If you were worried that Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time would deviate too far from what made the original PS1 titles so memorable, cast those concerns aside. From the moment you gain control of the classic protagonist, it is immediately clear that developer Toys for Bob understood what it had to do with a fourth mainline entry, almost 22 years later. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is both a tribute to what came before it and an evolution that sees the platformer feel right at home in the modern age. It is tough as nails, precise platforming fun, and the welcome return of a much-requested mascot. That sounds a lot like Crash Bandicoot to us.
We've been lucky enough to gain early access to a demo hitting the PlayStation Store in a couple of days for those that pre-order, with two different levels to sample alongside a Dr. Neo Cortex-themed twist that essentially makes for a third. Snow Way Out tasks Crash with scaling an icy mountain inhabited by zombie fishermen while Dino Dash is all about keeping a ferocious T-Rex at arm's length. It's here where the game pays homage to its predecessors with some classic running at the camera action whilst the former is more of a traditional level. Where Dr. Neo Cortex fits into things is once again on Snow Way Out — he has his own exclusive section complete with new abilities and platforming challenges to master.
But let's discuss how Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time gets the basics right before we dive into its more complex mechanics. There's no greater example of that than Snow Way Out, which will test your abilities to their limit. Make no mistake: this is a challenging title. Your jumps have to be on point, slippery platforms will throw you to your death more often than not, and enemies can be a real nuisance in certain situations. It's not a walk in the park by any means. The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy reminded us the original trilogy was always like that though, so Toys for Bob has nailed that aspect completely.
And when you are nailing those jumps, there's no greater feeling. However, you will need some help along the way. That's where the new masks come into play, with Snow Way Out playing host to Kupuna-Wa. The pick-up allows you to slow down time in order to navigate platforming sections where your skills as a Bandicoot wouldn't be enough. Activation only lasts for a couple of seconds so you've got to be quick about it, leading to quick-fire stretches of leaps that are incredibly satisfying to pull off.
It's a fantastic level that admirably captures what made those PS1 classics so special, and so too does Dino Dash. It plays a lot like the Boulders level from the very first title, but instead of a gigantic rock chasing you down as you run at the camera, it's a real-life Tyrannosaurus Rex! The beast doesn't take any prisoners so Crash has to be on his toes to slide under bramble, jump across drops in his path, and avoid deadly fauna to escape the level.
Dino Dash also sees the introduction of a second mask named Lani-Loli. This lets you switch between two different realities, which when put into practice, means that Wumpa Boxes can phase in and out of existence as well as obstacles in your path. This comes to a crescendo in on-rails sections where Crash must quickly phase between the two plains to avoid getting hit by rocks and greenery. With Kupuna-Wa alongside it, these two masks are proof of how Toys for Bob are committed to freshening up the gameplay loop of Crash Bandicoot whilst keeping its core values close to heart.
And let's not forget about Dr. Neo Cortex — playable for the first time in a numbered entry. He has his own set of skills and abilities to help overcome the trials and tribulations of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, meaning he actually plays quite differently compared to Crash. The mad doctor comes equipped with a blaster that turns enemies into platforms to utilise or bounce pads to reach even greater heights. There's also a dash that'll get him into all sorts of nooks and crannies in the level that Crash can't access. It's all a welcome change from the basic spin attack we've all come to master, expanding the scope of the game to allow for even more features and ideas to become a reality.
That's what appears to be so, so good about the latest effort from Toys for Bob. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time retains the core fundamentals of the Naughty Dog classics to create a faithful experience that feels familiar, but also one that dares to push the boundaries with brand new mechanics and characters. When the full game arrives in less than a month's time, it might just be the best Crash Bandicoot yet. This demo most certainly sets it along the right path.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time launches on 2nd October 2020, with access to this pre-launch demo provided by Activision. You too can check it out by pre-ordering the game on the PlayStation Store. Are you excited about the latest entry in the Bandicoot's saga? Spin and dash into the comments below.