It’s About Time is built from the ground-up as a new experience in the spirit of the original three Crash games developed by Naughty Dog for the original PlayStation. Players can play either as Crash or Coco Bandicoot for the full adventure, with other playable characters thrown into the mix like Neo Cortex. Featuring a brand new art style, marking a departure from what Vicarious Visions created for the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, It’s About Time will feature new platforming moves, new masks with special abilities, two major control schemes, and plenty more. To get all the major first details, IGN spoke with Toys for Bob Design Producer Lou Studdert to learn about Crash’s brand new adventure.
Why Crash 4?
Naming the next Crash game Crash Bandicoot 4 comes with a lot of expectations — in the ensuing years since Crash Bandicoot: Warped ended the beloved trilogy of Crash games developed by Naughty Dog, the marsupial’s subsequent adventures often received less favorable reception.
Studdert explained how Toys for Bob understood the expectations that came with this naming convention, describing how it also allows the team to convey both the story and, importantly, the gameplay players can expect.
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“It’s not just Crash 4 because narratively we’re continuing off of where Crash 3 ended, where, Uka Uka, N. Tropy, and Neo Cortex are trapped in time and space. But we’re also continuing off of the gameplay of the original trilogy,” Studdert said. “It’s actually going back and looking at what worked so well about the original games. 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.”
Crash Bandicoot 4 Gameplay
Crash Bandicoot 4 is built from the ground up, not based on existing or recovered code, but it will attempt to of course emulate the platforming gameplay fans of the original trilogy are familiar with. And that means Crash 4 is sticking to the traditional camera setup of those games, rather than becoming something more open world.
“Our intent was to give folks the sequel they never got,” Student continued, noting that the developer’s focus was on “tense, precise execution that is so ingrained in the DNA of Crash and bringing that to today’s standards.”
But Crash won’t just be running, jumping, spinning, and ground slamming. It’s About Time’s various locations have also facilitated the introduction of several new platforming moves. Crash can now wallrun, grind on and below rails, and rope swing to allow for various new 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,” Studdert explained, noting the new levels and challenges have been built with a focus on elevating “the replayability of the game.”
“A True Sequel” to the Original Crash Trilogy, But a New Look
Through and through, Toys for Bob wants to emphasize that this is “a true sequel” to the original Crash trilogy. But, as is apparent from the first trailer and gameplay, this sequel incorporates a new, more animated look reminiscent of the cartoony, detailed characters of Toys for Bob’s Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which we praised in our review of those remakes. Studdert explained how this colorful, zany art style aimed to capture the spirit of the character and allowed for a more ambitious world design.
“While we are retaining the old-school gameplay of those unique perspectives, we wanted to open up the worlds from a visual standpoint,” Studdert said. “So that means larger vistas, huge scale, huge places that you’re going to get to go that couldn’t have happened on the original consoles and games. It’s taking that animated personality amplifying that fun, and then also giving you these amazing unique times and dimensions to explore.”
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That aim to capture the old and blend it with the new is true of Toys for Bob’s work on the actual gameplay as well, which is built in a “completely different engine, built from the ground up” for Crash 4, rather than reusing work from the N. Sane Trilogy. But Studdert explained that Toys for Bob’s experience working in part on the Crash remake trilogy and the Crash Team Racing did come into play when designing Crash 4.
“Having our hands in those games really allowed us to kind of analyze the foundational elements of what truly makes a Crash level feel like a Crash level, from how enemies are incorporated to the pace of a level, to the amount of encounters to the way they fold in on each other,” he said.
How Difficult Is Crash Bandicoot 4?
The original Crash trilogy has some notoriously tough levels. Just say the phrase “Road to Nowhere” to any self-respecting Crash fan and they’ll understand. Thankfully, Crash 4 is aiming to outdo the challenge of past Crash games while providing a smoother ramp in difficulty.
“We want to have less difficulty spikes,” Studdert said when asked about the difficulty compared to the original three 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’s New Mask Power-ups, Modern vs. Retro Modes
Core to the story of Crash 4 will be the, well, four Quantum Masks that Crash and Coco will encounter. Each of these guardians of space and time offers a different ability, and will be findable throughout the game at specific locations, like you would with an Aku Aku mask.
“Crash and Coco need to seek out the four quantum masks…[which] will help to re-fix the timeline,” Studdert explained of the duo’s objective this time around in their battle against Dr. Neo Cortex.
The first two masks Toys for Bob is discussing are Kipuna-Wa, which offer the powers of time manipulation, and the other is Eka-Eka, the gravity mask. Like Aku Aku, they’ll both appear available at certain points in levels for players to activate to overcome certain obstacles.
“At certain points in the levels, they’ll come to your aid and they actually become suits on Crash and Coco,” Studdert said as he explained their powers, with the time mask allowing players to slow down time, while the gravity mask will let players alter Crash or Coco’s gravity as they navigate through a level.
And as the original trilogy is known for its many secret paths and levels, I asked Studdert about whether Crash 4 would include a similar level of discoverable content, and he had as best of an answer as I could hope for.
But being true to that original trilogy also means the gameflow — players can switch between two modes, Modern and Retro, which changes how lives and Wumpa fruit collection is catalogued. Wumpa will now actually go toward end-of-level goals, and can be used as another currency in both modes. But in Retro mode, players can still have a set number of lives, collect 100 Wumpa fruit to gain a new life, and succeed or fail by those parameters.
“If you die, you’re going to restart at a checkpoint [in Modern mode], as simple as that,” Studdert said. “That means, ‘Okay, what do we then do with Wumpa?’ So what we’ve done is we’ve changed wumpa collection to be part of that collection currency of collectibles, end-of-level rewards. Retro is actually retaining the lives and game over system from the original game.
Stay tuned to IGN for more on Crash Bandicoot 4, but be sure to watch the first gameplay and debut trailer above. And for more on Toys for Bob’s most recent work, check out our review of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy below.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior News Editor, host of Podcast Beyond!, and virtual bandicoot expert. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.