When it comes to video game mascots, Mario will always be king while Sonic runs a close second. Master Chief is part of that constellation and, somewhere down the line, fans end up with Crash Bandicoot.
The onetime face of PlayStation has never reached that rarefied mascot strata, but his résumé is surprisingly expansive. He’s appeared on kart racers, party games and spinoffs. No longer a console-exclusive mascot, he has a following loyal enough that when Vicarious Visions remastered his first three titles as the “Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy,” it was a hit.
It was successful enough that Activision published the first new “Crash Bandicoot” platformer in more than a decade. “Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time” follows the events of the original trilogy, where major villains Uka Uka, Doctor Neo Cortex and N. Tropy are all imprisoned. The most powerful of them, Uka Uka, tries to break free and in the process cracks the dimensional barrier.
It creates a rift in space-time that allows Cortex and N. Trophy to escape. They discover the multiverse and set out to conquer it. Aku Aku, Crash’s mentor, senses the disruption and that brings Crash, his sister Coco and others on a romp through alternate timelines.
The platforming has the strengths and the drawbacks of its predecessors. It’s not exactly free-form exploration like “Super Mario 64,” but instead, it’s more linear as players traverse levels through 10 worlds. Players have wiggle room to move around but the game’s design can be frustrating as they learn the quirk of the jump mechanics.
Playing “Crash Bandicoot” on the Modern setting, in which players have infinite lives and generous checkpoints, is a must. For veterans and those who want a challenge, Retro brings back the old brutal rules, in which players have limited lives and must restart from the beginning. On Modern, I was able to explore more, finding collectible gems that unlock new skins for all the characters. “Crash Bandicoot 4’s” stages are filled with these nooks and crannies.
“Crash Bandicoot 4” has a way of sinking its claws into players, and the collectibles are the carrot that will push players to test their skills to destroy every crate or grab the Wumpa fruit.
‘Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time’
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Rating: Everyone 10 and up.