20 years. 20 years later (22 to be exact) and it’s finally happening. We finally have a canon successor to Crash 3: Warped, the final installment of the original Naughty Dog trilogy. Back when the N. Sane Trilogy was announced, we were just happy to see our favorite Bandicoot back. Then as the Grand Prix began to unfold in the Crash Team Racing remake CTR: Nitro-Fueled, we started to see them experiment with some original racetracks and concepts. This gave us hope that maybe – just maybe – this was Activision/ Beenox testing the waters on how we’d react to an entirely new installment in the Crash Bandicoot franchise.
These hopes began to be realized a few weeks ago when content creators began receiving packages in the mail from “Your Favorite Bandicoot”. The contents of these packages were a puzzle that (once completed) revealed an entirely new mask. Much like the racing dice that had come out before CTR: Nitro-Fueled, fans knew a reveal wasn’t far off. And a few days later, BOOM! We got a full trailer for the newly announced Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
New gameplay mechanics, Developer and a pleasantly familiar art direction. There’s a lot to be excited for about this new game! So let’s break it all down.
Stunning New Character & Level Designs
From the moment the trailer started to play, something seemed different with this Crash compared to the iterations we got from the N. Sane Trilogy and Nitro-Fueled. The aesthetic seemed softer. Crash and Coco actually seemed fluffy. Cortex had a nice mix of menacing and yet comical. Even the levels themselves, while stunningly vibrant felt so aesthetically pleasing. The last time I felt this in awe of character/ level designs was actually when the first trailer for Spyro: Reignited Trilogy came out. So imagine my surprise when I saw that Toys For Bob – not Vicarious Visions or Beenox – were the ones developing this new game.
In case you don’t know, Toys For Bob was the primary developer for Spyro: Reignited Trilogy. And as it turns out, this game is inheriting a lot more than just their art style. In a recent interview with Youtuber and Spyro/Crash expert Canadian Guy Eh, Creative Director Paul Yan talked about what it was like shifting from working on Spyro to Crash. In that interview, he noted that they started working on Crash Bandicoot 4 the same way they did with Spyro: ‘by taking a deep dive into the original trilogy and then discerning what to “expand upon, blow out and make bigger”‘.
Before I get into how Gameplay was expanded, which I’ll do in the next section, let’s look at some character designs. In one screenshot, we see what appears to Crash avoiding an alien (janitor?) aboard some sort of space station. Here’s the thing though, that alien’s face looks an awful lot like Nitrous Oxide. Is this alien a Gasmoxian like Oxide was? Is this a Gasmoxian space station? I’ve praised Toys For Bob in the past for what they’ve done with Spyro; but seeing them take an existing character from Crash lore and potentially build an entire species/ world around him, that is next level! And I cannot wait to see what they do with the rest!
Expanded Gameplay & Platforming
The mainline Crash Bandicoot series has always been a platformer, but that genre can mean a lot of different things. Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario are all ‘platformer’ games, but play very differently. Past favorites of the Crash series will of course return like the Jet Board from Crash 2. Though there’s been quite a few improvements to the platforming genre over the years, and it looks like Crash Bandicoot 4 is incorporating some of those improvements.
For starters, Crash can now Wall Run – a concept that was popularized by the old Prince of Persia series. Similarly, Crash can also Rail Grind like in the Ratchet & Clank series. The difference here is that Crash can do a lot more than just Rail Grind; but actually change his orientation on the rail. So if there’s debris in the way, hang like a zip-line. If there’s collectible on either side, sway.
Crash has never been so mobile and that is sure to make the rhythm of this game even smoother. Speaking of which, like Gems in Spyro – or bolts in Ratchet & Clank – it looks like Wumpa fruit will now automatically attract to you. This means that after smashing a crate, you don’t have to run around in a circle to collect the scattered fruits. It’ll automatically be collected while you carry on with you run!
Though there are some challenges that Crash & Coco won’t be able to overcome normally. That is where the new Quantum Masks come into play. In the trailer, we see three new Masks: Ika-Ika who will control gravity, Kupuna-Wa who will control time and an unnamed 3rd mask who… delivers 4th-wall-breaking snarky commentary? Speaking of that commentary….
Canonicity of the Other Games – Why Crash 4 and Not Crash 8?
My absolute favorite moment of the trailer – aside from that epic-look Ghost boss and Cortex super-enthusiastically pressing a button – was the closing comments between Crash, Coco and the yet to be named 3rd Quantum Mask. When Coco says that they’ve only beaten Cortex 3 times, that confirms that this is the sequel to Crash 3: Warped. And when the mask replies that he could have swore it was more, that’s a reference to the several other games that came out in the post-Naughty Dog era that have always been debatable (at best) in terms of canonicity.
Well, as the trailer suggests – and as was confirmed in Canadian Guy Eh’s interview with Paul Yan – we’ve now got a multiverse on our hands. So whereas this specific game follows Crash 3: Warped, all the other games DID happen – just not in this universe/ timeline. Though as was revealed in the previously mentioned interview, this use of timelines and multiverse also allows for loads of other stylistic – and potentially risky – changes.
Toys For Bob has remained very true to Crash Bandicoot’s rich history and lore. Much like they did with Spyro, they want it to feel nostalgic above all else, with just a spark of novelty. Multiverse would allow them to make major changes while not affecting the main timeline. Could we see some characters switch sides? Could we see characters have completely new play styles? With a multiverse now in place, anything is possible! Perhaps even – since they now share an art style – a certain purple dragon making an appearance. *crosses fingers*
An Approachable, Challenging & Immense New Way to Play
As we learned from a supposed leaked email from GameStop, Crash Bandicoot 4 will have over 100 levels. For comparison, the other games in the series have about 30 or so levels. This is a positively “N.Sane” amount. However, there could be a much ‘saner’ explanation, and it comes down to knowing that Cortex is playable.
THAT $60 PRICETAG MAKES ALL THE MORE SENSE NOW, DANG
THIS IS N. SANE pic.twitter.com/a6bCJNMr8t
— Broski (@BroskiBae) June 26, 2020
What if the 100+ levels aren’t all 100 unique levels, but rather different characters traversing similar landscapes. This isn’t to say that it’ll be different characters playing the same exact levels because as we can see from the trailer, Cortex maneuvers very differently from Crash and Coco. He’s actually able to transmute targets into platforms. A challenge for Crash wouldn’t be a challenge for him. By playing with the geography of the levels and adding new hazards, this could be a brilliant way to maximize playability. Add in the fact that there’s sure to be more than just Cortex as an additional character, (30 or so levels multiplied by 3-4 characters) this all seems much more approachable – which brings us to our final point.
This game will have two Modes – Retro & Modern – and each relates to how ‘Game Overs’ are handled. In Retro Mode, old rules apply. You have a set amount of lives/ tries and if you lose them all, you start from the beginning. Modern Mode on the other hand removes that cap and gives you unlimited tries. That being said though, completing a run within the set number of lives will earn you a Clear Gem for that level. This is a great way to please both hardcore players as well as make the game feel approachable to newcomers – while still incentivizing them to up their game and ‘get good’.
I personally haven’t decided yet if I’m going to play on Retro or Modern – like the filthy casual I am. All I know is that I can’t wait for October 2nd, when Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time releases on PS4 and Xbox One. As for Switch and PC, nothing has been announced yet; but if it follows the pattern of the past Crash and Spyro games, I’m sure it’ll be announced eventually.