Review: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS5)

Crash Bandicoot’s first proper mainline entry in over a decade was a hit. Releasing last October on PS4 and Xbox One, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time fit right into the original trilogy thanks to its slick visuals, intricate platforming and strong homages to its past. Arriving a month before the start of next-gen left everyone wondering, however, where the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S versions were. Well, the wait is finally over and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is ready to leap onto next-gen consoles.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time follows Crash, Coco and Aku-Aku as they attempt to thwart Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. N. Tropy’s latest scheme. Trapped in the past, the two villains escape their prison by ripping a hole in the space-time continuum, inadvertently waking up the Quantum Masks. With all of existence hanging in danger, Crash and company must travel through dimensions to reunite the Quantum Masks and restore balance to the multiverse. Crash Bandicoot 4’s story is charming and quirky, providing enough beats to keep players going without weighing them down with weighty exposition. It’s lighthearted enjoyment that’s easy to play through and each of the characters brings an infectious level of charisma to the plot. There’s nothing revolutionary here and it’s short, but it’s enjoyable enough to see players through to the end credits.

What helps sell the story is the snappy writing and clever fourth wall breaking long time Crash fans will pick up. The voice cast does an excellent job delivering high-energy performances. With cutscenes mostly relegated to before and after completing worlds, it feels like there’s not enough time to enjoy the performances thoroughly. What’s there is entertaining, but a longer story would have been nice. Crash Bandicoot 4’s story is short and can be wrapped up in 6-8 hours, depending on how quickly players move through the levels. Thankfully, there’s still plenty to do before or after the credits roll. There are tons of skins to unlock, hidden gems to find and other types of missions to engage with during your playtime.

Overall, the playtime is spread across 10 dimensions with 2-4 story missions apiece. Every dimension comes with its own theme and style, injecting plenty of character into every level. You’ll platform alongside dinosaurs, dodge zombies on ice and infiltrate lairs in space. There’s plenty of variety and the level design is mostly up to par. The game finds a decent middle ground between being too easy and overly difficult. There will be moments where Crash Bandicoot 4 feels like a breeze and other moments where it’s brutally difficult. For the most part, these moments are few and far between, and most of the game is an enjoyable challenge. Outside of the main campaign, there are plenty of additional excursions to play through. Those who want additional story content can play through “alternate timeline” missions. These allow players to play as one of the side characters (Neo Cortex, Tawna and Dingodile) and provide additional context to particular moments. They’re fun additions that give players different movesets to enjoy.

Those looking for additional platforming challenges can find that in the Flashback levels. Unlocked via VHS tapes, these levels occur before the events of the original game and provide insight into Neo Cortex’s experiments on Crash. Meanwhile, extra gameplay challenges come in the form Time Trial modes and the new N. Verted mode, a mirrored mode with unique gameplay twists that add a new way to challenge yourself. So, though the main story can be completed in 6-8 hours, there’s plenty of additional content to keep players hooked. Crash Bandicoot 4 embraces the gameplay mechanics of the past, along with a handful of new mechanics. Many of Crash and Coco’s moveset remains unchanged from past games, allowing players to spin, slide, jump and bounce off crates. Each level involves using these moves to defeat enemies, bust open crates, collect Wumpa fruit and avoid environmental traps. It’s an addicting balance of mechanics that worked back on PlayStation and still manages to work today.

Getting through the game involves plenty of trial and error. Crash Bandicoot 4 encourages players to learn from their mistakes to master each level. Usually, the results leave you feeling great about mastering a challenging platforming section. That isn’t to say there aren’t hiccups, mostly surrounding the camera during rail-grinding sections. While the camera is usually good about providing a preview of upcoming dangers on the ground, it often becomes obscured by other objects during rail sections that can result in frustrating deaths. It doesn’t feel fair, for example, when the camera focuses on a tree rather than showing there’s an incoming boulder.

Crash Bandicoot 4 does throw new mechanics into the mix, including wall running, but the significant changes lie with the new playable characters and the Quantum Masks. While Crash and Coco feature identical movesets, the additional characters bring wildly different play styles to the mix. The closest in style to the Bandicoots, Tawna wields a grappling hook that opens up new platforming opportunities and hit enemies from long distances. Dingodile uses a vacuum gun to help him get over long distances and suck up and throw objects. Finally, Cortex’s ray gun allows him to solidify or jellify objects, increasing his limited mobility. These characters are fun to play as and provide a welcoming break from Crash and Coco.

Quantum Masks are the most considerable change to the established formula, with each throwing in a unique mechanic. Lani-Loli phase shifts objects in and out of reality, Kupuna-Wa slows time, Ika-Ika flips the direction of gravity, and finally, Akano creates a whirlwind of energy that allows Crash and Coco to glide in the air and destroy nearby objects. Of the four masks, Lani-Loli and Kupuna-Wa are the easiest to understand and master. Akano is fun to use but can be a pain in precision platforming due to the physics and sometimes questionable hitboxes surrounding TNT crates. Ika-Ika, however, is the most painful to use due to the change in perspective and the built-in delay between activating the power and when it goes into effect. It’s not uncommon to frustratingly die after activating Ika-Ika and the ability not taking affect in time. When all the mechanics combine, Crash Bandicoot 4 offers fantastic platforming. The Quantum Masks do enough to freshen the Crash formula to where they don’t feel like gimmicks, though there are frustrating moments trying to master Akano and Ika-Ika. While the Quantum Masks aren’t a complete slam dunk, the new characters are. They’re all enjoyable to play with movesets that routinely shake up the formula.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time already looked and ran great on last-gen consoles, so it isn’t too shocking that it looks great running on next-gen. The PS5 version looks slick with a 4K resolution that adds additional clarity to the world. More importantly, the game runs at a smooth 60fps, which was a nice upgrade from the 30fps and unlocked options found on last-gen consoles. The next-gen graphical update isn’t mind-blowing, but it does make an already great looking and playing game even better.

The PS5 version contains additional features not found on the other platforms, mainly in the form of the DualSense Adaptive Triggers and Activity Card support. While many other PS5 games have used the DualSense to great effect, the controller’s advanced functions are barely noticeable in the upgrade. Activity Cards are handled much better though, providing an easily accessible breakdown of your progress across the game. Players can then hop right into any challenges. It’s one of the best uses of the PS5 feature yet, though getting into the game can still be a pain. Load times into the different levels is much shorter this time around, but booting up the game remains a slog thanks to unskippable credits.


Closing Comments:

Crash Bandicoot fans got what they asked for last year with a proper follow-up that honored the legacy of Naughty Dog’s classic trilogy. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time embraced the mechanics that made the franchise such a hit while adding its own unique spin. The move to PS5 and Xbox Series X|S maintains the same essence that made the game so enjoyable last year, but it now looks and runs better. The visuals are cleaner and the frame rate runs at a solid 60fps. DualSense support is lackluster compared to other titles, but the smart use of Activity Cards makes up for it. With a free upgrade available for current owners, and the ability to import saves from the cloud, hopping back into Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is simple, or start a whole new adventure for the first time. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time was the return to form the franchise needed and it’s looking good on next-gen.