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

ROG Zephyrus G15: Lean, mean, gaming machine

And it’s a looker too

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Zephyrus G15

One of my favorite things about getting to try many new gadgets is that I learn more about myself and my preferences. The ROG Zephyrus G15 (2022) GA503 – which henceforth will just be referred to as just Zephyrus G15 – did just that for me and what I want in gaming laptops. 

For context, I have been sparingly using my ROG Flow X13 for most of my general Windows and PC gaming needs. It’s a great device, don’t get me wrong. But having to prop up the laptop itself along with the XG Mobile to reach its full potential can be quite cumbersome.

It’s a huge contrast to the Zephyrus G15 where I simply fire it up and it just works in a jiffy. And all the ports I normally use are right there, ready to use. I’m a big fan of convenience so I absolutely love it when gadgets just work without much friction. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Based on this introduction, I’m sure you already have some idea on what I generally think about the Zephyrus G15. But allow me to discuss it further. 

Tale of the tape

Zephyrus G15

Specs and benchmarks never tell the whole story. But specs are a good place to start. Here’s what our review unit is packing: 

  • AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
  • 15″ WQHD (2560 x 1440) 16:9 240hz Pantone Validated 100% DCI-P
  • RTX 3070 TI 8GB GDDR6
  • 16GB DDR5 on board  + 16GB DDR5-4800 SO-DIMM
  • 1TB M.2 NVM PCIe 4.0 SSD
  • Moonlight White

Some standout stuff from the information provided above are the new processor, the Pantone Validated display as well as the RAM available. This isn’t even its highest configuration. There’s a variant that runs RTX 3080. You can upgrade your RAM up to 48GB and there’s another SSD slot so you can expand your storage. 

Zephyrus G15

That means there’s plenty of room to up the ante down the line should you choose to do so. That’s not something that you can say for every gaming laptop. 

Immaculate look and design

I love that ROG sent over the Moonlight White version for us to try. Black is great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s refreshing to see gaming laptops brimming with power come in other colorways that could appeal to people that are kind of just over with black. 

The magnesium-aluminum lid and chassis also maintain the Zephyrus look giving it a sleek and tough exterior, while keeping the ROG Zephyrus identity. And you don’t have to worry too much about it picking up dust and dirt. In the few weeks I spent with it, it stayed pristine looking despite little to no wiping maintenance. That’s thanks largely to the wear-resistant coating which works exactly as advertised. 

Zephyrus G15

Adding to the overall functional design is the ErgoLift Hinge. This is one of my favorite things about ASUS laptops. The ergolift hinge not only allows a 180° for more flexibility, it’s also just ultra satisfying to move and look at. 

It looks fresh, feels tough, and is relatively compact making it easy to carry around. It’s a looker with some bells and whistles in the right places.

Ports, keyboard, and trackpad

Zephyrus G15

Speaking of those bells and whistles, the Zephyrus G15 is packed with possibly all the ports you’ll need. Whether that’s for a remote setup or one that’s neatly tucked into a home office desk. 

Zephyrus G15

Here’s everything it has to offer: 

  • USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (2x)
  • USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-C(supports DP 1.4 & 100W PD Charger), (2x)
  • LAN RJ-45 jack (1x)
  • HDMI 2.0b (1x)
  • Micro SD Card Reader (UHS-II), (1x)
  • 3.5mm Audio combo jack (1x)
  • Kensington Lock (1x)

 

Zephyrus G15

The Stealth Type keyboard was a curious choice but one that I welcome. I was of the impression that the gaming demographic skews more towards the clickity clack of mechanical keyboards. But the one equipped on the Zephyrus G15 is about as quiet as they come. No complaints here though, as it didn’t distract my at-the-moment entanglement in slumber as I toiled away over late night labor. 

Zephyrus G15

One of the best trackpad experiences on a Windows Gaming laptop.

The trackpad, too, was such a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it’s also in conjunction with Windows 11 but using a trackpad on Windows now doesn’t feel as laggy as it used to. On days that I only worked using the Zephyrus G15, I never felt the need to connect a mouse. That feels like a breakthrough as I have never been able to say that for any of the Windows laptops I’ve reviewed in the past. 

Plays like a console

Yes, I paired a DualSense controller with the Zephyrus G15

Alright, before any PC gaming enthusiasts come at my throat, what I mean here is mostly the quality of life things. When I got the Zephyrus G15, I didn’t tweak it very much. Heck, I even opened Armoury Crate less than five times during my time with it. Despite this, it had no trouble running the games I attempted to play. Some of which are even very demanding AAA titles. 

Zephyrus G15

I’m a big fan of tech that just works. Especially with my current workload, the less time I have to figure something out, the better. And that’s the case with this gaming laptop. I simply fired up Steam, downloaded the games, and played to my heart’s content. 

Zephyrus G15

Teen Gohan vs Cell is a classic.

Naturally, I checked the settings on some of the first few games I tried like Control, Genshin Impact, and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Everything was consistently on the highest settings right off the bat. Lags and stutters? I don’t know them. Not with the Zephyrus G15 in tow. 

To better understand where I’m coming from, I own an ROG Flow X13. The one that comes with the ROG XG Mobile. It’s a great machine, no doubt. But to get the most out of it, I still have to hook up the XG Mobile to the Flow X13. Whereas with the Zephyrus G15, I simply have to turn the laptop on. That’s an underrated level of convenience that may or may not mean much for some of you. 

You still have Armoury Crate but I didn’t feel the need to touch it as much.

It’s seriously making me consider trading up for the Zephyrus G15. And that’s just with the raw performance of games. I haven’t even talked about how good the display and speakers are. 

Eyes and ears candy 

Zephyrus G15

Its high-level performance is of course complemented by a stellar audio-visual experience. As indicated in the specs section earlier, this laptop sports a 15” WQHD 16:9 display with a 240Hz refresh rate. It’s also Pantone Validated which is great for color accuracy if you’re working on anything that involves visual media.

But all you really need to know is that it’s an absolute treat to the eyes. The 240Hz refresh rate on the panel is great for first-person shooters. Unfortunately, I am not great at first person shooters. I’d like to take this opportunity to whoever I played Valorant with because I totally dragged the team down. 

Zephyrus G15

This is a “Tomboy” fancam but listen to her album “MY” too!

 

It is a visual treat, no doubt. But like (G)-IDLE’s Miyeon, the Zephyrus G15 isn’t just a treat for the eyes. It also sounds hella good. I spent a good chunk of time watching Miyeon’s fancams on this thing and it’s just a fantastic overall experience. 

I also watched a few episodes of Netflix’s Business Proposal at the time of writing. Really, whatever type of content you consume, it’s bound to look and sound great on this thing. 

Zephyrus G15

Kim SeJeong is just adorable

One thing we did learn is that the display struggles a bit under really bright environments. When taking photos of the device, we opted to step out for natural light. But if you’re using this to work or play remotely, I recommend you find some place that isn’t too bright. 

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Zephyrus G15

The ROG Zephyrus G15 (2022) GA503 is easily one of my personal favorite devices that I’ve reviewed so far in 2022. It’s about as close as it can get to a plug and play PC gaming experience. And that’s not something you can say for many laptops and/or PCs. 

The Zephyrus G15 (2022) brings with it a distinct look, top-notch gaming performance, and a really solid audio-visual experience. As a gaming laptop, this is about as perfect as it gets and is something I can easily recommend especially if you’re willing to splurge for it.

Official pricing will be announced soon. We’ll update this space when it’s out.

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Genshin Impact Version 2.7 arrives on May 31

With two new characters!

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Genshin Impact Version 2.7

The latest update to HoYoverse’s Genshin Impact is coming on May 31. Version 2.7 comes with new challenges in The Chasm, Liyue’s historical mysteries, and new characters Yelan and Kuki Shinobu.

Checkout version 2.7’s trailer here:

Perilous Trail

Front and center in Version 2.7 is the “Perilous Trail” event. This will bring players back to The Chasm with a new Archon Quest story and a series of rewarding challenges. It is where where players will also encounter the two new playable characters Yelan and Kuki Shinobu. Joining them are Yanfei and Arataki Itto.

Genshin Impact Version 2.7

Meanwhile, danger also lurks ahead for Xiao, the “Vigilant Yaksha” who is on an investigation of his own. As the story progresses, the buried past, including how the people of Liyue fought off monsters 500 years ago, as well as the yakshas’ role in the history, will eventually be revealed to this diverse party.

Yelan and Kuki Shinobu

Genshin Impact Version 2.7

The new five-star character Yelan is a mysterious figure with many faces and identities, which includes the owner of the Yanshang Teahouse and the special intelligence officer of Liyue. Wielding the bow as her weapon, Yelan is a Hydro DPS character that combines rapid attacks with agile mobility.

Genshin Impact Version 2.7

Four-star character, Kuki Shinobu, is the surprisingly reliable and capable deputy leader of the Arataki Gang. Shinobu is a support character who wields a sword and manipulates the Electro element. She can consume her own HP to heal other party members while dealing periodical Electro DMG to nearby opponents.

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ASUS ROG launches new gaming laptop in tandem with SCAR Runner

Announced at For Those Who Dare: Boundless event

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During their For Those Who Dare: Boundless event, ASUS ROG announced the launch of their latest gaming laptops, accessories, and SCAR Runner for the ROG Citadel Game on Steam.

The launch covers the following:

  • ROG Strix SCAR 17 Special Edition
  • ROG Flow X16
  • SCAR Runner first-person parkour game
  • Expanded ROG Slash Fashion Line
  • Team ROG partnerships

Pricing and availability of the models announced during the event are yet to be known.

ROG Strix SCAR 17 Special Edition

With more powerful specs than its predecessor, the Strix SCAR 17 SE is poised to be a class-leading gaming laptop.

It is powered by the new Intel Core i9-12950HX processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU, on top of advanced features such as:

  • Maximum GPU TGP of 175W with Dynamic Boost
  • Maximum CPU TDP of 65W
  • Boost frequency of 5.2GHz
  • Up to 64GB DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen 4 storage
  • ROG’s Conductonaut Extreme liquid metal

SCAR Runner: Vault to new heights

Available as an expansion of the ROG Citadel XV game, SCAR Runner is a first-person parkour game set in the world of ROG SAGA.

The protagonist, X, is in a race against time in Goemon City and needs to recover critical information while solving puzzles and challenges.

It’s no coincidence that the new Strix SCAR laptop and new game have same name, as they were released as a tandem.

Gamers can in fact find clues hidden on the laptop chassis itself, that will allow them to solve in-game puzzles.

SCAR Runner is launching with a giveaway campaign with over US$ 20,000 worth of prizes to be won from May 17 to June 30, 2022.

ROG Flow X16

In addition to the Strix SCAR 17 SE, the Flow X16 has been added to the ROG Flow series, the most powerful yet from the line.

It has a Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU. It likewise supports up to 64GB of memory and up to 2TB of SSD storage.

The Flow X16 features ROG’s Nebula HDR Display, a 165Hz Mini LED panel with 1100 nits peak brightness and 100 percent DCI-P3 gamut.

These are all complemented by Frost Force Technology and Pulsar Heatsink to ensure high performance but low temperatures.

ROG Slash accessories

Aside from the two new gaming laptops, ROG also introduced new apparels:

  • Crossbody Bag
  • Backpack
  • Hip Bag
  • Protective Laptop Bag
  • Cobra Buckle Cap
  • Bucket Hat

All these items are built with durable quality and have features like adjustable straps, multiple compartments, and water-repellent TPU materials.

Some of these items are also included in the SCAR Runner giveaway campaign.

The Team ROG initiative

Lastly, Team ROG is expanding its 2022 roster, pairing high-end ROG products with influencers, professional gamers, content creators, and athletes around the world.

A new partnership with ReKT Gaming has been announced while the current partnership with esports team Misfits Gaming has likewise been extended.

 

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