Platformer Review

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – Review

I seem to be a glutton for punishment recently. First Spelunky 2 that I recently reviewed and now Crash Bandicoot 4 – both enjoyable games, but both incredibly difficult. In fact, while Crash Bandicoot 4 will be no surprise to those who played the previous titles, those new to the series may be in for a shock.

A Retro Setup

Following in the tradition of many older 3D platformers, the story of Crash Bandicoot 4 is quite simple. Following on from the previous mainline story, it opens with Uka Uka, Neo Cortex, and N. Tropy trying to break out of confinement. Uka Uka manages to break through dimensions while attempting this, causing rifts to appear.

Crash and Coco meet Lani-Loli, a quantum mask who explains that the rifts appearing is certainly a bad thing. This sets them on an adventure to try and find the other quantum masks and to close the rifts while defeating the bad guys who are appearing in different times and places.

It’s a simple setup, but it works and allows for a wide variety of levels set in different times and locations to not seem out of place. It’s supported by multiple cut scenes along the way, some funny lines, and some slapstick humor.

Crash Bandicoot 4 - Scratches Head

Death Before Victory

As I already mentioned, Crash Bandicoot 4 is a difficult game. You need to proceed through the levels, smashing crates, collecting fruit, and defeating enemies while ideally fulfilling a number of optional objectives to succeed. There are a few reasons why this is difficult.

As with many platformers, timing is key. Jump at the wrong time and you might find yourself falling to instant death. This game is no exception. It can require some very tight timing to successfully jump between moving platforms and it’s often more complex than just making a number of jumps. You sometimes have to successfully perform commands in midair to do things such as make a wall disappear and then perform another command to make the platform you hope to land on reappear before the landing. This requires both careful planning and very fast reactions.

Some obstacles are just very difficult to deal with unless you already know that they’re there. It’s not often, but some even seem impossible. Learning the level is common in this type of game, but it does seem to the point of being unfair at times. Other sections require study, whether that’s through stopping, watching for patterns and thinking, or more commonly through throwing yourself at it until you figure it out.

There is also that the game will often tempt you to make life even more difficult. Crash Bandicoot 4 has a lot of optional objectives. From the ever-present collect all crates that may lead you down more difficult routes to even more challenging ones such as collecting a videotape that requires reaching a certain point without dying even once.

While the difficulty starts off reasonably high and quickly ramps up even higher, the game offers a ‘modern’ game mode by default to help out. This lets you continue trying from the previous checkpoint, no matter how many times you die. The old ‘retro’ game mode in which running out of lives will end the level is an option if you prefer. This was the only option in the previous main series Crash Bandicoot games. Some of the more difficult platforming is assisted by an indicator underneath when you jump, so landings aren’t always as impossible as they seem.

I personally found I had the most fun by ignoring my initial strategy of trying to complete everything perfectly the first time and just making it through the level at first, then coming back to fully learn the level and work on the optional objectives later. It’s certainly a satisfying challenge to beat a level fully, but it can get frustrating at times. With that said, it is very addictive.

Crash Bandicoot 4 - Jump

Mixing It Up

One nice thing about Crash Bandicoot 4 is that it gives you a good amount of variety. While most of the levels are the standard gameplay where you can choose to play as either Crash or Coco, you unlock levels where you play as three different characters later in the game. These allow you to experience a different playstyle to some degree, but it still keeps the same principles. One example involves swinging off a rope into a wall jump, into another wall jump. As is often the case, mistiming it will have you fall to your death, though the wall jumping part is unique to that character.

Mixed into many levels are sections where you use the power of the quantum masks. These can only be used in these sections. The first one you get allows you to phase shift certain parts of the environment which brings a new challenge. As you get further in the story, more than one type of these can appear in a level, so you may be phase-shifting through platforms one minute and then a few minutes later slowing down time to jump on Nitro boxes and get away safely.

There are also the ‘N Verted’ remixes of levels you have already completed to unlock. These put a different spin on levels with ideas such as only lighting up an area briefly after a spin. There are also 2D crate challenges which are difficult to unlock and not easy to complete, but certainly fun. As in previous titles, there are also time trials that change most crates into timer delays.

After the initial few hours, there were enough different things unlocked that if I did get tired of making my way through the standard levels, I could always go and try something a little different for a while. Or I could go back to a regular level, but try to complete the extra objectives and try to find hidden paths. It’s a good way to keep it engaging.


It’s worth pointing out that Crash Bandicoot 4 looks great. A lot of attention has been given to the details of the environments and the level of graphics is just generally high. 

As a bonus, you can have Crash and Coco wear tons of different outfits. These skins are not microtransactions, but all unlocked through playing the game – in most cases through collecting all of the gems in a stage. Most of the gems are for collecting all of the crates, though there are also hidden gems to find and a gem for not dying more than a certain amount of times. It’s a nice little reward.


Crash Bandicoot 4 is a great challenge and I couldn’t stop playing. It has a ton of variety over quite a lot of levels and the gameplay is genuinely fun. The production values are high and there’s always something to do. It’s a definite improvement on the previous games in the series, despite keeping the same feel.

Despite being one of the best games I’ve played recently, I do have one big concern. I could see a lot of people giving up and coming away from this game with a bad impression because of the difficulty. While you can keep trying and trying, many areas are just incredibly difficult and some people won’t be able to pass them. This is not going to be a game for everyone and that’s not a bad thing.


Platforms: PlayStation 4, XBox One

If you would like to read about challenging games you might be interested to read this review of Spelunky 2, or this review of Mortal Shell.

Thank you to Activision for providing a PlayStation 4 review code for the game.


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