Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (Switch) Review
After a long break without Crash Bandicoot, now a year doesn’t go by without him! This year it’s about time the Switch got the latest Crash game. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s about time is the eighth Crash game, but in the spirit of time travel, let’s assume half of those games no longer exist. This gives Crash 4 a tough act to follow, with nostalgia for the original trilogy still pretty high. So does this old bandicoot still spin with the best?
Neo Cortex, N.Tropy and Uka Uka are still trapped in a time prison from the third game, but not for long! Not only do they break out, but this also causes tears in the fabric of time and space. Their escapade has also awoken the Quantum Masks, alerting Crash’s friend and floating mask guy, Aku Aku, to something big and bad happening. Crash and his sister Coco need to find all four masks, stop Cortex and N.Tropy and save the multiverse like it’s no big deal.
If you played the original Crash Bandicoot games, you know exactly what to expect here. If you haven’t, then what the hell are you doing jumping in at the fourth game?! Nah, it’s ok; you don’t need to have an advanced diploma in Crash lore to play this game. Crash 4 is a 3D platformer, navigating levels from a fixed view as you smash crates, collect wumpa fruit and spin into enemies…oh, and you die a lot.
While the original Crash Bandicoot games were a product of their time, the platforming genre has come so far since then. The Crash games, of course, didn’t stop there, but to place yourself as the fourth official game, they are putting it in a very specific company. If you liked the first three games (or the N. Sane Trilogy), then you’ll feel at home with Crash 4. This game feels like it has a foot in the current times and a foot firmly stuck back in the past.
Thankfully, Crash 4 does have some new tricks up its hairy sleeve. The Quantum masks add a few new powers to Crash and Coco’s repertoire. Between the four masks, you’ll be phasing items in and out, slowing down time, messing with gravity and spinning so fast you can hover. It’s not just Crash and Coco, along for this long-awaited adventure. Tawna brings a grappling hook, wall jumping and a lot of kicking, while Dingodille is armed with a vacuum cannon, and Cortex has a ray gun that turns enemies into platforms. The majority of the game is played as Crash or Coco. The other characters are extra levels providing a peek behind some events’ curtains in the main levels. While it is enjoyable using these different character skillsets for a change of pace, none of them feels as polished as Crash and Coco. Tawna’s wall jump feels off, and Dingodille and Cortex weapons are a pain to aim at. One of the additions I’m more thankful for is that Crash and Coco now have a double jump at any time. For a game where precision platforming is key, it likely saved me from even more deaths being able to get that extra jump to course correct.
For everything Crash 4 recaptures of the original games, it hangs on to the past a little too much for its own good. The 3D platforming is still a real crapshoot, with precision jumping and landing required as the perspective too often fails. You have the option to show a drop shadow, so you can at least see where you’ll land. However, some iffy collision detection can often send you to your death, even when you seem safe. This is all further exacerbated by often not clearly seeing what’s ahead properly until it’s too late. I get the Crash games often wind up becoming memorised runs; you become forged by many, many Bandicoot deaths. It was tedious back then, and it’s still tedious now to have to fall back on that so much. The only saving grace with Crash 4 is that you can have it set on Modern mode, letting you retry from checkpoints as often as needed. The game even adapts to how much you’re struggling. Die many times you get an Aku Aku mask to protect you. If you keep on dying, extra checkpoints can appear, although I wish I didn’t have to go through all of that when most levels desperately need at least one checkpoint more. Of course, if you want to challenge yourself, you can play in retro mode. This gives you limited lives before you have to restart the level from scratch.
In the spirit of the original trilogy’s high degree of difficulty to 100% the game, Crash 4 is also going to give you a run for your money. Not only are there the usual challenges of collecting enough Wumpa fruit, breaking all of the crates, finding the secret diamond, and dying less than three times.
Breaking the crates and finishing the level with minimal death were my biggest challenges. There’s also a time trial that opens up once you’ve beaten the level. Throughout the game, you can find VHS tapes. These tapes open up even more challenging levels, as well as playing every unlocked level in N.Verted Mode. This mode flips the screen (or inverts it) while also applying a visual filter that can significantly impact how you approach the level. If you’re looking to get the most out of your games, Crash 4 will have you coming back after the main game is finished if your blood pressure has normalised enough to leap back in so soon.
While I’ve had plenty of griping about Crash 4, it’s still a game I wanted to play through. For all the frustrating platforming and clinging to the past, when you’re in the zone and bouncing from crate to crate and deftly avoiding death at every turn, it is still a blast. My biggest disappointment comes from Crash 4 still holding onto some of the original games’ worst elements. Although I am entirely aware all of those things will be exactly what people have been waiting for, then you don’t need me here; you’re already playing it. If you are giving this a go as your first Crash game or hoping to enjoy the advancements the platforming genre has made since the 90s, then hopefully, I’ve given you a bit to consider.
Now, of course, we have to look at how this game goes without the current-gen’s power behind it. Having played the Xbox Series X version, I got a chance to see how the game runs at it’s best and looking its best. I was really curious to see how it would fare on the Switch. It’s not bad, as long as you temper your expectations. The framerate sticks to 30fps as much as possible, some moments give it more of a workout, but overall it holds together.
Look, I feel at this point none of us is expecting it to be at the same level at the current-gen versions. Playing in handheld mode helps to hide some of the rough edges that are more noticeable on the TV. If you want to play more Crash on a Switch, it’s a decent experience. For me, the highlight was being able to play Crash 4 in handheld mode. For the sacrifices they had to make to get this on the Switch, you won’t notice it when you’re busy trying to smash every last crate.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s about time is an excellent follow up for those who loved the first three games. A lot of time has passed since then, and Crash 4 feels like a strange relic from the past. It’s as if Crash was found frozen, thawed out by Toys for Bob and taught how to be a modern game just like Encino Man. For nostalgic fans, this will be exactly what you were waiting for, potentially at the expense of newcomers.
+ Crash is back and tough as ever
+ Runs well on the Switch
+ Plenty to keep you coming back
- The Platforming/Camera is as unreliable as ever
- Still a little too stuck in the past
-Being booted from bonus levels is frustrating