The Crash Bandicoot series seems like it’s been warped into hyperdrive as of late. Not only did the original trilogy receive a massive makeover that was so successful it revived fellow platforming series Spyro, but it even led to somewhat of a renaissance of remakes including Crash’s own Team Racing game.
Finally, with his remakes complete and his past missteps seemingly forgotten, Crash’s developers decided to take the next step with the franchise. And just over the summer, they announced that not only would Crash be getting his own mobile game, but also a new installment in the core Crash series on PS4 and Xbox One in the form of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
Crash 4 is noteworthy for many reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that it’s a follow-up that’s been over 20 years in the making. The previous mainline Crash installment on the original PlayStation, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, was released in 1998. Needless to say, there was a lot of hype for this latest entry.
And, can we all take a moment to appreciate how awesome it’s subtitle is? That is such a beautiful pun and double entendre. Just… perfection.
And that humor is thankfully present throughout the game. The level of writing here is, while obviously not Shakespearean, still quite strong for what it is. There’s plenty of easter eggs, references, and inside jokes meant for older fans that are sure to be appreciated.
In fact, if you are an older fan of Crash, it’s hard to see you not at least somewhat enjoying his most recent adventure. After all, it definitely feels like old-school Crash in many ways. The difficulty level is higher than your average 3D platformer fare (you can choose either retro difficulty which forces you to restart the level after each death, or modern difficulty which will restore you at your last reached checkpoint after each death). The soundtrack is spot-on. And as previously stated, the series’ staple humor is not only present but delivered in spades.
However, I can’t help but feel like Crash 4 is missing that X factor. The original trilogy felt fresh for its time. While Mario and Spyro were out exploring open 3D environments, Crash went down a different path implementing a more linear approach with a Looney Tunes aesthetic It had more of an arcade feel, while still being at the cutting edge of its time. And it worked.
But the series as a whole failed to reinvent itself in any meaningful way over the years. Which is one reason why its popularity began to wane and it eventually faded from the video game scene, until the N. Sane Trilogy compilation was released in 2017.
Yet now, with the fourth chapter in the series, it’s start to feel stale again. Charming, but stale.
Don’t get me wrong, Crash 4 does try out some new mechanics for size. The game centers around Crash having to find four special Quantum Masks, which give the player powerful abilities like making objects disappear and reappear, slowing time down, manipulating gravity, and becoming a near-invincible Tasmanian Devil.
And not only can you play as Crash’s sister Coco, but for the first time in a non-racing Crash entry you can play as Crash’s love interest Tawna, who has a grappling gun; Dingodile, who can suck up crates with an overpowered vacuum; and Dr. Neo Cortex, who can transform enemies into platforms with his ray gun.
All of this is fine and well. It can be fun to replay levels and solve puzzles with different characters and movesets. And the new abilities are certainly a welcome way to spice things up.
But none of these features spice things up nearly enough. Crash 4 plays things too safe. On the one hand, if you are a huge fan of Crash and the old-school Crash play style of trial and error, and jumping through some questionably designed levels with cheap gotcha moments, then you’ll feel right at home.
And look, I’m not trying to diss the original games. I loved the N. Sane Trilogy. But the fact is, even it showed its age in certain places. There is a reason this style of gameplay didn’t really catch on outside of the Crash series. Crash was the only one who pulled it off, and even with him it was a bit of a shaky proposition at times.
So, I was hoping Crash 4 would retain the spirit of the original trilogy, while fixing its outdated aspects. Instead, it feels like it could have been released a year after Crash 3 and other than the updated graphics nobody would be able to tell the difference. That may either sound good or bad, depending on your proclivities.
For me, it skews more to the negative side of things, because if I wanted to play the original trilogy, I could play the original trilogy. For $40, no less. While this ‘new’ title alone is saddled with a $60 price tag and doesn’t really do anything to shake up the formula enough to warrant its price of entry.
If you’re looking for a new Crash experience that pushes the envelope and really takes the series to the next level, this ain’t it. But if you just want more of the same old Crash that we all know and love, you won’t be disappointed.