It's Really About Time
Retro revivals and spiritual successors are as popular as ever. Franchises have started looking back at what worked previously to inform the future. Especially now in the end times, people want things that remind them of the good old days... or of anytime before 9 months ago. I didn’t read comic books growing up, so that entire cultural totem pole is lost on me. I didn’t grow up playing a lot of modern video games, so most sequels from lasting franchises like Super Mario or Halo only interest me on the surface, rather than that visceral nostalgic attachment that the marketing for these games rely on. These games can be enjoyed without the history, though sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on something when I see the people around me being absolutely enamoured by the small details or changes that these games make to their favourite series.
Enter stage left, Crash Bandicoot.
By the time it was announced that Vicarious Visions was producing a remaster of the first three Crash Bandicoot games for modern systems, I had completely forgotten that I was a fan of Crash Bandicoot, and I don’t think I am alone in this. The original games on the PlayStation were my most played games as a child, and without owning a PlayStation 2 before moving onto PC gaming, the original games were my only exposure of the platforming mascot. The later releases in the series quickly tried to recapture the magic of the originals, with spin offs and wacky gimmicks throwing the series into a Sonic The Hedgehog-esque purgatory, or so I'm told (there was one where you ride monsters, I think?).
Those remasters, which I eventually picked up on the Nintendo Switch because I didn't own a PlayStation 4 (remember, I wasn't a true Crash Bandicoot fan), awakened a long lost part of my childhood. In mere moments I was slapping that D-pad (the only way to play Crash games, fight me), climbing fake nitro staircases and slamming into alien street signs on my way to clap some Neo-cheeks. Crash Bandicoot was back, baby!
So that's all well and good, the Crash Bandicoot remasters were received well by most people, but what about the latest entry in the series?
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is a modern masterpiece and I will not let anyone convince me otherwise.
Frankly, it's about time I got the chance to unconditionally love a game like this. Most of my nostalgic memories are dispersed across a wide range of both popular and obscure media, so when an old-new release or remaster is announced, most of the time I may be interested or excited but I always felt like I was missing that little bit of child-like wonder that surrounds these carefully crafted reveals. The marketing of Crash Bandicoot 4 hit so many strings that I didn’t know I had, and I finally know what it’s like to be directly targeted.
Of course, I am going to take this one opportunity I have been given to be a mindless, blind fan of the game. My history of talking about media has always been analytical and especially when other people have already filled in the spaces about how a franchise’s revival fits into existing canon, or whether it’s “faithful” to the original, the analytical space always feels like the safest place to be so you don’t anger the piss babies.
But not this time. This time I get to be the piss baby. So here’s my list of things that get my fingers waggling on the D-pad with delight when playing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Yes this is my official review and you may add me to Metacritic.
This is the fourth Crash Bandicoot game. Fuck Wrath of Cortex. I didn’t have a PS2 when it came out so it doesn’t exist in my brain, and now Crash Bandicoot officially agrees with me. The only canon games, and therefore the only games that matter, are Crash Bandicoot 1-3 on the PlayStation 1 and now this and I will fight anyone that disagrees.
The characters actually matter now. Tawna and Coco Bandicoot are finally defined by more than their relationship to Crash, and Tawna especially is given the reboot she has desperately needed since her inclusion. Coco being playable in more than just Coco-specific levels has been a long time coming. Hopefully her laptop batteries are fully charged (did you get that slick reference fellow gamers?).
Dingodile. I don’t actually care about any other playable characters because I didn’t realise that I needed this Aussie amalgamation and his big crazy-uncle energy until now.
D-pad is king. If you’re not playing any of the 4 (four) Crash Bandicoot games to exist with the D-pad rather than the stick, then you have officially revoked your gamer license because the d-pad is the only way this game can be played. This game does have full 360 degree movement rather than the 8 directions of the original, but this is simply a ploy to make you play worse and I will not stand for it.
Bouncing on crates as a game mechanic. Crash Bandicoot games have always had a good relationship with crates. I think it’s interesting to compare and contrast how the series has evolved (or not evolved) with regards to its core collectables compared to other staple platformers like Mario or Sonic. While those games iterated and changed the use and importance of their coins and rings, Crash Bandicoot looked at crates and said “yeah we don’t need to do anything different” and then filled every level with them - and I love it. The most creative use of crates stems from their application in platforming puzzles. With the same set of crates that Crash Bandicoot has has since the 90’s, Crash Bandicoot 4 presents interesting challenges that invite you to think outside the box to solve - much to the amusement of my colleagues when I completed a Flashback Tape at the socially distanced launch of this very publication.
Masks are power-ups perfected. Masks are functionally the replacement for Crash Bandicoot 3’s powerup system, which would give you extra abilities upon completing each boss. These abilities would often be required for later levels in the game, but could still be used in earlier levels. This would often cause some earlier levels to become absolutely broken with how good some abilities were - which might I remind you included a literal fruit bazooka. Masks are a fantastic replacement as they still provide the depth in platforming that comes with new abilities but are only accessible in certain parts of certain levels. This means that every level can be perfectly designed around the set of tools that you will always have available to use, and you can’t rampage through earlier levels with an anti-tank weapon that fires apples.
I could go on, but I will save you some eye strain for now. Crash Bandicoot 4 is the game I didn’t realise I needed. While it isn’t perfect, it has provided me with a unique experience regardless of the content of the game - something which I hope everyone can experience at least once in their life.