The Bandicoot is back and it’s about time. After a long hiatus, Activision formally brought Crash back with the N. Sane Trilogy. A complete overhaul of the classic Naughty Dog trilogy of games, the collection successfully reignited interest in Crash Bandicoot, and helped paved the way for Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. A direct sequel to Crash Bandicoot: Warped, there’s a lot of pressure for It’s About Time to be great. We recently got a chance to play a handful of levels from the upcoming game to see what developer Toys for Bob has cooked up for Crash fans.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time picks up after the events of Warped. Dr. Neo Cortex and N. Tropy have escaped their interdimensional prison by ripping a hole through space and time. To put a stop to the villain’s new plot to take control of the multiverse, Crash and Coco must travel through time and root out their evil.
The game demo featured three levels from the mid-way point of the game: Snow Way Out, Dino Dash and a unique take on Snow Way Out. From the outset, it’s clear Toys for Bob has plenty of admiration for Naughty Dog’s original titles. Though the art style features a modern look thanks to technological advances, the developers aimed to keep that squash and stretch animation style found on the PlayStation originals. Running on Unreal 4, it’s an overall great looking game in its demo form, and fans should be happy with the final result.
Fans of the original games will find the gameplay familiar, blending 2D and 3D platforming with modern elements. Snow Way Out puts Crash in an icy village overrun by zombies. Players will dash past enemies, pause time to get over chasms on a 2D plane and platform across stretches of ice on a 3D plane.
Meanwhile, Dino Dash features more setpiece moments, including vine surfing and an epic chase from a T-Rex. They’re both fun, though it will take you a few runs to master the levels and uncover all the secrets. There are bonus paths and hidden locations to find in each level, and plenty of challenges to tackle .It’s traditional Crash Bandicoot fun.
The modern elements of the gameplay surface as quality of life improvements and new mechanics. Players now have some control of the camera, allowing for better perspectives of the environment. There’s also two different game modes to choose from: Retro and Modern. Retro follows the rules of the original games, with players having a set number of lives. Modern takes away the lives and allows unlimited respawns at checkpoints. Switching between modern and retro is easy and straightforward, allowing players to experience the game as they want.
The most impactful addition to the game, however, are the new Quantum Masks. These protectors of time and space temporarily bestow Crash and Coco with powerful abilities that open up new gameplay opportunities. In Snow Way Out, Kupuna-Wa allows Crash to slow down time to access special time crates, jump across falling platforms and escape exploding Nitro Crates. Meanwhile, Lani-Loli appears in Dino Dash with the ability to phase objects in and out of existence. Both are interesting, though Kupuna-Wa felt better used in Snow Way Out than Lani-Loli did in Dino Dash. Outside the vine surfing segment, Lani Loli didn’t appear again during the level. Hopefully he and the other two unannounced masks open up some more fun gameplay opportunities in the many levels.
Rounding at the demo was a remix of Snow Way Out titled “Cortex Timeline.” It’s About Time introduces Timelines, optional levels that allow players to see levels from other character’s perspectives. This special Cortex timeline makes Dr. Neo Cortex playable in his never-ending quest to destroy the Bandicoots. Complete with a unique moveset and capabilities, these brief levels give players new ways to play. For example, Cortex has a blaster that freezes targets to turn them into platforms or jellifies them for use as trampolines. Since he can’t double jump, Cortex relies on creating these unique platforms and an air dash to get through his Timeline.
The Cortex section was short, with his timeline intersecting with Crash’s quickly, wherein players retook control of Crash for a slightly remixed run through the remainder of Snow Way Out. Timelines are an interesting concept and taking control of additional characters with unique movesets injects extra variety in the game. It’ll be interesting to see what other playable characters Toys for Bob has in store for us.
What was playable is just a taste of what players can expect in the full game. Toys for Bob wouldn’t commit to a total number of levels but promised there’ll be plenty of them. They did say that the game has been built to be insanely replayable with bonus paths, hidden secrets, Wumpa Fruit and challenges. What they did commit to is no microtransactions at or after launch. Hopefully, that promise holds throughout the lifecycle.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is shaping up to be a fine continuation of the original trilogy. Toys of Bob has done an excellent job building an authentic Crash experience while injecting modern design elements and new gameplay mechanics into their title. The imaginative and creative levels are a joy to play through, though it’ll take some trial and error before you’re able to fly through them at breakneck speeds. There are many neat ideas here, and it’ll be exciting to see how it all comes together at launch.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is out October 2 on PS4 and Xbox One. No word yet on potential next-gen or PC versions.