Have you ever wanted to erase from the past some of the bad sequels of your favorite movie or game series and then continue from the moment where the last good part ended? Let’s mention some of these notorious sequels: Superman Returns and Terminator: Dark Fate.
What the aforementioned movies did not fully succeed in, the development team Toys for Bob somehow managed to pull off with the sequel to Naughty Dog’s original trilogy completed in 1998. This team definitely digs Crash, so this fourth part, released in October 2020 for PS4 and Xbox One, comes as some kind of semi-sequel or semi-reboot, and a great extension of the recent re-makes of the first three parts of the N. Sane Trilogy. The version of the game for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and Windows was released in March this year. The re-makes were great and after them comes Crash 4, so we can completely forget the sequels that happened in between (if you do not know what games we are talking about, good, let it stay that way).
A little diversion off the topic – interestingly, due to changing a release date for PS5 in 2020, TOP mobile bookmakers came to an idea to include the odds for this, introducing odds for over/under certain release dates, then for over/under retail price, etc.
Crash Bandicoot 4 brings all the characters and action platforming that we loved in the old games of this series but also many new ideas that are brilliantly mixed into that formula. The new Crash very quickly and intensively pays homage to the past of the series but also continues where Warped ended.
Crash’s biggest enemies N. Trophy and Neo Cortex manage to get out of jail along with the Uka Uka and quickly make a new typical villainous plan to dominate the universe. The games of this series have always been action-focused, but the story goes with a fine line between being aware that it continues after more than two decades and a legitimate, funny, but also the new story that is written quite OK.
The main story lasts about nine hours but just completing the required levels will give you approximately a 34 % rating. The other 66 % are full of extra challenges and, of course, things to collect. The progression is fairly linear and the overworld map is similar to that of the first Crash game, without the hub rooms inspired by Super Mario 64 we saw in Crash 2 and Crash 3.
It Was About Time…
The basic gameplay is, as before, platforming with which the authors from Toys for Bob managed to revive the magic of the original trilogy but also to add a lot of new, more exciting, and often very difficult mechanics. Crash (or Coco, which can also be played with from the start) will very quickly come into possession of Quantum Masks, which bring possibilities related to changing gravity, slowing down the time, creating and disappearing platforms on the go, and the like.
New types of opponents, curved jumping sections, grind like in Sonic Adventure, or some tricky things that you would expect in Ratchet rather than in Crash are somehow successfully packaged into the existing formula and do not deviate from the original idea at all. Things stay fresh throughout the game and, if an obstacle or trick is repeated later, it is usually in a slightly modified and more challenging style, such as the return of Crash’s surfboard from the original trilogy.
Not all new mechanics are great. There are some that are annoying, such as barrels that release fire, and they do nothing but make you wait for them to go out. When all the new Quantum Masks and mechanics are combined with a progressively more complex and difficult level design, the game near the end becomes quite difficult, and then the levels are definitely the hardest in the series. However, their successful completion brings a great feeling that you have not had in platform games for a very long time. Boss fights are also very fresh but their mechanics are unlike anything from previous games, and the level of difficulty they possess will be a real challenge even for more experienced players.
The level of difficulty also depends on the mode you choose. The modern option brings an unlimited number of lives (but also a death counter to remind you how much you fail) and continuing from checkpoint indefinitely, while there is also an old-school option where lives are limited so when you lose everything, you have to repeat the entire level. As if the game is not hard enough anyway. As a relief, it is possible to include a shadow, more precisely to highlight the place where you land – it used to be a round and simple shadow under the Crash but as shadows are now more realistic, they can no longer be used to estimate the jump so this mode is there for those who are accustomed to it.
The best thing, besides the main story, is the flashback levels. A couple of them represent a real test of old-school platforming skills. Namely, these are VHS tapes, recordings of Crash tests from 1996, all with that VHS effect over the levels. Very cool. There are also many time trials, other playable characters coming later (Dingodile, Tawna, and Cortex – all with their own special mechanics), local multiplayer and co-op, all with the hot seat option to play “for life” with up to four players and the game tracks your score separately. Ingenious! Literally, everything in the game makes you want to win those 100 % of the completed game.
A Whole New World
Part of what makes the levels in Crash 4 so easy to grasp and fascinating to explore is the incredible level of detail that Toys for Bob has managed to insert. Here you can see the biggest difference in relation to the original games and their re-makes. There are plenty of levels to remember, from the frozen tundra of the 1700s to a festival in a city like New Orleans and prehistoric times – the design is great and on-spot. Many of the artists who have worked on the game have in the résumé, in addition to the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, games such as those from the Skylanders series, Destiny 2, and even some Blizzard titles, which is noticeable in the best possible way. This is evident both in the design of the levels and in the appearance of the opponents but also the main characters.
Crash, of course, remained faithful to his original form, with his happy-go-lucky mood in the style of Looney Tunes, and with Coco being a bit more serious. The new version of Tawna corrects her previous “princess to be saved” role – she is now a badass with a difficult past. Dingodile is here, and he also has his own story about opening and then repairing a restaurant.
It is great how Toys for Bob managed to integrate complete story arcs for all the characters in the game. You can follow their stories if you fly through the game but, if you want to learn more about them, there are special additional levels for them. When all is added and subtracted, this is definitely the Crash game with the highest number of levels ever. The promise has been fulfilled.
All this is complemented by a soundtrack that fits perfectly and sounds completely in the style of classic Crash melodies. Like many other pleasant surprises in Crash 4, the music has a couple of special moments, such as a change in sound when you put on one of the Quantum Masks.
- Great design and new mechanics
- The largest selection of playful characters so far
- Retro VHS levels
- Great “Accessibility” options for everyone
- Huge leap in the level of difficulty before the end of the game
- Boss fights are innovative but they stand out
This is not Sonic 4 or so, it is not some attempt to continue the old platform franchise ‘for no reason‘. Crash 4 is more like Sonic Mania, taking everything that was good from the original and enriching it with new mechanics, characters, and levels. It can be seen that all these novelties were very much influenced by the best games from the genre that have appeared in the meantime but that does not matter here because it fits in properly.
After a great re-make of the original trilogy as well as Crash Team Racing, Toys for Bob enters and continues the series with a really great fourth serial which, in addition to being a very good Crash sequel, is a great game rich in content and in hours of hardcore platforming fun.