- Developer: Toys for Bob
- Publisher: Activision Blizzard
- Release Date: 12/03/2021
- Price: £59.99 / $59.99
- Review code provided by Activision Blizzard
Introducing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time PS5 Review
The Crash Bandicoot series holds a special place in my heart. Growing up as a Sega kid, I didn’t own a PlayStation back in the heyday of Crash and his epic adventures. That didn’t stop me from diving into the games, however, as my grandmother owned one, buying the game for us grandkids to play when we would visit each week. Her purchased birthed a weird mix of competitive and co-operative game playing between me and my cousin, as we tried to conquer each of the bandicoot’s three major adventures.
After the disappointing PlayStation 2 outings and a long layoff for the series, a Crash redemption arc was much needed. Heck, if Bubsy can have a comeback, then surely and actual beloved character can have a second lease on life. N. Sane Trilogy brought the lovable marsupial back from the brink of death. People questioned the controls, particularly the jumps, but for the most part, the remake was well received. Has Crash 4 on PS5 managed to be a worthy successor, one that lives up to all of us bandicoot fans’ hopes and dreams? Let’s find out.
If you’re interested in our thoughts about the Nintendo Switch version, then check out our companion review.
Once Upon a Time…
Villains Neo Cortex and N Tropy escape their prison, causing rifts in time and space. These rifts need to be closed and those pesky bad guys taught a lesson. It is up to Crash, Coco, and a handful of returning friends to save the universe, collecting new firiends in the form of ancient masks along the way.
It’s a simple story, as is par for the course with our spinning ant-eating hairy ‘coot. Like many games of that era, the story was a means to an end, and it is somewhat refreshing to see that Toys for Bob have continued to write a story that follows in that vein. It is well told, consisting of short and snappy cutscenes before and sometimes after a level. People new to the series may be left wanting, but it really hits the nostalgia button for those who are already fans.
Round and Around the Bandicoot Goes
As a 3d action platformer, Crash Bandicoot 4 on PS5 relies heavily on making precise jumps, tackling enemies in an almost puzzle-like manner, and hoping you survive until the next checkpoint. Crash 4 takes a retro mindset to the platformer, harkening back to the good old days of the PlayStation 1 and 2. As such, levels tend to be less forgiving than what newer fans of the genre are used to.
Controls feel tight and precise for the most part, a necessity for any platformer. There is no input lag to throw of your jumps, so you are never fighting the controls. Unfortunately the game is let down by the perception of where you are in relation to the level. Gauging distance from boxes and enemies is a nightmare at times. To alleviate this issue, the developers have added a circle under Crash when you jump. This only works when making jumps on solid ground, meaning when you jump over a gap, you lose that extra visual confirmation of where you are.
Many deaths were as a result of not knowing Crash’s exact positioning. Another cause of deaths was the level designs, which left much to be desired. In one of the few side-scrolling levels, I found myself getting caught on the lip of a ledge. That caused an instant death, which left a sour taste in my mouth. A lot of the levels rely on prior knowledge, meaning achieving a deathless run requires multiple playthroughs and memorisation. This reliance makes many deaths feel cheap, as things such as an off-screen enemy obscured by the camera angle killing you are never enjoyable. There was an element of this in the prior games, but deathless runs on the first try at least felt obtainable.
New Powers Less of a Pop, More of a Fizzle
A new element added to this iteration of Crash is the addition of masks that bestow upon you some form of powerup. The first of these is the ability to phase between two realities. When wearing the mask, certain obstacles can dematerialise with the tap of the R2 button. Doing so will also phase in other objects. There are puzzles that require you to manipulate this system in tricky ways. One often used puzzle has you riding a platform in the same phase as a wall, requiring you to jump, change phase to go through the wall, then change phase again to land on the platform. Although challenging, I never found this mask enjoyable to use.
The second is an infinite spin. This spin allows you to glide, vastly extending your jump capabilities. The downside is that you set off TNT instantly, creating interesting puzzles that have you stop spinning to bounce on TNT, then re-engaging the spin to continue your jump. An inversion mask allows you to flip Crash’s gravity. You go from running on the floor to running on the ceiling, which never really eventuated into interesting puzzles.
Finally, there is a mask that slows time for a short period. Some of the puzzles involving manipulating time can be fun but are often ruined by the games poor hit detection. Character and enemy hitboxes aren’t always obvious and made worse by the depth perception issues mentioned earlier. A slow time section had me slowing down metal doors that open and close while I was grinding on a rail. Multiple times, I would slow time with the door open, only to have Crash splat against nothingness as the door clipped a hitbox that extended slightly above the character. This is a persistent issue that is highlighted by this particular powerup. When everything is moving slowly, you notice when you die to an enemy that hasn’t actually hit you.
Gem Hunters and Side Characters
A highlight of Crash games is their emphasis on replayability. This is done by having collectable gems obtainable both within and in completion of levels. Some are the same across each level, such as collecting a percentage of fruit within a level, finishing with three deaths or less and destroying every crate. There is also a hidden gem collectable throughout each level.
Collecting all the gems in a level unlocks a new skin for either Crash or Coco. There are also tapes to collect, though you can only do so if you approach it without having died. These unlock flashback stages, which serve as crate-destroying mini levels.
In addition to the flashback stages, there are side missions that unlock utilising different characters. Weild a grappling hook and a fierce kick with the pirate Tawna. Suck up TNT barrels to blow up your enemies as the foe-turned-friend Dingodile. And finally, raygun your enemies into square blocks in some form of cruel punishment as the maniacal Neo Cortex. These missions add extra story elements and context to the action, as well as provide a much-needed change of pace.
Crash’s Facelift and OST Goodness
Crash 4’s artstyle is both nostalgia-inducing and modern. Character models have been updated, having a new over-the-top cartoon vibe to them that is endearing. The environments themselves are beautiful, giving off a blend of retro flair with modern sensibilities. This isn’t a game that looks like the old ones, rather it has used them as heavy inspiration. This approach allows Crash 4 to seemlessly match with the old games, whilst also remaining a modern-looking videogame.
Add on a soundtrack that sounds like it was pulled directly from the 90’s era of platformers, and you have the recipe for a game that not only looks but sounds like a true numbered sequel. Not only is the soundtrack nostalgic, but it is also great, with quite a few bangers to get you going through each level. Each track matches the environment quite well, creating a cohesive audio experience. As for the sound effects, they feel lifted from the previous iterations, helping the game to nail those nostalgic feelings.
Crash and Burn?
The PlayStation 5 version of Crash Bandicoot 4 runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second the majority of the time. There are some instances where that dips, but thankfully it never happened when it could affect gameplay. In fact, technically the game ran without a hitch, with no crashes or noticeable glitches.
Crash Bandicoot 4 feels like a true numbered sequel to the original PlayStation trilogy. The game looks, feels, sounds and probably tastes like it was birthed out of the late ’90s. With that does come some negatives. Depth perception is a consistent issue, and some of the new gimmicks added aren’t all that fun to engage with. Still, the overall experience is solid, especially for those with heavy nostalgia for the crazy old ‘coot. With how replayable each stage is with multiple unlockables, you have plenty of gameplay to warrant the asking price. Those with love for the series will find plenty to enjoy here, but newer players may find the game to be a bit old hat.
- Captures the feel of the original trilogy
- Great soundtrack
- Cartoon artstyle is beautiful
- Plenty of game for the price
- New powerups are a net negative
- Depth perception hard to judge
- Cheap deaths can be frustrating
- Questionable hitboxes