Bits & Bytes: Crash

This week, Robert talks about his obsession with Crash Bandicoot 4!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/15/2021 23:58 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

I’ve been obsessed lately with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. It started with a trip to my aunt’s house a couple of weeks ago. All of my cousins love video games, and thus we wound up holed up at various points throughout the weekend playing stuff. Crash 4 was pulled out somewhere along the way and I found myself watching my cousin Jack playing.

A haphazard jump here, some missed timing there… I could feel the itch to leap in as Jack tried to make his way through the first couple of levels. Not that I’m judging the young man, of course, but seeing him play with such difficulty made me want to give the sections he was having trouble with a proper go. So I did, and I’ve been replaying the campaign once more ever since.

Crash 4 is interesting because it’s simultaneously really great and really frustrating. On the one hand, the level design is so creative. From a visual standpoint, I find my eyes darting all around the screen soaking in the endless details. Some of it is Easter eggs, some of it is just pure spectacle. The Switch version isn’t running as optimally as the PlayStation and Xbox iterations, but—and I’m saying this as someone who owns it on all three of those platforms—Crash 4 still looks great despite the so-called shortcomings. Like every Crash and Spyro port that Activision has produced for Switch, Crash 4 might be on underpowered hardware, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless.

I read a review when Crash 4 launched that talked about the framerate being at 30 instead of 60 on Switch, but that if you thought about it, the original Crash trilogy on PlayStation was running at 30, so it’s almost like this is a more faithful representation. Call me a homer, but I believe there’s a kernel of truth to this. Crash 4 on Switch feels right in a way that the others arguably don’t. Or maybe I’m kidding myself. I don’t think so, though.

On the negative side, Crash 4 has some bloat mixed in. I don’t care much for the unlock requirements to get skins, and I also don’t like the inverted stages. If the N. Sane Trilogy demonstrated anything, it’s that Crash is best at his most basic. Fluff and extraneous game mechanics are what helped diminish the quality of the series over time, not just a break from the classic play style of the PlayStation-era Crash. Sometimes Crash 4 feels like it’s trying too hard, which is crazy because the game more than stands on its own two legs.

I also didn’t get much mileage out of the side character stages. You can play as Neo Cortex and a couple of others in their own levels. They feel natural enough, but I ultimately found myself wishing all of their stages were replaced with additional ones for Crash and Coco, instead. Crash 4 is about a return to form for the series—that means it should be all about Crash. Why am I wasting time as an armadillo?

I could go on and on, but this isn’t a real review. More just a shoutout to Activision and Toys For Bob for bringing Crash back to his roots. Whether or not Crash 4 was a “success” is immaterial to me. This is a damned good game. Along with the N. Sane Trilogy before it, this quartet of Crash games shows how the concept original developer Naughty Dog came up with so many years ago is truly timeless and worth returning to. If we ever get a Crash 5, I sincerely hope it’s more of this. Just without the armadillo.

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