Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time It is that kind of product that, to this day, it is suspicious by its origin, since before playing it we will all think about the legacy of the original trilogy. For fans of Naughty Dog’s work, the suspicion will be given by the inevitable question: will it be up to the task? However, for players who have survived the past decades without paying much attention to the marsupial, two questions open up: Is it worth getting into this now, in the middle of 2021? Y Has Toys for Bob really been able to go beyond a simple, albeit correct, exercise in nostalgia? The game now comes to PS5, Xbox Series X / S and Nintendo Switch after passing through the previous generation.
The answers are yes yes and again yes. And that the fans of the saga excuse me, but This is written by someone who couldn’t care less about the adventures and misadventures of the icon of the first PlayStation. What I come to say with this is that I have been able to approach the work of Californians with a sanitized look and totally free of nostalgia. With which I think that the pleasant impression that I have ended up taking has, if possible, more merit.
An ancient language that is still functional
What I am very fond of is platforms, a genre somewhat maligned in the environment of large productions unless a certain mustachioed plumber makes an appearance. An appointment that, like so many millions of players, I do not usually miss. Bringing out the good old Mario may seem like something in bad taste, and I understand that, but I also understand that, for most of the public, he is the benchmark of the genre. Now, my intention is not to do a comparison exercise to argue against Crash, but rather the opposite. Because Crash Bandicoot 4, perhaps it does not reach that finesse in control that the recently relaunched brings Super Mario 3D World, but you have to take into account several things. First of all, that their feedback is a direct inheritance from the remake of the original trilogy, which in turn made a huge effort to maintain the feel of the previous titles. That is to say, Toys for Bob moves within the margins established by the saga itself, with permission to express itself only in the playable language that Naughty Dog was invented in the late nineties. A respectable decision, which advocates keeping the saga glued to its original identity and preserving the flame of a very particular type of gameplay that, today, could seem like a too tight corset.
The fact is that during the first half of the first level I thought that this corset was going to prevent It’s About Time breathe freely, but how good it feels to make mistakes sometimes and how little that feeling lasted me. If there is one thing the studio does well, it is to be aware of the video game baggage of its target audience. Keeping this in mind it doesn’t take two levels to start twisting the rules of the game, something that is noticed in the second world, when the first of the quantum masks appears, and it does not stop providing surprises and freshness throughout the adventure.
One mask to rule them all … or was it four?
Masks are, for all practical purposes, the way to loosen the corset that the new team has found, the path to deep breaths and breaths that oxygenate the ancient playable core making it look great. Yes, it is true, there is not that precision in the control of which we spoke before, but, in fact, there never was, and neither does it need it, because it does not need more for what it raises. The design of its levels, the size of the platforms and even the margin of error that the limits of the environment give us, are adjusted efficiently, getting the game not to sin from the worst that can happen to a platform, being unfair. In fact, it is there, in the efficiency of its level design, where the great value of this fourth installment resides (in my opinion), something that begins to shine, as we said before, through its quantum masks.
But what do those masks really add? In addition to the odd naive joke, these objects / characters serve as an excuse for Crash to alter different elements of the reality that surrounds him, something that goes from exchanging different realities to slowing down time or altering the direction of gravity. The first of them makes an appearance just before reaching the second world, just to explain four things related to its fictional nature and then allow us to play with parallel dimensions. The mechanism is reminiscent, functionally, of the color change system that articulated all the gameplay of the frenzied Fast Racing Neo from WiiU (since once engaged in its use, it will require a similar level of reflexes), and in the result to some of the phases seen in 3D Land and 3D World. Is about a mechanic that is expressed in a truly original way combining successfully with the structure of each of the levels to give rise, at all times, to surprising situations, varied and challenging.
That way of proceeding sets the tone for the rest of the title. Each new world has a new mask and this, in turn, with a function that turns upside down the entire playable structure that we had assimilated so far. The masks represent, together with the successful structure of almost all its levels, an escape route that allows Crash Bandicoot 4 to remain glued to the essence of the first trilogy while reinventing itself to offer something new to both fans of the franchise and newcomers who, like me, looked at this title with some skepticism.
But of course, in a genre in which great productions are not abundant, it is not enough to offer the closed package of the classic adventure that we finish and return to the shelf, and much less in these times, in which the titles seem be sold by weight on many occasions. And over there, Through this path designed to expand the offer, Crash has found another way of escape to express himself freely.
An offer that can easily exceed demand
This is something that is noticeable, first of all, in its cast of controllable characters, which reaches up to 5: Coco (now a full-fledged co-star) Twanna, Dingio and Neo Cortex. Each one of them represents, in the purest Donkey Kong Country style, a different way of approaching the world and interacting with it. What in a platform comes to be translated into a different way of salting, of prolonging the stay in the air, of attacking and even of moving. When we drive Dingo Dile, for example, we will not have the double jump that Tawna, Coco and Crash have. But, on the other hand, we can plan after the first jump and end with a backfire that allows us to access hidden places.
These five different ways of approaching the title do not remain in the water of borage, being used at different points on their screens, always justifying a new round with a different character in search of secrets that were passed to us in that first iteration. A way of structuring the revisit and stretching the durability of the title that seems right to me, well it usually takes into account the evolution of the player’s skill, preparing to offer, on an ongoing basis, a greater challenge.
And it is that, as it happens in the best structured platforms, Crash Bandicoot 4 Teaching the player throughout the game is taken very seriously and subsequently subjected to the relevant content examination. On this occasion, as usual, this test takes place in the last phases of the game, at which time the title, after having taught us those new mechanics that emerge from their masks, goes out of his way to combine all his ideas and offer us his best face just before seeing the credits.
A sequel that claims its space
Where does all this take us? Well, in my case, to look at Crash Bandicoot 4 and be amazed with the final result of it, one that is also enhanced in the new generation consoles. In my case, I have had the opportunity to play it on PS5 and it is a delight to enjoy both the speed at which it loads and the sharpness and fluidity of its image. Too bad that the use of the Dual Sense functionalities is somewhat timid, especially with the amount of elements that populate each of the levels, which have a heterogeneity of materials that would have come from pearls to squeeze that vibration that made us fall in love with Astro’s Playroom.
Crash bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, based on the rules and language of its predecessors, and knows how to manage to keep its playable feedback while, in turn, finding a space through which to introduce new ideas that make the franchise grow, providing this fourth installment with an entity of its own that many of us doubted it could acquire. Something that is never easy and that speaks highly of a study like Toys for Bob. There is quality in their ranks. Apparently it was only a matter of time.