Crash Bandicoot is back. No, not as a remake, and no, not as a spin-off with wacky monsters to control during your journey or karts to race with either. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is an old-school, nostalgia-fuelled, tough-as-nails Crash Bandicoot platforming escapade that’ll really, REALLY please both series veterans and those who aren’t too familiar with the iconic madcap marsupial.

Remember all of the games that released after Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped? Well, in this universe they don’t exist anymore, with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time following on directly from the conclusion of Warped. Dr. Neo Cortex, Professor N. Tropy, and Aku-Aku have all escaped from their prison and are wreaking havoc, in turn breaking the space-time continuum and altering dimensions across the universe. It’s up to Crash and Coco to save the day, all with a little help from some unlikely allies and the mysterious Quantum Masks.

Everyone knows how the Crash Bandicoot games play, right? You’ll run, jump, spin and slide your way through levels, each of which will send you through vertical and horizontal challenges that’ll really test your platforming prowess. You’ll smash boxes and collect Wumpa Fruit along the way, gather any gems you can find, and may even find yourself running from a raging dinosaur too… who knows? In many ways, it offers the same simple platforming gameplay we all loved in the original trilogy – the formula has aged wonderfully though and still offers plenty of wacky fun now.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Whilst a lot of the core mechanics of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will feel familiar to those that played the original games or re-visited them in the N. Sane Trilogy, there is one big addition this time around that will be a game-changer to those that ever struggled pulling off quick jumps with precision: the landing indicator.

Ever run through the likes of Slippery Climb or The High Road in the original game and thought to yourself, “This would be a lot easier if I could see where I was going to land”? Well, now you can, with a small circular landing indicator on display that shows you where each leap you take is going to land. This makes the whole experience a lot easier to get through and alleviates some of the frustration that comes with 3D platformers, where you can’t quite fully figure out how long of a jump you’ve made because of the perspective you’re playing from. Sure, it can feel a little cheap and I’ll have to admit that at times it felt like I was ‘cheating’ a bit, but the way it helps you string together quick runs and jumps in swift succession just feels all the more satisfying in-game and eliminated one of the series’ biggest problems.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Plus, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is as hard as nails, so you’ll need every advantage you can get anyway… more on that in a bit. Or you can turn it off completely, it’s up to you.

One other big new addition this time around are the Quantum Masks, which grant the player an array of abilities depending on which one they have equipped at the time. These include slowing down time, altering gravity, phasing objects in and out of reality, or even using dark matter to produce a never-ending spin. Each of these gives players new ways to tackle levels, with the abilities not only imperative to simply progressing but also being used to access secret areas or find all of the hidden collectibles. They really spice up the formula and give you something new to think about, with each one’s use making for some pretty sweet moments throughout all of the traditional running, jumping, and spinning.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Of course, whilst Crash and Coco are the stars of the show (and share a lot of the same abilities), there are other playable characters featured this time around that really change up the gameplay experience – each of which will be familiar to those that have played through previous entries in the Crash Bandicoot series.

Remember Tawna, the bandicoot babe you were looking to rescue in the first game? Well, she’s got a fresh badass look this time around and will use her nimble wall-jumping and hookshot in order to make her way through levels. Then you’ve got Dingodile, the crocodile and dingo hybrid that made his debut as a villain in the third release in the series, who adds an extra dimension to the cross-dimensional (wow) gameplay by whipping out his tail and using an airgun. Finally, there’s the nefarious Dr. Neo Cortex, who can actually morph enemies into platforms to use as a means to dash his way through the many tricky platforming challenges in his path.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

I’ll admit, I wasn’t too excited about taking on the role of other characters when it was first announced pre-launch, but after playing as them in the main game they’ve made for some of my favourite moments across Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Sure, nothing beats spinning around as Crash, but tackling the same kinds of levels whilst using the more intricate abilities that the additional characters offer made for some really great moments in-game. They’re all genuinely likable characters too, with Cortex standing out as one of my FAVOURITE villains across all platformers out there.

What helps make the game so much fun is the fact that there’s some seriously clever level design featured across each of the ten worlds, with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time’s stages offering a fine balance of tricky yet satisfying platforming segments that demand precision and wacky enemies to face off against that’ll try to cut your journey short. There are some fun set pieces to get through too, whilst the aforementioned Quantum Masks also help make for some brilliant moments throughout levels. There’s just this air of excitement to everything you do in the game, whether that’s when simply evading all of the hazards that are in your path or pulling off an array of pixel-perfect jumps in quick succession to reach the end… it’s wonderful. Add to that some cracking boss battles that are as crazy as they are challenging, and you’ll quickly find that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time more than lives up to (and often surpasses) the originals that preceded it.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Whilst masterfully designed though, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time also happens to be a pretty tough game. Whilst it does a lot to help players out (including the aforementioned landing indicator and additional checkpoints if you keep dying), the demand for perfect timing, absolute precision, and muscle memory that makes you pull off jumps without thinking is pretty high across the board. Sure, there’ll be plenty of levels that you’ll get through with ease, but when the game does decide to up the ante as far as the difficulty is concerned? It can be rough.

But hey, what else would you expect? It’s Crash Bandicoot, after all, and if the N. Sane Trilogy taught us anything, it’s that his adventures are never easy – even if he does have some friends, villains, and Quantum Masks joining him for the ride this time around.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Whilst the challenging difficulty of the experience will keep you playing for some time, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time also offers plenty of extras to keep those hours racking up. You won’t just be looking to smash all of a level’s boxes to collect gems this around for example, with the Wumpa Fruit of each level counting towards additional gems – you won’t just spin them away carefree anymore. Then there are the time-trials, which are as challenging as EVER thanks to the game’s tough difficulty. Prefer something a bit more wacky? Tackle the game’s N. Verted mode, which gives each level a mirrored approach and an all-new (and often exceptional) art style. Admittedly, the varied art styles can make things more difficult for the player the second time around and there were some instances where they could look a little unappealing, but with all-new gems to find in levels and Bumpa Berries to collect, there’s plenty of incentive to try them all out.

What about those players who want a REALLY tough challenge? They’ll want to take a look at the Flashback Tapes, which give players levels to play through that demand even MORE precision and skills than any of the others in the main game. Honestly, these levels are a real test for even the most seasoned of Crash Bandicoot players, though the fact you have unlimited lives to tackle them does mean that you should succeed… eventually.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

Add to all of the single player challenges a competitive multiplayer mode that offers score-chasing or racing showdowns and an abundance of skins to unlock for each character, and you’ll quickly find that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time really is the complete package. It’s also incredibly pretty and has some uniquely remarkable environments to admire as you spin your way through each level, with it standing out as one of the finest looking platformers that has come out on this generation of consoles.

9.4/10

Summary

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a brilliant and wild platforming romp that is sure to please series veterans thanks to its fun nostalgia-fuelled gameplay. That’s not to say that complete newcomers won’t enjoy the ride too though, with everything in the game feeling finely crafted – each level offers satisfying platforming challenges, a good mix of kooky enemies to defeat, and plenty of variety thanks to the use of additional characters and the Quantum Masks. It’s just a really, really, REALLY fun game.

It’s tough though, which may be off-putting to a number of players (particularly younger ones) who were hoping for an easier time. With an array of settings to make life easier though (including a landing indicator and the option to play with unlimited lives), even the most frustrating levels won’t see you rage-quitting this exquisite platforming adventure.

There’s simply no doubting it: Crash Bandicoot is back and he’s better than ever in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. The future sure looks bright for gaming’s mightiest marsupial… and who knows, maybe we’ll see a little purple dragon make a grand re-appearance soon too?

Developer: Toys for Bob
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One