Crash Bandicoot 4 It's About Time Review

Richard Walker

For Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, developer Toys For Bob (of Skylanders fame) has decided that none of the other Crash games since Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped exist. That makes Crash 4 the first real sequel since 1998, forgetting the likes of Wrath of Cortex, Crash of the Titans, and Mind Over Mutant. Really, it's for the best, and, as such, this brand spanking new adventure feels like a long overdue return for the manic marsupial – though not necessarily a return to form.

Following the nostalgia-stoking Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (developed by Vicarious Visions, who expertly oiled up the trucks on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2), Crash Bandicoot 4 hews close to that original triumvirate of games, preserving the old 'running into the screen' gameplay, interspersed with side-scrolling segments. The wrinkle this time around comes in the form of four Quantum Masks, each with their own personality and game-altering ability, from Lani-Loli's dimension shifting, to reveal new platforms and crates, to ‘Akano, who transforms you into a whirling purple dervish.

The Kupuna-Wa mask temporarily slows time, while the Ika-Ika mask flips gravity at the touch of a button – upon acquiring all four Quantum Masks, Crash 4 hurls all manner of mind-bending gameplay twists your way, some of which prove remarkably challenging. Occasionally, it can all get a bit much, when you're tasked with negotiating platforms and toggling a mask's ability on and off to manifest a platform, remove an obstacle, or overcome an enemy while upside-down running along the ceiling. Crash Bandicoot games have never been particularly easy, and Crash 4 continues that grand tradition with some truly patience-testing levels.

Thankfully, sections that require a Quantum Mask are doled out sparingly, offering a fresh challenge as and when required – the game dictates when you need the abilities of a mask and gives it to you, so that aspect is straightforward, at least. Additional variety is introduced with a cast of different playable characters, all levels available to beat as Coco, if you'd prefer. The likes of Tawna, with her grappling hook; Dingodile, with his vacuum cannon; or Neo Cortex, with his raygun, also have their own timelines to pursue, alongside Flashback stages (wherein you play CCTV footage of Crash as a test subject) unlocked by gathering collectible tapes. Even when you've dispensed with Crash and Coco's main storyline, there are stacks of bonus levels to tackle.

Crash 4 certainly doesn't skimp on content, then, and stylistically it's the most attractive entry in the series to date. Colourful and pleasingly tactile, every element of It's About Time is brimming with infectious energy and (N.) brio, so, even after the umpteenth time falling into a chasm when trying to smash a pesky crate suspended in mid-air, you'll still be enjoying the offbeat, animated shenanigans. On paper, Crash 4 should be good, wholesome fun, if a bit trying at times. But the overwhelming sense I had after several hours with the game was unfortunately one of boredom. You can't help but feel that you've done all of this several times before, even if the Quantum Masks add something new to the formula.

In certain cases, Crash 4 can feel like a greatest hits compilation of sequences cherry-picked from previous games, like the bit where you're riding a polar bear again, or escaping from a rampaging something or other filling in for the gigantic boulder that once served as Crash's relentless pursuer. Certainly, there are moments in It's About Time that prove rewarding, and managing to collect every crate and enough wumpa fruit to unlock every clear gem is difficult enough that it can be gratifying. Likewise, unlocking new skins and bonus levels also helps (even if they're some of the most horribly difficult ones in the game), but haven’t we been here before?

Many levels deftly switch between 3D running portions to 2D side-scrolling segments, peppering in the occasional grind rail section, which often ends up being a frustrating case of trial and error, as you learn the pattern of obstacles. After a while, all of the pretty, candy-coloured platforming simply grows somewhat tiresome, despite the change of scenery, whether its a prehistoric epoch or a far-off lurid pink sci-fi planet. Nonetheless, there is a lot to like in Crash Bandicoot 4, even if a lot of it is perhaps a bit too demanding and a tad samey after a while.

Multiplayer options like Pass N. Play (a fun way of passing the controller between friends) and competitive modes like Crate Combo and Checkpoint Race offer a welcome respite from playing alone, while completists will likely get a kick out of tracking down every last crate, gem, and secret. Having to go back through the entire game again in the game's trippy N. Verted mode and beating every Time Trial certainly won't be for everyone, though, and as such, reaching 100% (or indeed, 106%) is a torrid slog best avoided.

Catering to its audience with a retro mode that gives you a limited pool of lives, alongside a modern setting that offers infinite retries from checkpoints, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time certainly attempts to welcome you with open arms. Yet, a plethora of content and smile-inducing visuals do little to keep you hooked beyond the main storyline or even some of the game's more cruel and deliberately bloody-minded level design – once you're done with Crash 4, you're probably unlikely to want to return for seconds.

Crash Bandicoot 4 It's About Time

It looks inviting enough, and an accomplished platformer it may be, but Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is also bastard hard. For the most part, however, Toys For Bob's Crash outing is good, wholesome fun while it lasts.

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Plinky plonky tunes just like the Crash Bandicoot games of yore. Crash 4 sounds a lot like a Saturday morning cartoon, and might just drive you to distraction like one.


Like the N. Sane Trilogy before it, Crash 4 is a real treat for the eyeballs, conjuring sumptuous cartoon visuals from beginning to end. The time-hopping narrative takes you across an array of great locations – it all looks lovely.


While there's nothing particularly wrong with how Crash 4 plays and there have been some touches to aid accessibility (like a little circle at Crash's feet that show where you're going to land), it can be slightly imprecise at times.


A raft of content ensures you're getting your money's worth, but how much of it you'll actually persevere long enough to play, is another matter entirely. Crash 4's later levels are enormously unforgiving, and we wouldn't blame you if you gave up before the end.


Not the worst list, but far and away one of the hardest. We're talking tens of hours here, completing the game and all its extras once, collecting absolutely everything, then doing it all over again in the mirrored N. Verted mode. Sod that.

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