We’re just a few weeks away from the release of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. And thanks to Activision, I was able to get an early copy of the Demo. Though if you think this is some exclusive first look, think again! Because as I mentioned in my last article, anyone who PreOrders a digital copy of the game will also get access to this exact Demo. As such, this review is more for those who are either (1) still on the fence and have yet to Preorder or (2) Preordered a physical copy and want some insight into how the game plays.
I will be going over what’s included in the Crash Bandicoot Demo, overall level structures as well as general gameplay impressions. Though before we get to any of that, we desperately NEED to talk about the game’s Intro.
After seeing their work with the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, I’m not surprised that Toys For Bob had a unique intro card featuring Crash. What I am (pleasantly) surprised to see is just how nostalgic this opening is – and it’s not even nostalgic to Crash. Way back when we got the State of Play Trailer, Toys For Bob Producer Louis Studdert commented on how the ‘Art Team took inspiration not only from the original Crash Bandicoot games; but also the cartoons those games took inspiration from’. From that Porky Pig pose to Tasmanian Devil-like spin, this opening just SCREAMS Looney Toons. And it’s a tiny little touch like this, that just makes everything that follows so much more enjoyable!
What’s Included in the Crash Bandicoot Demo?
First thing’s first, I’d like to correct an earlier statement where I noted that the Demo would feature two playable levels. That’s not actually true as (depending on how you look at it), it’s actually two and a half or three levels. Allow me to explain. The Demo includes 3 playable levels ‘Snow Way Out’, ‘Dino Dash’ and ‘Ship Happens’ – by far my favorite level name of any game ever! Though the confusion comes when considering ‘Ship Happens’ – the Cortex-centered level of Demo.
In the Tawna gameplay reveal, there was a comment about alternate character levels and how you eventually swap back to Crash and Coco. I wasn’t sure if this was reference to levels in general or if the playable character actually swaps mid level. Based on what we see in this Cortex level, we do indeed swap back to Crash halfway through and proceed in a slightly altered version of ‘Snow Way Out’. Some might initially look at this and think ‘reused content’ but it actually plays out very differently. For starters, it was a great way to weave the two levels together. In this example, you play through the Crash level (Snow Way Out), something happens and you continue on. In the Cortex level (Ship Happens), you make that previously mentioned ‘something’ happen; and then it weaves you back into Crash’s traversal of it.
Additionally, the altered placement of crates forces you to traverse a seemingly familiar level differently than you had before. Thus pushing you out of your comfort zone and letting you get a bit more daring with some maneuvers. Overall, I thought it was a great touch and I’m intrigued to see how other levels will weave together. As for the ‘Dino Dash’ level, it was a super fun mix of standard Crash platforming and Boss run; but I want to save talking about this level for the next section.
Gameplay & Controls
I want to first mention that the Demo allows you to play in both Retro and Modern Mode. If you want a full challenge like the originals and are already familiar with the controls, then go Retro. If you don’t want to worry about running out of lives and want to practice certain sections more, then go Modern. I went modern and I’m very glad I did because I’d forgotten how precise a platformer Crash Bandicoot is. Yes, you’ll have a tiny little tracking circle under your jump to show where you’ll land; but you can’t rely on it too much. If you want to excel, you need to get a feel for the limits of your moves. Yes, your secondary jump (on Crash/ Coco) can serve as a sort of course correction; but there’s many moments where activating a secondary jump can do more harm than good. Which is why, again, I suggest starting with Modern Mode so you can feel it out.
Overall, the demo quickly reminds you that this is a rhythm game more than anything else and that it’s okay to fail a bunch of times before you figure out the rhythm of a section. ‘Dino Dash’ is great level to illustrate this because (1) you’re almost constantly on the move and (2) the level throws so many variations in gameplay at you. This is the level where we get to experience rail grind/ hang for the first time. Additionally, there’s also a section where you need to master the timing of your slide dash – or else you’ll end up in lava.
As far as alternate playable characters go, Cortex functions quite differently and – for me in particular – presented some major challenges. You see, Cortex’s has a ‘shoot’ mechanic to transmute obstacles into platforms as well as a much further ‘dash’ mechanic. And if – like me – you just spent the past week finishing up a Platinum run of Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, that muscle memory is going to kill you because the ‘shoot’ and ‘dash’ buttons are the opposite of Spyro’s ‘flame’ and ‘charge’ buttons. That being said, I did eventually break my muscle memory; and Cortex ended up being an incredibly refreshing change of pace gameplay wise. I think I’ve actually gone back and replayed his level the most. And I can’t wait to see how Dingodile and especially Tawna playstyles feel!
Final Notes: Muscle Memory & Game Build:
In regards to my little Spyro -> Cortex anecdote above, did I bring it up to say, ‘how dare they make the buttons different’? No, of course not! They’re completely different games and I’d never expect them to! The real reason I brought up the story was to demonstrate that muscle memory can literally make or break you in this game. So if my reaction times were messed up because of a different game I played prior, I can only imagine how N. Sane things will get in the N. Verted game modes where muscle memory you have for specific levels will be completely thrown out the window.
It’s also important to note that this demo is NOT the final build of the game. So if there’s a moment or section that you feel is a little twitchy or not as responsive, remember that it’s only a demo. That being said though, I noticed no such mishaps on my play through. I mean, I died a total of 44 times at one point, but that was because of me needing to ‘get good’ – not game glitches.
Overall, this Demo has made me even more excited for the full game to come out. And even though my initial goal to Platinum this game seems further off than before; the music, colorful characters, and genuinely funny cinematics keep me coming back for more!
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will arrive on the PS4 and Xbox One on October 2nd! And if you want to experience this Demo for yourself, be sure to preorder a digital copy!