As a fan of the Crash Bandicoot series that also grew up with it, it was hard for me to imagine a modern game that could reach the heights of its predecessors. The original trilogy that was developed by Naughty Dog is still wildly regarded as one of the best platformers released on the PlayStation 1, and it is not easy to top them. However, Toys for Bob have proven me wrong here with Crash Bandicoot 4, which is so good that it even surpasses the original games.
The beginning of the game shows us that it takes place right after the events in Crash Bandicoot 3. Dr. Cortex, N. Trophy, and Uka Uka are trapped in a strange place after their defeat against Crash. Uka Uka tries to make them escape and succeeds away with it by opening a portal in the fabric of space and time, however, he passes away from the stress of opening such a powerful portal. This leads Dr. Cortex and N. Tropy to discover a multiverse and they devise a plan to conquer it, leaving Crash along with Coco the only hurdle in their way to dominating the various dimensions.
One of the reasons why the classic Crash games are adored is due to its level design and Toys for Bob has managed to design a worthy successor here. The level design in Crash Bandicoot 4 is splendid with a mix of tough platforming challenges, the new gameplay mechanic is given in the shape of masks that grant the player special abilities. These can be used to traverse various parts of the levels and are gradually unlocked as the player makes progress through the story.
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The developers have opted to add more replay value by providing two versions of a single level. One is the main timeline where players can control Crash and Coco. While they share identical movesets, they still feel slightly different to play in terms of how the player controls their movement. The other version of a level is called “alternative timeline” and it adds more playable characters into the mix. This time, Dinogdile, Tawna, and Dr. Cortex are all playable through this version of the levels.
The first time that is immediately given as the game begins is the two different gameplay modes. They don’t have an impact on the difficulty, but they do affect how the checkpoint system works in the game. One is the modern gameplay mode which allows the player to continue their journey from a checkpoint after dying. The other is a retro mode where the lives are limited and once they run out, the death of the player means they have to attempt the whole level again. The modern version also keeps track of the number of deaths, however, there is no major difference in terms of the difficulty offered by the game.
As a current-generation game, the modern gameplay mode feels perfect for Crash Bandicoot 4, and it was the gameplay mode of choice for this review. While the game is balanced fairly, dying can happen for one reason or another so keeping a checkpoint system without any worry of restarting the level again works out better, especially with the various variations that are offered for levels. As it is typical with a crash game, the level design is linear with no health system, so one mistake can easily cause you a precious life.
The production values of Crash Bandicoot 4 are, simply put, amazing. It feels like a proper-budgeted modern Crash game. The visuals are quite colorful especially with HDR and the image looks super clean in 4K. The art style is perfect for a modern version of Crash while fitting with the aesthetics of the classic design. There is a lot of love and care put into making this new game which is evident at every corner. The different playable characters, for example, have their own unique movesets that they can use to clear out any obstacles. This might make the game feel like it offers more replay value but we have barely scratched the surface in terms of what is being offered here.
One thing that should be clear here is that this sequel is not aimed at bringing in new fans. It does make some changes to the gameplay while adding new gameplay mechanics like masks and abilities like wall run, but the level design still follows the same old-school approach. If you don’t like the original Crash Bandicoot games, it is hard to say if you are going to love this one. It is much better than any of the second generation Crash games, that is for sure. However, it also sticks closely to its roots while carefully innovating in some aspects to help improve the overall flow of the game.
As a fan of Crash Bandicoot, I feel confident in Toys for Bob’s ability to handle the series. They have done an outstanding job with this new entry that is more like a dream game for every Crash fan. It offers a copious amount of fun, multiple gameplay modes, and solid replay value. The game has a stellar presentation with gorgeous graphics so honestly, there is nothing better to ask from it, aside from simple innovations to how they make further sequels while keeping the roots of the series alive.