When Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time released last year, not only did I think it was a worthy successor to the original trilogy, I thought that it exceeded it thanks to its excellent platforming, a wealth of content and incredible presentation values. Six months later and the game has finally come to the Nintendo Switch, just like we all knew it would, and I was very excited to revisit it and see if my high regard for it still stood.
In many ways, I’m happy to report that yes, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is just as great as it was when I first played through it. There are certainly some things that don’t sit as well with me the second time around, but overall it’s still a fantastic adventure and one that fits perfectly on Nintendo’s portable home console.
For those who haven’t played a Crash Bandicoot game before, the general gist has Crash and his sister Coco thwarting the plans of Neo Cortex and his minions. The fourth entry in the series has Crash and Coco travelling across dimensions to find the Quantum Masks and repair the space-time continuum alongside some new friends and enemies.
As was the case in previous games, the plot isn’t really an important factor here, but I will give credit where credit is due and say that the inclusion of cutscenes and more dialogue is a lot of fun and done really well. The cutscenes that introduce certain levels are all really well presented, and Toys for Bob has done an incredible job animating Crash and his friends and displaying their personality front and centre. That also goes for all of the game’s environments and enemies too.
Let’s start this off with the important news first – this is an impressive Switch port of the original release, although it’s not without its flaws. Generally speaking, the personality and designs of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time are brought to life really well even on a small screen, and the game runs at a surprisingly consistent 30 frames-per-second. The drop in framerate is noticeable compared to more powerful consoles, but it’s still totally playable. The only real big difference is a paring down of visual effects and the fact that the game can look somewhat blurry on handheld during certain levels. One thing I’ll commend is that the loading times don’t seem as bad as they were on the original release, although that could just be because of how used to them I am at this point.
Thankfully the port to Switch hasn’t changed what matters most for any Crash game – the gameplay. Things feel a tiny bit slower due to the decreased frame rate, but it plays surprisingly well both in handheld and portable.
Whenever Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has you playing as Crash or Coco, it can be some of the best platforming and levels in the series. The pair simply feel incredible to control, and almost all of the levels are fun to play through whether you’re trying to collect everything, or simply breezing through to the end.
In those moments, I’d still argue that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is the best-feeling Crash game out there. In levels like Off Beat and Cortex Castle it’s exactly what fans have been wanting for years, evolving the formula whilst remaining true to the originals.
The Quantum Masks are also a great addition to the formula, giving Crash the ability to slow down time, reverse gravity, phase objects into existence, and spin really fast. They’re all situational, but they never feel too gimmicky and they end up being just as important to learn as the rest of Crash’s arsenal.
When Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has you playing as the other characters, it definitely sees a drop in quality. Playing as Cortex, Dingodile and Tawna can be fun, but it mostly just feels like wasted time that could have been spent on more levels for the main pair. Cortex in particular is far too difficult to control to the game’s expected perfection.
There are also some moments that go too far with the difficulty and feel crueller than anything else. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time demands you go through its levels without dying and whilst collecting absolutely everything if you want to get all the outfits and fully complete the game.
Each level has six different gems you can earn by collecting all of the wumpa fruit, breaking all the crates, only dying a certain number of times and finding a hidden one somewhere within the level. Trying to chase these gems can lead to some really frustrating moments, especially regarding the limited deaths ones, but it’s a fun little challenge if you’re so inclined.
The gems found in the normal version of the levels are mostly worth it, but then the game expects you to replay the levels with a filter and get six more gems under the same conditions. My biggest issue with this is that it mostly feels like padding. The outfits that you unlock from doing so are generally really awesome, so you’ll want to do it, but it’s still a lot of the same content mixed around. I’d have been happier if they removed the N-verted levels, took away some of the extra character levels, and focused purely on Crash and Coco because that’s really where the game shines.
Of course, it’s completely up to you whether or not you want to do all this optional content, but you have to imagine most players will at least go for some of it. Hindsight meant that I knew how hard this stuff was and so I didn’t really go for it this time around. That actually made things a lot more fun.
For players who have already beaten the game on other systems, I would genuinely recommend giving it another go on the Nintendo Switch. Once you’ve got a basic understanding of all of the game’s mechanics, and once you learn that the N-verted levels and alternate character routes are kind of a waste of time, you’ll find yourself having a ton more fun playing through the game. I had to laugh to myself as I ran through the first Dingodile mission, with zero intention of ever revisiting his levels.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a great port of a fantastic, beautiful game that’s just a little bit too bloated with frustrating content for completionists. When it works it really soars above most modern platformers, but much like Crash itself it feels like it has a problem focusing on one thing at once.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Activision