The additional characters, and the extra levels that go along with them, are nice, but don’t add much to the experience. Dr. Neo Cortex is a surprisingly boring playable character, while Dingodile is the best of the three thanks to his more unique move set. But I’m not exactly pining for a spin-off at this point.
The Quantum Mask really remain the highlight here, though you can only use certain masks at specific points in each level to solve increasingly tricky platforming puzzles. While most levels usually just feature one Quantum Mask, you’ll have to quickly switch between them to tackle the game’s final and most difficult levels. Unlike some revivals of retro franchises that skimp on the difficulty, It’s About Time revels in its high difficulty, though that’s not always a good thing.
I welcome the challenge of a precise platformer, but too often Crash Bandicoot 4 relies on cheap trial-and-error gameplay. It’s one thing to mistime a jump. It’s another thing entirely to fall to your death because a newly introduced platform drops without warning or because you have no way of knowing ahead of time that there’s an acid-spitting enemy smackdab in your path. One of the biggest new additions here, crates that spit flames in all directions at regular intervals, seem designed just to increase the number of stupid deaths you’ll encounter. Sure, the older Crash Bandicoot games have always been known for their difficulty, but there’s a reason why platformers aren’t designed like this anymore: It’s simply not very fun.
Release Date: Oct. 2, 2020
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), XBO
Developer: Toys for Bob
When you start Crash Bandicoot 4, you’ll have the option of choosing retro difficulty where you’ll have to restart each level after losing a certain number of lives, or modern difficulty, which just resets you to the last checkpoint, keeps tracks of your deaths in each level, and shows a marker where you’re going to land at the end of every jump. Don’t be a hero. Pick modern difficulty from the start. You’ll thank me later. I regularly hit 30-40 deaths my first time through each level, and it took me more than 170 tries to beat the maddeningly frustrating last level just before the final boss.
To be sure, there are still a lot of enjoyable sections in Crash Bandicoot 4. The iconic chase sequences where you run toward the camera are as fun as ever. A trip to another planet later in the game features a ride on an alien creature through one of the most beautiful and exotic locales ever seen in a platformer. Another level features a very cool romp through a flying car traffic jam that feels straight out of The Fifth Element. But my enjoyment of It’s About Time dropped dramatically when the difficulty ratcheted up.