First teased last week via a mysterious puzzle sent to journalists (and then leaked…twice), Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is coming this October, and all we have to say is, “it’s about time.” Blatantly ignoring every game that came after Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped—including a cheeky little bit of commentary in the trailer for good measure—Crash 4 embraces it’s theme of “time” and takes that series back to when it was, well, good. Check out the announcement trailer below:
Long before Ellie set out on a path of vengeance, Naughty Dog developed one of the most beloved classic platformers of all time, a silent hero who became a defacto PlayStation mascot. Crash Bandicoot was eventually sold to Activision and lost his heart and soul in the next five or so games. Fans never lost the faith though, and the Remaster/Remake N.Sane Trilogy by Vicarious Visions collected those first three Naughty Dog games on modern platforms, showing that Activision could indeed do the Crash that people knew and loved.
Handing development of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time over to Toys For Bob (the studio behind the Spyro Reignited Trilogy), Activision is once again setting out to make an original, all-new Crash adventure, hopefully this time faring better than past outings.
Players can play as either Crash or Coco through the entirety of the game, and other playable characters will occasionally emerge (IGN notes players will be able to take control of Neo Cortex at some point, despite him appearing at a glance to be the villain of the game. Is Toys For Bob embracing that divisive Naughty Dog storytelling style?)
According to an IGN interview with Design Producer Lou Studdert, Crash 4 is more than just about where the story takes place, but also about setting expectations for the intentions and roots of the game. “We’re also continuing off of the gameplay of the original trilogy. It’s actually going back and looking at what worked so well about the original games,” Studdert said. “It’s bringing back that authentic, wholly unique to Crash gameplay, which is the unique perspective shifts of going into camera, being chased by things running out of camera switching to side scrolling.”
This means that Crash Bandicoot 4 will retain the classic level-based designs of the original trilogy, as opposed to trying to open things up or make drastic changes to those formulas that worked so well. “Our intent was to give folks the sequel they never got.” Studdert says that the classic DNA of Crash lives on in Crash 4—namely “tense, precise execution.”
While it may retain that DNA, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay can’t evolve. New mechanics never before seen in Crash games will be needed to get through the levels, including wallrunning, railgrinding, and rope-swinging. Sure, none of these are inherently new to the genre, but they do help to mix things up for Crash while allowing the studio to keep things as close to the original as possible.
Much of the new gameplay is introduced via four “quantum masks,” one of which was teased via the puzzle sent to journalists last week. These masks are found at specific points in levels, but unlike simply granting invincibility like an Aku-Aku mask does, they will grant new abilities. Right now, the developer is only detailing Kipuna-Wa (time manipulation), and Eka-Eka (gravity). The other two remain a mystery. Each will become critical for overcoming obstacles, as well as changing what Crash and Coco look like.
The game will still have the classic alternate pathways, hidden gems, and other challenges. “It’s been this fun balancing act of us taking what we love about those original games and the feeling of those linear pathways, but then at the same time layering in new challenging asks for the players, new ways of finding all of the boxes, crates, finding hidden gems, finding all this different content throughout the level.”
One of the biggest gameplay elements being changed is how “lives” and Wumpa fruit work. In the new mode, players start back at a checkpoint when they die, with collected Wumpa being used as a currency for end-of-level rewards. Players can switch the game to “Retro” mode though to bring back the classic life-based mechanics, where 100 Wumpa fruit will grant you another life, and falling to zero lives means failing the level.
And yes, Crash 4 will be a tough game, but maybe with fewer outright difficulty spikes found in the past games. “We want to onboard the players and get them into the story, but at the same time we wanted to see if we can actually exceed the difficulty of the original games. We wanted to see if we could add in extra modes, extra challenges, extra things that we’ll be talking about later to really bring the pain. A true Crash fan wants that level of difficulty, and I think we’ve met and exceeded.”
Crash Bandicoot 4 is not using the Crash N. Sane Trilogy engine. A completely new engine was built from the ground up specifically for Crash 4 in order to retain “foundational elements” of the originals while giving the studio the opportunity to expand and evolve the gameplay and visuals. In fact, the more cartoony visual design leans a lot towards Toys For Bob’s own particular style from the Spyro Trilogy.
You can get an extended look at gameplay below:
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is releasing on October 2, 2020 on both PS4 and Xbox One for $59.99. Some leaks point to it also being playable on the PS5 and Xbox Series X when they launch as well, but Activision and Toys For Bob aren’t talking about that just yet.