No longer relevant is a reason for developers to end up “killing” many of their popular franchises. That old games that once defined the gaming generation in the past are considered as products that are no longer interesting to taste, especially if you see how AAA games are currently so focused on story and cinematic approaches or rather, addictive multiplayer modes. In the midst of trends like this, Crash Bandicoot, which had become the first Playstation icon, sank into a vortex of uncertainty under the banner of Activision. The decision to “sell nostalgia” through the remake of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled seems to open Activision’s eyes to one thing – that this one character still has a strong selling potential.

 

So it was through the success of the two Remake series that Crash Bandicoot found its way back into the gaming industry. Not only through another remake project, but a new sequel series that is positioned as a continuation of the story of the third series that launched in 1998 and was later available in a more modern format via N. Sane Trilogy. Treated by Toys for Bob while still standing under the banner of Activision, confirmation of the existence of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time certainly deserves to be welcomed with open arms. Moreover, Toys for Bob seems to be channeling their creative energy to build a series that remains faithful to its main attraction while offering a series of new challenges that are ready to make gamers sweat cold.

 

So, what does Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time actually offer? Why do we call it a series that associates the words panic and death in such a close relationship? This review will discuss it more deeply for you.

 

Plot

Like the numbers that it carries behind the name, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is positioned as a direct sequel series to Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped which incidentally is also the last series in the N.Sane Trilogy remake project. The story continues after Crash manages to lock up and abandon the three main antagonists – N. Tropy, Neo Cortex, and Uka Uka in the middle of nowhere, as if locking the fate of the three.

 

But as can be predicted, it took more than that to make the story of Crash and Coco Bandicoot’s feud with these antagonists end peacefully. Uka Uka with all his strength managed to tear apart time and space, providing an opportunity for N. Tropy and Neo Cortex to not only escape, but also learn about multi-dimensional world problems. Seeing it as the best weapon for world domination, N. Tropy and Neo Cortex build a generator that allows them to manipulate time and space itself. Crash also had to act again.

 

However, matters of fixing and restoring the workings of space and time, which should be outside the power and jurisdiction of an I-I. Fortunately, the actions of N. Tropy and Neo Cortex have also triggered the emergence of 4 masks of power that are present when space and time are threatened. Through these masks known as “Quantum Masks”, Crash and Coco began to have to move through space and time to defeat N. Tropy and her cronies, including N.Gin and N.Brio, who returned to activity. On the way, they were helped by a new friend they had never predicted before.

 

Then, can Crash and Coco return to subdue N. Tropy’s latest evil plan? What challenges have they had to face? All the answers to these questions you can of course get by playing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time!

 

Fresh Crash

Of course, with the development of existing technology, Crash Bandicoot in 2020 will not be the same as the Crash you found in the first or second Playstation era. The remake process available via N. Sane Trilogy has proven that the “rejuvenation” process for this age-old character can be executed nicely. In Crash Bandicoot 4, with a few design changes included, it’s still the Crash and Coco you’ve known. Modernization efforts actually occur through efforts to present stories like today’s games, via a high enough cut-scene frequency which surprised us.

 

Unlike in the old series where the cut-scenes usually only occur at the beginning of the game and a little when dealing with bosses, Crash Bandicoot 4 comes with a younger approach. To present a more solid story, cut-scenes now occur with a higher frequency. You will see a snippet of the story at the beginning of a new world, when you find the next Quantum Mask, face off against bosses, even when meeting and using new characters.

 

The good news? At least this cut-scene still maintains the identity of a Crash Bandicoot game that should be. He is still filled with humor that is enough to make you smile while enjoying the action of Crash which is still positioned “mute” where he continues to move and express through hilarious behavior. One that is surprising enough? The “cut-scene” approach also occurs in-game when you are playing, where some important location points for the story will suddenly get automatic camera action to highlight it, while stopping your action for a split second. This makes Crash Bandicoot 4 feel like the modern approach platformer games should be.

 

Visual enhancements also occur in various other small elements such as the new Crash Bandicoot design which now comes with a face that looks more expressive. In several levels, especially when he ends up being chased by a giant vehicle or a dinosaur, you can see an expression of tension, fear, while trying to run as fast as possible in the name of survival that bursts strong through Crash’s face. Hilarious death animations based on the location and source of Crash’s signature deaths are also preserved here. These animations feel quite proportionate and don’t feel too much to the point of dying the comic effect is too thick. Of all the animation of death that we have found, only one that really feels brutal, where the enemy mouse with a knife-tipped shield “just” stabbed Crash with his shield to death. For this one animation, there are no smiles on our faces when we see it.

 

Appreciation also deserves to be directed to a level design that is also pleasing to the eye. The concept of moving space, time, and dimensions does provide a creative space that is wide enough for Toys for Bob to inject variations in worlds and levels. Almost all of these levels have special themes that are coolly designed, whether it’s just through the assets of the objects you encounter, the composition of colors, to the types of challenges you encounter. On one level you find a beautifully curved green dragon, on another – a futuristic city with high technology, and not to be left behind – a dinosaur who wants to engulf you in the middle of a lava explosion at various angles. Unfortunately, we cannot give the same praise for the enemy design, which compared to the old Crash Bandicoot series, feels quite disappointing. There is no new enemy design that feels unique or memorable.

 

Unfortunately, the same thing happened on the musical side. For gamers who love old Crash Bandicoot, there is always one or two levels of music they recognize because basically, the quality is enough to make it recorded clearly in your brain. Unfortunately, we don’t feel the same quality of music in Crash Bandicoot 4. Despite the fact that it features quite a variety of levels from a wide variety of timelines, no single world offers enough behind-the-scenes music to make your ears fall in love. They only function “just” to accompany it. If you have to choose one, then the music for the themed level “Dia de Muertos” where you will find trumpeting enemies attacking based on the beat of the background music is the only one enough to attract attention. The rest? Less.

 

For a game that is positioned as a sequel to an old series which then received remake treatment, Crash Bandicoot 4 appears with the visualization of a modern platformer game that should be. The “new” Crash and Coco are more expressive, get a more solid storyline through more frequent cut-scenes appearing, and of course – the proportionate animation and little jokes to make you smile here and there. From the presentation side, he appeared quite satisfying.

 

Dead Root Panic

If you feel that in the name of modernization, Toys for Bob will make Crash Bandicoot 4 friendlier than its older series, whose difficulty level is enough to generate frustration and stress, then we are happy to announce that this is not the case. Crash Bandicoot 4 will offer a similar sensation and the same level of difficulty or even arguably more difficult than the previous Crash Bandicoot series. Everything is also wrapped with several new mechanics.

 

Basically, the “old” Crash Bandicoot experience is still here. Moving from one level to another before fighting boss after boss until the end of the game, you are now free to choose to use Crash and Coco who will share the same level set and design. You will still be equipped with the ability to spin, make double jumps, or do body slams to destroy tougher boxes. The vigilance to destroy this box also comes from the presence of the city variants of TNT and Nitro that will “lurk” to take their lives. And as usual, there is a box containing Me-Me which incidentally has been your protective mask since the first Crash Bandicoot era.

 

So just as and should be a Crash Bandicoot series, the main challenge of Crash Bandicoot 4 does come from existing platforming actions. That jumping from one platform to another often comes with super high risk – where it can end up being instant death if you fail and inevitably have to restart from the last checkpoint. It remains the hardest part of your overall gaming experience. Reading the timing, planning the next direction of motion, while making sure you don’t panic will be something essential. The rest? Avoid the various traps and challenges in the levels, while trying to finish off the enemies who try to get in your way by turning or stomping on their heads. Those of you who have had the chance to enjoy Crash Bandicoot will still find a familiar playing sensation.

 

On the sidelines of this gameplay, you will meet levels that will offer different challenges with extra variations in it. There are those that ask you to run from a big threat which incidentally makes you have to run towards the screen and keep an eye on, others fill themselves with certain animal riding sessions that focus on the action of avoiding obstacles that appear, and one of them also makes you drive a jetski on behalf of passing through the whirlpool. Along with it, each level will contain several “secrets” to chase.

 

There is a bonus challenge containing the challenge of solving a box which, like the old series, is enough to make you break out into a cold sweat so that you can find hidden gems. Crash Bandicoot now also provides an extra challenge that is even more difficult named – Flashback Tapes which you can find if you manage to reach a point in a certain level without ever being killed. Flashback Tapes contains levels with a high level of difficulty that usually requires you to break the box with the risk of instant death, which incidentally is also accompanied by the need to read and plan the sequence of your jump direction. This is a “side mission” that is not related to the main story.

 

Of course, Flashback Tapes is just one of the few new things that Toys for Bob injected for Crash Bandicoot 4. This latest series contains many different things, including the presence of new characters in addition to the figures of Crash and Coco itself. You will meet Tawna from another dimension, Dingodile, and also Neo Cortex, each of which comes with its own level and mechanism.

 

You can’t change freely to use them like Crash-Coco dualism, but each level where they play will have its own uniqueness. Tawna has a grappling hook that allows him to reach distant boxes or simply jump quickly to specific platforms. Dingodile comes with a Vacuum weapon that allows him to suck up TNT boxes and throw them, while doing a double jump with boost behind. Meanwhile, Neo Cortex, which in fact cannot jump high, can use its magic gun to turn enemies into iron platforms or bounce platforms to complete existing levels. The levels specially designed for “guest characters” will also provide extra cut-scenes that give a clearer picture of how their adventures intersect with Crash.

 

But of course, that doesn’t mean that Crash itself isn’t supported by a new mechanism to inject a different challenge. One of the most significant is Grind – like the action of a skateboarder surfing over a predetermined level of lines. Containing Wumpa boxes that can be located at the top, bottom, to the left and right, this Grind action requires super solid eye and hand coordination so that you don’t end up dying because of “colliding” with enemies or permanent barriers. Other extra features also come from the Wall-Run system which will also be available in certain areas (usually with arrows). Compared to Grind, Wall-Run doesn’t feel like such a significant addition. As long as you are careful to make sure your wall run is not blocked by boxes or Nitro and know exactly when to jump into the next Wall-Run area, you should be fine.

 

So the biggest change that is also the foundation of the Crash Bandicoot 4 level design comes in the Quantum Masks format. There are 4 different masks that you will get as the game progresses: Masks that can spawn and remove certain objects, Masks that can make you rotate permanently like a fast tornado and therefore the chance to jump is higher, Masks that allow you to slow down time, and finally Masks which makes you manipulate gravity and reverse the game room. These four Quantum Masks will be the essence of the Crash Bandicoot 4 experience and make it the foundation for the “Crash different” experience.

 

Don’t get me wrong first. The opportunity to use each of these Quantum Masks remains locked and is limited to the existing level designs. You will not have the freedom to replace them at will. You will only use these masks when the level design requires you to do so and are usually associated with platforming stunts that demand that power. Once the session is deemed “done”, these masks will be automatically removed from the level point and you will return to normal Crash. This mask may return to another level point or even change to another Quantum Mask. Everything is determined entirely by the will of the developer, and not you. This is not a Metroidvania game! Crash Bandicoot 4 remains a platformer game.

 

The presence of these four Quantum Masks produces a unique dynamic, where Toys for Bob now has the opportunity to inject a super challenging level design that maximizes each of them, something that could not be done in the previous “limited” series. What’s cool again? Instead of instantly having each mask’s power trigger automatically, you’re given one specific button to activate them. So just like simple mechanics like jumping and turning, when and where you activate and deactivate your Quantum Mask abilities will determine how high your chances of survival are. Timing is key.

 

Design challenge each level to be ready to test your skills and hand eye coordination. You sometimes have to eliminate and pop platforms in fractions of a second if you don’t want to fall and die, you sometimes have to determine when you have to keep turning as a Tornado and when to turn it off so you don’t die when you land on a platform filled with TNT, you also have to calculate how many seconds of time deceleration that you can trigger and predict the arrival of fast rushing jumping platforms, and of course – you have to set when you want to stand above or below the level while mastering your gravity skills. Of course this difficulty level will increase as the game progresses, until at one point, you will get this Quantum Mask quickly and need to be activated in a fraction of a second to be able to pass the existing challenges.

 

The combination of this new system based on Quantum Mask not only keeps Crash Bandicoot 4 feeling like a challenging platformer game, but also for us, much more difficult compared to previous Crash Bandicoot series. Just a little panic and your brain forgets about the sequence of actions you have to take, death is inevitable. Believe it or not, in at least the last two levels, we had to spend about 113-115 tries just to get it over with.

 

Balancing Difficulties

Toys for Bob seems to understand that the level of difficulty that Crash Bandicoot 4 offers is likely to be enough to make some gamers raise their hands and give up before having the opportunity to enjoy the story and play experience they should. Luckily, this game comes with a balance to ensure that from it, you don’t just reap stress and frustration. An elegant solution that won’t take away your sense of accomplishment every time you break through and complete each level.

 

The cool solution that Toys for Bob takes is to provide two playstyle options for you to choose at the start: MODERN and RETRO. Retro mode will follow the old Crash Bandicoot game format where you will be given a set number of limited lives for each level, complete with the Game Over system. This means that if the Game Over screen appears, then you have to play the level again from the beginning. Meanwhile, the Modern setting recommended by Toys for Bob changes the system. There are no more lives and no more Game Over, each death will now start from the last Checkpoint in the level you successfully reached. As a replacement? You will get the status of the number of deaths that you managed to score to complete the level. It was also from him that we learned about the number of deaths 113-115 times that we had talked about earlier.

 

As the game progresses, we begin to understand why this Modern playstyle is offered by Toys for Bob and are quite grateful that this option is offered in it. It becomes an elegant and effective counterweight to compensate for the super high difficulty level in the various levels that exist, especially as you get closer to the end of the game. It’s hard to imagine how to complete some of these levels with Retro mode, where all the progress you have worked hard to make in the midst of panic and almost impossible challenges, you have to end up having to repeat when the Game Over screen appears. To be honest, if Toys for Bob only offered Retro mode while maintaining the existing level design, we might be one of the gamers who raised their hands, especially in the final area.

 

Toys for Bob also applies several other things to “rationalize” this difficulty level with other extra features that are incorporated in this Modern playstyle. First, this checkpoint system also applies to boss fights. That death will not bring you back from the beginning when fighting bosses, but from a certain point, either when he is just starting to enter the second phase or even in a longer boss fight, when his HP line decreases by a certain amount. If you die on a level too often, two adjustments will also be included: you will get extra I-I (max. 2) so you don’t die easily and the unique, Checkpoint point shift. That’s right, if you die too often at one level point, Crash Bandicoot 4 can end up offering the opportunity to push your Checkpoint points closer, so you don’t have to face the same threats again. This approach is really very helpful.

 

So with the Modern approach, there are many things that inevitably have to adjust. As an example? Wumpa fruit. In the classic series, you have to collect them to get extra lives which will of course help your journey. Crash Bandicoot 4 now converts the Wumpa fruit as a “resource” which, if you manage to collect a certain amount, will give you a gem. Each level will contain a maximum of three gems based on the number of Wumpa fruit you eat and get. The fruit that will also automatically be eaten and will no longer be ejected when you play it will no longer play an important role as important as the old series.

 

So, what are these gems for? Now appearing as a reward system for Crash Bandicoot 4 is a costume variant that you can attach to Crash and Coco Bandicoot. If you manage to collect at least 6 – 8 gems in a level, then usually you will get an extra costume as a reward which you can wear for purely cosmetic reasons without impact on the performance side. In addition to the number of Wumpa fruits, other spades usually have to do with special gems that are hidden in position, whether you broke all the boxes available in a level, and how many deaths you recorded for completing a level. That’s right, the death count mechanic recorded isn’t just for the status you can review, but also contributes to the chance to get this precious gem.

 

The good news? Crash Bandicoot 4 also seems to understand that there are a lot of gamers out there, like us, who may not have enough skills to complete each level perfectly until all 6 gems for him are always collected in the name of extra costumes. Therefore, once you reach a certain story point, you will have the opportunity to repeat the levels you have completed in a special mode called “N.Verse”. The N-Verse will reverse this level of design in mirrored mode, complete with unique visual effects that you won’t find in the usual level designs. The gems you can earn in N.Verse count separately from normal mode, but are accumulative to contribute to the number of gems you need to unlock costumes per level. So if you are not good enough to get all 6 gems in Normal mode? There’s always a chance to keep busy getting back to playing the same levels in N.Verse mode and fighting to get the rest of the gems you need.

 

What’s interesting about the consequences of this new mechanic is the experience of Crash Bandicoot 4 which is slow but sure, starting “carefree” despite the high difficulty level. Why? Now that you are no longer required, the desire to break all the boxes, get as many Wumpa fruit as possible, or search for secret gems all feels optional. Because in the end, all the hustle and bustle is designed solely to unlock cosmetic costumes that won’t have any effect on performance and won’t affect your chances of completing the level. You now always have the option to just complete the level, ignoring all the boxes and Wumpa fruit if you wish. In the midst of a game that is easily frustrating, this is a design that we welcome with open arms.

 

Conclusion

So with all these charms combined, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time comes as a fantastic platformer game that we won’t hesitate to recommend to you, regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the franchise. It’s a game that comes with fantastic challenges and levels of difficulty, while keeping it balanced to ensure that what you get from it, isn’t just frustration and stress. This is a game that will test how well you deal with pressure. Panic? Welcome to the afterlife!

Welcome back to Crash Bandicoot! That after nearly a dozen years without a new series, the birth of the latest series that is even “brave” carries the main number behind and is positioned as a continuation of the story of this iconic character ending up into a fantastic platformer game. Toys for Bob, who was given the responsibility to handle it, seemed to understand what made this franchise steal hearts in the past, both in terms of the characters and the gameplay it carried. The fact that they have retained a tough action platformer game, even compared to the old series through a variety of new mechanics while offering a balance through new features such as Modern playstyle is an achievement that deserves praise. The challenges that arise, no matter how difficult they are, are now no longer a matter of impossible to solve or not, but a matter of how determined you are.

 

However, that doesn’t mean Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is perfect. Apart from complaints about uninspiring enemy designs and memorable music, we also feel a little problematic about the perception of depth in its three-dimensional world. It is not uncommon for our spatial perception to believe that Crash is already where we want it, whether it is when landing, jumping, or just turning in three-dimensional space. To our surprise, we found that our position was slightly off the mark, as if betraying the information that had been conveyed by our eyes and translated through the controls in hand. This happens most often during the Grind gameplay sessions where when we find a challenge to jump over, we actually press the button too fast and end up dying. Yet it is clear that the information conveyed by the eye, from what we saw and predicted, the leap should have succeeded. This one weakness must be admitted, a little difficult to explain.

 

So with all these charms combined, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time comes as a fantastic platformer game that we won’t hesitate to recommend to you, regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the franchise. It’s a game that comes with fantastic challenges and levels of difficulty, while keeping it balanced to ensure that what you get from it, isn’t just frustration and stress. This is a game that will test how well you deal with pressure. Panic? Welcome to the afterlife!

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