Gaming

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time review: Worth the 22-year wait

This should have been the proper sequel to the trilogy

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When Crash Bandicoot resurfaced in 2017, I felt utter joy and nostalgia at the same time. Even though Crash Bandicoot: Warped was the first Crash game I ever played, the franchise became a great part of my childhood. With the release of the N. Sane Trilogy, it now gave new players an opportunity to experience some hardcore platforming that most late 90s kids remember.

Earlier this year, they announced the arrival of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Activision, Vicarious Visions, Toys For Bob, and Beenox all came together to work on the trilogy’s “proper” platforming sequel. When I heard about this, I dropped everything and waited for as long as possible to get my hands on the game.

After finally playing, it’s honestly the Crash platforming sequel I had always wanted. There’s a big reason for that.

The original “Crash Bandicoot 4” just didn’t hold up well

See, before It’s About Time, there was actually another Crash Bandicoot dubbed as the fourth title: The Wrath of Cortex. It was released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube back in 2001-2002, almost 3-4 years after the original trilogy. For this game, the story centered around the presence of Crunch Bandicoot, another bandicoot creation of the game’s main antagonist, Dr. Neo Cortex.

Crash in The Wrath of Cortex for the PlayStation 2

The game itself received relatively average reviews, with most people simply feeling like it was a downgrade from the original. I tried playing the game again recently, and by 2020 standards, it feels unpolished. Gameplay as a whole was fairly janky, the story just doesn’t seem to add up, and it’s just a carbon copy of Warped but more slippery.

Level design for Tornado Alley in The Wrath of Cortex

So when Activision and Vicarious Visions announced that another Crash Bandicoot 4 was coming out, I had hoped that it wouldn’t end up like Wrath of Cortex. And boy, was I ever relieved that it didn’t.

Taking the premise of Wrath of Cortex, but making it better

It’s About Time takes place directly after the events of Warped — specifically the secret ending of the game after getting all the collectibles. Essentially, Cortex and his crime partner, Dr. Nefarious Tropy decide to simply open time rifts across the continuum. Aku Aku, the all-powerful mask that protects Crash, senses the impending danger and alerts Crash about it.

The whole game takes you through different time periods, even going as far as more recent events in the Crash universe. You are tasked to awaken different Quantum Masks that will help you in your quest to stop Cortex and N. Tropy. I honestly thought that they did the masks thing better than Wrath of Cortex in this regard.

As you progress through each level, you face a ton of challenging platform segments and waves of enemies and death-inducing obstacles. Within every other time period, you have boss levels with major recurring characters from all other past Crash games. In essence, it tries to incorporate the classic Crash formula, but enhances the experience. 

Plus, you get to go on adventures as either Crash or Coco. In some cases, you even get to play as Tawna Bandicoot, Dingodile, and Cortex himself! 

Gameplay that’s as smooth and difficult as the N. Sane Trilogy

One of the main things I was looking for in It’s About Time was consistency. I wanted this new Crash game to remain consistent with the remastered trilogy in terms of gameplay, character movement, and relative learning curve. See, the original trilogy was not an easy set of games to get around, especially if it’s your first time playing.

For long time Crash fans like myself, I felt that this game was more pain-staking yet just as smooth to control as the trilogy. Crash keeps some of his skills that he earns from Warped like the Super Body Slam and Double Jump, which I thought were the two logical ones to keep. However, you’re going to need more than just those abilities since the game throws so many obstacles later on.

It’s a painful grind to finishing the game at 100% completion this time around. Instead of collection crystals, you collect gems from accomplishing certain tasks within each level. From breaking every box to not having more than three deaths, these would require several perfect playthroughs. Honestly, that’s just insanely difficult to accomplish, and I’m all for it!

The most vibrant and creative game design in any Crash game

The moment you start your adventure to N. Sanity Peak, you’re already greeted to the gorgeous and colorful level design. I felt that Toys For Bob took a page out of their work on the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy with all the colors for each level. As you progress through the game, you’ll have brief moments to just take all of that in.

In terms of overall level design, it is a big step up from the N. Sane Trilogy in my opinion. For the most part, it gives you a different variety of level styles you haven’t seen in the original trilogy. From vine-swinging to rail-riding, the developers went all out to give you a different Crash game all together.

Furthermore, they even managed to sneak in similar obstacle patterns from the previous games. Something silly like timing challenges or platforming segments are just a few examples of these. I felt that these were put in here to cater to the long-time or hardcore Crash platformer fans.

Great deal of fan service and easter eggs

Apart from the sneaky insertion of familiar segments from older games, they also added a ton of small details referencing other games, as well. I mean, I wouldn’t call the giant Spyro float or the Spyro inflatable by the beach small details. However, the developers really threw in a ton of easter eggs.

Because I took my sweet time trying to get through every level, I noticed most of these the moment they came up. Most levels are sprawling with references to the purple dragon, or characters from older Crash games like Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure. They even went all out to promote Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled in one time area.

Even if you’ve never played any Crash game before, you’d dart your eyes at them. I think Toys For Bob and Beenox made it a point to spoil you with all of these references. 

How things should have been

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time served its true purpose as the official fourth chapter of the Crash universe. It takes the core Crash formula and throws it into a brand new world, with a plot that makes sense in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to think that this whole game is just much more enhanced than the original trilogy all in all.

From the fantastic visuals to the difficult gameplay style, It’s About Time goes for an authentic yet novel approach. It will make you feel a great deal of awe while you constantly try to die less than 20 times every stage. It sticks to the brutal platforming mechanic it’s known for, while improving the experience.

I can honestly say that the absurdly long 22-year wait for a sequel to the trilogy was worth it. If you want to experience rage and fulfillment all in one game,  I highly suggest you pick this up.

Gaming

Stardew Valley developer announces second game, Haunted Chocolatier

Manage a haunted chocolate shop

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Years since its launch, Stardew Valley is still one of the most popular farm simulators in gaming history. In fact, ConcernedApe, the game’s sole developer, still released substantial updates to the game recently. Riding on the popularity of the first title, ConcernedApe is already working on his second title called Haunted Chocolatier.

The developer has often stayed silent regarding future games. At the very least, he already confirmed work on several projects during Stardew Valley’s lifespan. Today, however, ConcernedApe finally revealed much-awaited details on the next project.

Haunted Chocolatier is a similar management game. This time, players take control of a chocolatier living in a haunted castle. As such, it shares in the same formula that made Stardew Valley so popular. Players are just crafting different chocolates now, instead of crops.

In terms of design, the game will look similar to the first game. Players are still collecting materials and fighting in combat mechanics. However, ConcernedApe does confirm that the game will have more action-RPG mechanics rather than a dedicated focus to management.

Though the developer has already confirmed the game, ConcernedApe has not announced a launch date for the chocolate-making game. According to the game’s FAQ, he would rather focus on the game without worrying about deadlines.

SEE ALSO: Couple co-op games to play during the pandemic

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God of War is officially coming to PC

Shouting “boy” in 4K

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In recent years, no game really came near to perfection as 2018’s God of War. The popular PlayStation 4 game won several accolades and universal acclaim since its release. In fact, the game’s upcoming sequel God of War Ragnarök is one of the most hotly anticipated titles today. To stave off the ongoing thirst for the sequel, fans might enjoy something coming up for the franchise: God of War is coming to PC.

Posted silently overnight, the game just got its official Steam page, announcing a launch on January 15, 2022. The new page doesn’t seem like a mistake either. Steam isn’t shy about the upcoming release. The game is currently on the platform’s front page. And soon after it first appeared, Steam officially posted an article confirming so.

As expected, it’s a direct port. It won’t come with any additional gameplay content. However, PC gamers will have access to more graphical features. Highlighting the port, of course, is 4K widescreen (up to 21:9 resolution) support. It will also have unlocked framerates. Users will have access to higher-resolution shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion, GTAO, and SSDO.

For smaller machines, the port will come with NVIDIA Deep Learning Super Sampling and NVIDIA Reflex to optimize how the graphics will perform under different hardware configurations.

Anyone who purchases the game on PC will have access to some free digital content: Death’s Vow armor sets, Exile’s Guardian shield skin, Buckler of the Forge shield skin, Shining Elven Soul shield skin, and Dökkenshieldr shield skin.

God of War on PC will cost US$ 49.99.

SEE ALSO: God of War actor blames himself for Ragnarok delay

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Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t for everybody

And, that’s fine

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Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure third-person video game. The game is developed and produced by Ember Lab. In the game, you play as Kena. She’s a young spirit guide who uses her magical abilities to help people pass on into the spirit world.

The game is stunning and deep dives into spiritual aspects like emotional entanglement with the physical word after passing away.

In case you don’t have a working pair of eyes

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a gorgeous game. Stunning yet scuffed at times, this game is nothing short of eye-candy. The background details and character design is just *chef’s kiss*. But, big butt (Editor’s Note: Not sure if this is a typo but we’ve decided to keep it as is), by the way, this aesthetic might not be to some people’s liking. Hear me out: this game looks and feels like you’re playing through a Disney Pixar movie. And, honestly, that might not be for everyone.

On the scuffed end of things, you’ll find that some things glitch through objects and terrain. But, to that, I think it adds to its charm. The silliness is often welcome and strangely expected in the whole gaming sense. This isn’t the first scuffed game to come across a gamer’s life and it won’t be the last. I think each game has its improvements and patches to develop and incorporate and the glitches make the whole experience memorable and meme-able.

The crutch everyone won’t shut up about

This game is weirdly forgettable for people who’ve played a lot of third-person action adventures. Why? Well, this isn’t the first of its kind. Kena: Bridge of Spirits takes from many games before it and blends its inspirations together pretty nicely without overcomplicating its mechanics.

I would say though, that this can be what I personally found to be endearing with Kena. It unapologetically makes for a good entry-level action-adventure game for people who might not normally gravitate to games like it. With its beautiful visuals and memorable take on grievances, Kena pulls at sentimental heartstrings without the stupidly complicated skill building of most other action adventures out there.

Don’t hate the game

Nor, the player. The game is simple. That can be refreshing for some players or just boring to some. Which, I’ll say now, to each their own. Most games under the same category are far more convoluted and complex. So, if that’s something you like, this isn’t for you. And that’s totally fine.

Most of the game plays on collecting cute Rot along the way. And, on top of the usual skill building, most rewards you’ll find in hidden spots are either more Rot or hats for them. It doesn’t really require that much mental gymnastics to play this game. You can play to relax and just enjoy the journey. Which, for me, is great! Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the perfect game for when you want to play with family watching. I’m sure it’ll feel like a movie to them.

Is this your GAME Match?

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game worth trying no matter how familiar you are with video games in the same category. The barrier of entry is super friendly and simplistic so, you won’t need that much video game experience to immerse in the story. Plus, you can customize the game for when you want more of a challenge.

I do have to say though, that this game might fight to keep your interest at times but, it sure can lure you back in. As for me, I was happy to play this game. It was challenging at times and, it might not be the best one on my list. But, it gets honorary points for being simple, gorgeous, and family-friendly.

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