Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Developer: Activision, Toys for Bob
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PlayStation and Xbox)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 12/03/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
Crash is Back
In October last year, the iconic marsupial returned to its natural habitat of the PlayStation in a brand new Crash Bandicoot title. The original title was reviewed and much loved by one of our writers, echoing the thoughts of many Crash fans. This wasn’t just a spin-off, but a sequel taking place after the N. Sane Trilogy.
With the N. Sane Trilogy making its way onto the Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PC in 2018, a year after its PlayStation release, there was no doubt Crash 4 would follow in its steps. What was more of a surprise is that it only took 5 months for this to happen!
But does Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time replicate its success in the Nintendo Switch port? Well, I took a spin with the handheld console to see how it played.
Time to Bring Something New
Since we’ve already had a review of Crash 4, this will be more of a focus on the Switch port to avoid repetition. However, to sum up my personal thoughts on the game, I don’t think we could have asked for a better sequel. Having a brand new game, instead of remakes like Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, which follows the formula we know and love is exciting enough. But for it to actually be good and bring something new to the table is even more so.
If you couldn’t guess from the clever title, Crash 4 is indeed about time, literally. In an attempt to help villains Neo Cortex and N.Tropy escape their past, Uka Uka tears a hole in the fabric of the universe. Our pair of villains abandon Uka Uka and use the rift to create a Rift Generator, with an aim to conquer every area of the multiverse. Of course, it’s up to Crash and his friends to put a stop to this. This is where the new mechanics of the Quantum masks come into play!
It’s wonderfully silly and full of slapstick comedy, the dialogue making me laugh aloud. I was impressed particularly with the cutscenes, which have taken a step further in animation. Having the classic gameplay of smashing through boxes and collecting Wumpa fruit as you platform through past and future oozes nostalgia. However, It’s About Time is taken to the next level and establishes a formula that makes it stand out; using the Quantum Masks to control time, gravity, phasing objects in and out of dimensions and Dark Matter spinning.
Curse You Bandicoots!
These new abilities bring up the level of challenge. As if Crash games aren’t difficult enough! Timing and quick reactions are key to Crash, but even more so with the use of these powers. I am very thankful that Crash 4 has introduced a choice of a Retro Mode and a Modern Mode! Retro has a limited number of lives like the original titles and once you run out, it’s game over, and you must start from the beginning of the level. I cannot tell you how many times this has made me walk away before I throw my console out the window. Thankfully, Modern Mode is more forgiving, keeping a counter of your deaths instead and allowing you to continue from your last checkpoint. Getting one of the gems in each level does require you to die only 3 times though, which is extremely difficult on your first try.
I think this is particularly good as the Switch has fast become a staple family console, with kids eager to get their hands on one. Though perhaps the younger generation may shamefully be better than me and have quicker reactions, Crash is not an easy game. It might even be that the popularity of the Switch has allowed non-gamers or casual gamers to pick It’s About Time up. Having this option does wonders for accessibility, making the ride easier for those who want a casual time, and even more challenging for die-hard fans who want the retro experience. Though I must admit, even on Modern mode I often saw my death counter climbing higher and higher… those new to Crash are in for a shock.
The gameplay in general is full of variety and fun, taking you through classic run and jump platforming, from sliding a polar bear down a mountain, to riding through prehistoric jungles on a vine. The use of perspective too, moving from close up to zooming out, and from a side-on view to behind, makes each level and section different from the last.
Switch It Up
Perhaps the most important question that you want to find out is how does Crash 4 look and run on a Nintendo Switch. Well, the short answer is if you’re looking for top-end graphics, you’re better off buying it on another console. But, if you’re eager for portable Crash, it’s not game-breaking at all and decent enough.
The visuals are bright and colourful, with the level design being incredibly detailed and a joy to play through. I particularly loved the animations such as Crash shivering in the cold or his ears moving back and forth as you swing on a rope! As mentioned previously, the cut scenes looked superb pairing well with the voice acting. But, it just doesn’t look like a next-gen game. The fuzziness in-game around the playable characters stood out for me, especially in times with intense movement. This included when spinning or when rail riding.
I felt this was more noticeable when playing hand-held, but when my boyfriend walked in while I was playing it on the TV, he asked “why does it look so blurry?”. This may be a case of us being used to the new generation of Xbox and 4k capabilities. However, it’s important to point out that if you’re someone who longs for stunning visuals and high FPS. you’re just not going to get that on a Switch, unfortunately; which is stretched to its limits.
In Your Control
Thankfully, this wasn’t made worse with performance issues as I rarely experienced lag or glitches. The one thing I did notice is that occasionally frames would drop in the loading screens, which was odd. Overall, it doesn’t run or look terrible at all, far from it. You’re essentially choosing to buy the Nintendo Switch version for the benefit of choosing swiftly between handheld and docked. The downside is then that it will not look as good as the new PS5 upgrade for example, but this is of course to be expected.
Speaking of being in control, the controls for Crash are relatively simple too. I use a pro controller, which I prefer to my (drifting) Joy-cons! B to jump, Y to spin and A to crouch, these can be picked up quickly. There is the addition of ZR or X to use the Quantum Mask ability, but there are fairly constant reminders of the controls which pop up on screen. The controls for each playable character vary slightly too; Neo Cortex dashes rather than crouches, and the alternate dimension Tawna, Crash’s girlfriend, uses ZR to grapple hook. Again, it comes naturally the more you play.
I have probably played an equal amount docked and handheld. Having Crash on the big screen definitely feels like a generational step up, coming far from the days of huddling around my box TV with a wired PS2 Dualshock! On the other hand, I think platformers work particularly well on portable systems. If I was finding a level particularly difficult, it was easy to pause and pick up later. You can quickly grab it out of the dock and take it with you on a journey long or short.
Save the Multiverse!
Portable Crash 4 also means more time to replay the wealth of content that’s available in It’s About Time! Collecting all the gems for a level requires smashing all the boxes, collecting 80% of the Wumpa fruit, dying a max of 3 times and finding a hidden gem. This will then unlock skins for Crash and Coco; one of my favourites is the PS1 Crash skin! There also more gems to collect in an inverted version of the level. That’s not all, as there are Flashback Tape levels and timelines for the other playable characters, such as villain turned restaurant owner Dingodile.
There really is hours of content; I recommend enjoying the levels at your own pace first, before returning to grind for all those gems. The portability of the Switch though means you can play short bursts whenever you can, breaking the grind into sections. There’s even a Pass N. Play mode, where at each death or checkpoint you pass the controller to a friend, with all your scores tallying at the end. Just like the good old days!
Take Crash Wherever You Go
Overall, I think it’s clear that for the advantage of the choice between handheld and docked for Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, you are sacrificing top tier graphics. It all really depends on where your priorities lie. It is by no means a terrible port, and doesn’t affect the cartoon style as much as it would a game trying to look realistic. But unfortunately it is quite noticeable.
However, it can’t be denied that being able to play the game whenever and wherever you want is a huge benefit. If someone wants to watch the TV you can pick up and play handheld hassle-free. The grind for 100% completion is much easier when you’re able to play at any time. Crash 4 is, while rage-inducing, such a cleverly designed and great platforming title. Combining what we know and love with new features, this sequel is a roaring success! Just weigh up your priorities and decide whether the Switch port is the one for you.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time for the Nintendo Switch here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.