in and out of existence, slow time, manipulate gravity and perform a ludicrously fast spin that makes Crash almost invulnerable. They ultimately serve to help spice up how a number of levels are tackled and they’re always a welcome sight. It’s testament to how well they’ve been implemented into the core gameplay experience that they never feel like they’ve been shoe-horned in just to make up for a lack of ideas. 

The Quantum Masks are also the focal point for the game’s refreshingly straightforward story. The usual suspects of N. Tropy, Dr. N. Gin, Dr. N. Brio and Dr. Neo Cortex are aiming to harness the dimension-altering abilities of the masks and, as rifts open up all around the world, Crash and his crew spring into action to stop the evil practitioners from carrying out their dastardly deeds.

Let's do the time warp

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time level

(Image credit: Activision)
  • No microtransactions
  • Local "pass and play" multiplayer mode
  • Puts your platforming skills to the test

It isn't just Crash versus the world's worst scientists, though. You can play as five characters this time around, each of whom bring something new to the table. Crash and Coco operate almost identically, but Tawna, Dingodile and Neo Cortex present their own unique takes on platforming to keep you on your toes. Tawna’s grappling hook lets you pull yourself towards faraway platforms, Dingodile’s vacuum can suck up TNT boxes which you can fire at enemies, and Neo Cortex can use his ray-gun to turn foes into platforms to spring off. Neo Cortex's levels are by far the weakest of the bunch, but they're a refreshing change of pace nonetheless.

If you were apprehensive about spending $60 on a platformer, don't be. There's so much to do in Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time that you'll be spending hours trying to beat the game's many bonus levels and collecting every gem on offer once the credits roll. The new N.Verted levels will pose a particular challenge, too, as they mirror the layout of levels and mask them in a striking visual filter that can make things noticeably tricky. 

Spin when you're winning

Crash Bandicoot 4 run level

(Image credit: Activision)
  • Quantum Masks mix things up nicely
  • Unlockable skins for Crash and Coco
  • Landing indicator is a game-changer

Thankfully, developer Toys for Bob have made some much-needed quality of life improvements to Crash Bandicoot as well. You can now choose between Modern or Retro mode before you begin the game, and we'd highly recommend the former. Modern gives you unlimited attempts at a level, but shames you by recording how many times you've died, while Retro is for purists who enjoy collecting lives and being suitably punished when they eventually run out. 

"Having a clear indication of where your character will land is honestly a godsend."

One of the most subtle improvements, though, comes in the form of a small shadow that appears when your character is over crates or certain obstacles. In the past, you'd be left at the mercy of some spotty depth perception, so having a clear indication of where your character will land is honestly a godsend. Sadists can turn this option off if they choose, however. 

There's even a pseudo local multiplayer mode this time around called Pass N. Play. You can take it in turns to pass the controller when a player dies or reaches a checkpoint, and it's a great way of letting more skilled players help novices progress through more challenges areas.

Verdict

A masterful platformer that succeeds in every single department, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is a wonderful reminder of just why so many fell in love with the sneaker-clad character all those years ago. Welcome back, Crash – just don't keep us waiting two decades next time.