Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (Review)

Crash Bandicoot was a series I saw and played very little of in my early days because I grew up on Nintendo, and by the time PlayStation became a major player in the game, I had become primarily a PC player.  And though I had a PS2, I believe there was only one main entry on that platform.  Is Crash Bandicoot 4 going to teach me a lesson for skipping the series?


GAMEPLAY

…it felt immediately familiar…

I did mention I dabbled with the series early in the day, and the 3D scroller gameplay didn’t quite grab my attention especially when I had already played full 3D-roaming games by then, ergo Super Mario 64.  What immediately caught my attention about Crash Bandicoot 4 is that it felt immediately familiar.  This game is crafted so closely as a modernized continuation of the series (and thus it’s continued numbering) that I immediately felt that nostalgic tingle in my naughty bits.  I found myself shocked at the combination of classic gameplay in which I really needed to know the level, and that dying could come very easily.  If you know me, you know I’m used to a challenge, but I went into this thinking they reinvented the series.  And here’s the thing: I find myself glad they didn’t.  Sure, I believe this gameplay could have been wildly expanded with the type of power we have at our fingertips now, and that this game does have its frustrating sections that have all the same pitfalls of that type of pattern-memory-level design, but what they did is still entirely enjoyable.  Furthermore, the additional characters play differently and that’s where the variation is nice.  It might not be the type of variation that really expands the game’s core concept, but it keeps things from getting stale.  Add in bonus levels for people looking to have a REAL challenge, and this game does, indeed, jangle your nostalgia nutsack.


CONTENT

…you’re only going to get more hours if you’re a completionist…

This is a rough one since the modern template for content has changed.  The game lands in a sort of standard platformer length area, and it took me about 10 hours to see the end.  That’s partially because I did enjoy doing some of the bonus levels and going back to do the side character level variations, but in terms of dollars-per-hour content, it does fall short.  Again, I also understand that this length is actually pretty standard for this type of game, but you’re only going to get more hours if you’re a completionist who wants to see and do it all with inverted levels, challenges, and collectibles (including various skins) to get all of the trophies for bragging rights.


PRESENTATION

It feels as if none of these additional characters really see the type of development they deserve.

This is a damned fine example of art style and graphics.  Sure, it’s not quite pushing graphics to the limit, especially considering its current gen update is primarily resolution, but the art style balances it out.  We thus have a colorful, fun, eye-pleasing game that runs at a solid 60fps.  The animation is quite good, too, thanks to the devs’ already experienced hands in this arena of visual style.  And then there’s the story… This is where it’s a bit lukewarm.  It feels as if none of these additional characters really see the type of development they deserve.  Don’t get me wrong, as I said earlier: it’s nice to have some gameplay variety.  But these characters feel more designed for THAT purpose than to properly add story development.  That includes the eventual token, “work with your once sworn enemy” plot twist.  I don’t know how to say it in a way that doesn’t sound overly judgmental, but I’m just not feeling the characters and story development, and that’s a big factor in modern games.


CONCLUSION

…the nostalgic side of me gets moist giblets…

This is one of those times where I get stuck between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand, it’s classic and frustrating and the nostalgic side of me gets moist giblets over that.  On the other hand, just a major missed opportunity to do so much more with the franchise thanks to today’s powerful console tech.  On the one hand, it’s the right length for a platforming type game before it wears you out and runs out of fresh mechanics.  On the other hand, its core campaign is quite short for the price since many games nowadays take advantage of expanded storage to bring about bigger, more expansive worlds.  On the one hand, its absolutely lovely to look at, and a fair reminder that graphics and artstyle CAN work together and are not mutually exclusive.  On the other hand, no matter how good the art style and animation work is, I can’t find myself caring about these characters that feel tossed in.  Quite simply: on the one hand, this is a good game; but on the other hand, far from a great one.

I give Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time…

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