So I’ve Been Playing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

Toys for Bob’s hyper-faithful revival is simultaneously the best and worst Crash Bandicoot game in two decades.  Which of those two is entirely dependent on how you play it.

Why do people still love Crash Bandicoot?  And you are not allowed to answer “nostalgia” to this inquiry.  Because people do still love Crash Bandicoot.  The N-Sane Trilogy remake spent months and months dominating the physical UK games sales charts upon its staggered release; nostalgia alone cannot be the sole reason why, otherwise the MediEvil remake from last October would have performed way better than it did.  And, whilst I think anyone who just outright trashes the series by lumping it in with other failed 90s mascot platformers is being needlessly harsh, I do recognise that they’re not really great games from a design standpoint.  Like, there is a very good reason why Super Mario 64 caught on as the 3D platformer template going forward and not Crash Bandicoot.  Essentially, Crash Bandicoot games – and, for this instance, I am defining “Crash Bandicoot games” as in the vein of original Naughty Dog trilogy – live very uncomfortably at the intersection between precision platformers and collect-a-thon platformers.

In precision platformers like, to use more recent examples because it’s been a very long time since I emulated true retro games, Cloudberry Kingdom and VVVVVV, the primary gameplay loop and main goal is simply to get to the end of a series of often brutally difficult levels that frequently demand pixel-perfect traversal from the player, sometimes deliberately stretching the absolute limits of the game’s mechanics when designing how far each jump or obstacle is going to be.  The completion criteria and fun come mainly from the satisfaction of reaching the end of a stage.  Some may grade a player or hide the odd trinket or give them time trials, but the main intent is simply to best a difficult obstacle course with the limited toolset provided, pulling off a tricksy gauntlet whose initial appearance causes a hearty “oh FUCK OFF” by the player and eventual besting carries enormous satisfaction that makes the hundreds of deaths and retries worth it.  It’s skill-dependent based upon trial by fire.

Meanwhile, in collect-a-thon platformers like the aforementioned Super Mario 64 or the PlayStation’s own Spyro the Dragon, the primary gameplay loop and main goal revolves around exploring a selected area and looting it of all the assigned collectables within.  Some are simply shiny objects left strewn about the place, others are hidden in clever nooks and crannies, others still require the completion of various objectives either presented to or discovered by the player upon entering the area.  The fun doesn’t come from racing through to a level’s end or collecting the bare-minimum required to advance the game.  Rather, it comes from taking one’s time, scouring every available land for every last secret and the satisfaction of watching that completion percentage rise up ever higher as you pull a capitalism and drain each level of its precious resources for your own hoard-y ends.  These can be skill-dependent in their more fiendish endgame last-lousy-point states, but it’s still a more relaxed kind of skill-dependence.

Both types of design have their strengths and drawbacks and, whilst that’s not to say they don’t cross-pollinate to some degree, largely choose to stay in their respective lanes because their moods can be so dissimilar.  Precision platformers are often nightmarish high-stress trials of attrition demanding absolute focus and mastery of the given mechanics to pass such ruthless challenges, whilst collect-a-thon platformers are often somewhat relaxing comfort food rewarding curiosity and player ingenuity that only occasionally ask for elite gaming skills.  I myself enjoy both kinds.  Chipping away at Trackmania Turbo (which is functionally a platformer) may spike my blood pressure to uncomfortable highs, but each time I cross that finish line with a gold medal the air around me receives unintentional GBH in satisfaction.  Meanwhile, I spent a good fortnight this Summer running through the Rehydrated version of Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, just having a blast relaxing into this really pretty and charming world full of little tasks to check off and strong character.

Crash Bandicoot games operate at the exact intersection of those two rather opposing game design pathways.  Especially in the first game, these are murderous platforming gauntlets where just reaching the level’s end can often be an exercise in controller-breaking frustration with lots of leaps of faith, suddenly spawning enemies and collapsing platforms, and tricksy timing patterns where you had better ensure you have the required momentum and pixel-perfect landings required to pass on through.  But Naughty Dog also decided to add an effectively-mandatory collection element to the mix with gems gained by breaking every crate found in each of these murderous platforming gauntlets, first by passive-aggressively smashing Crash’s face into the ground with all the crates he missed and later by locking the true endings behind gem collection.  That last bit is, of course, carried over from original inspiration Sonic the Hedgehog and there’s a reason why those Genesis games only asked for 50 rings per level for a chance to get a gem rather than absolute perfection.

Crash games would frequently hide crates just off-camera or obscured, in metaphorical minefields where death is a near-certainty, in entirely hidden bonus areas that sometimes require you to vacate any common-sense you have about how the game usually works in order to access, whilst still demanding you cross its lethal obstacle courses designed by Satan with Swiss precision… or else punishes you for being a dumb-dumb who didn’t bother to explore.  And that is before you bring into account the simple fact that the series’ platforming mechanics were, frankly, never anywhere near as up to snuff as Naughty Dog clearly believed they were.  (Two decades later, this has turned out to be ND’s recurrent flaw, their gameplay is never as great as they clearly believe.)  I blame this franchise for my perpetual distrust of my own depth perception, such was the frequency of difficult-to-judge platforming due to the fixed arse-aimed camera angles in 3D.  Collision detection was often sporadic, not just from enemies and platforms but also Crash’s own spin-attack.

And yet… I still love Crash Bandicoot.  I sport two out of three platinum trophies on the N-Sane Trilogy and my jump back into those games on Xmas 2017 was met with smiles and hours of joy.  Admittedly, that’s probably because I never really stopped playing that original Crash trilogy over the years so I never had the sudden brutal realisation that these games are nails hard and not greatly designed, but still.  I think, besides nostalgia, it’s because they so firmly occupy that middle ground between two platforming design eras and, as such, means they have a unique feel compared to the rest of the genre.  Nobody else is making Crash Bandicoot games – the closest I can think of is maybe Rayman Legends but that’s all in 2D – and only Crash Bandicoot games give me the kind of double-barrelled satisfaction surges upon fully clearing a level; besting a stupidly-tricksy obstacle course and looting it of all its resources whilst Crash dances in deserved celebration.  Especially once Naughty Dog loosened up a touch on the difficulty come Warped so it remained consistently fair whenever a vehicle wasn’t included.

But, of course, trying to make something which operates at the intersection of two otherwise polar extremes like Crash precludes a tightrope walk over a vat of acid filled with mutated sharks.  If you’re making a precision platformer, the game stops being fun if the mechanics don’t hold up ten out of ten times.  When the player’s constant deaths start being chalked up to system-error rather than player-error, even if it’s only two out of every ten, then those failures override the satisfaction that comes from finishing and begin to stick in a player’s craw.  If you’re making a collect-a-thon platformer, the game stops being fun when it becomes a chore to collect everything.  The second a task just turns into uninteresting busywork, or a specific task is overly frustrating due to subpar mechanics, or even just that the very last collectable in a level ends up being too obtuse or cheap to be worth it, the spell is broken and everything sinks into dirt.  In Cloudberry Kingdom, you’ve only got to worry about the former.  In Spyro, you’ve only got to worry about the latter.  In Crash, you’ve got to worry about both and they’re so intertwined systematically that a slight buckle on either side brings the whole house crashing down.

Which brings us, at long last, to Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, the first proper new Crash Bandicoot game in 19 years.  Whilst Traveller’s Tales steered more into an objective-based structure with Twinsanity and Radical Entertainment turned the series into a mindless brawler (for some reason), Spyro Reignited’s Toys for Bob have gone back to the well of those PS1 classics for a slavishly hyper-faithful revival of the precision collect-a-thon platforming hell that fans know and love.  There are remarkably few concessions to modern gameplay design or improvements in the last few decades, and a lot of the drawbacks and limitations of those PS1 titles have been baked in as sacrosanct elements of the overall experience.  And TFB have also pushed both sides of Crash’s precarious gameplay balance to either their absolute limits or total breaking points, depending on how you personally feel, with bastard-hard platforming from almost the jump-off and a merciless gluttony of completionist criteria to satisfy.

There were times over October where I would honestly call It’s About Time the best game in the entire franchise sans Warped.  There were equally as many times where I would call it perhaps the worst.  Just as often as I was semi-gleefully exclaiming an “oh fuck off” upon being presented with a fiendishly difficult group of obstacles I needed to react to in split-seconds, I was angrily exclaiming an “OH FUCK OFF” due to an unfair death from shitty collision detection, or the timing windows necessary to clear not syncing up, or finishing a level minus one box which was deliberately obscured by a log or a step or just the camera passive-aggressively telling me to go fuck myself.  Just as often as I finished levels with a sense of accomplished relief and satisfaction, I was also finishing levels out of pure spite and bile.  I don’t think I have ever played a game that has made me repeatedly mutter out an Ashley Johnson-esque “I hate this!” as much as Crash Bandicoot 4 did.

What’s most bizarre, however, is how those contrasting reactions are almost entirely dependent on how you choose to play the game, creating a sort of Schrödinger’s Crash where it is both great and fucking awful at the exact same time.

If you treat Crash 4 as solely a precision platformer where the loop, challenge and fun comes from simply getting to the end of a level, these are the best Crash levels ever.  From almost the very outset, Toys for Bob expect players to pull off just-barely land-able jumps, have lightning-fast reactions to changes in the immediate landscape, and be capable of stringing them together through rather stingy default checkpoints.  They do tutorialise their gameplay well, enough to the extent that you might not realise just how strongly they prepare you for the punishing later stages until you circle back after beating all the levels, but this is a game that starts hard and only gets more nails the deeper into it you go.  You will be expected to take full advantage and display proper understanding of when exactly to spin in mid-air, when to alternate between short stabs of the jump button and when to hold it down whilst bouncing on a crate for the vital added height, the exact millisecond when a wall-run may otherwise plummet you to your death, and especially the vitality of slide-jumps and crouch-double-jumps.

When combined with the new default setting of having a thick yellow circle underneath the player character so they (theoretically) always know where they’re going to land on a jump, this has enabled the developers to design some wonderfully tricksy levels to subject players to.  Ones which really do, eventually, push their systems to the absolute limits.  “Truck Stopped,” “Off-Balance,” “Off Beat,” “Dino Dash,” “Crash Landed,” “Food Run,” these are some all-time Crash Bandicoot levels; a thrilling mixture of challenge, ingenuity, and striking visual designs which are a blast to play through.  (I even found myself saying during an early part of “Crash Landed” that I’d still love the level even if it fell victim to some of the stuff we’ll get to purely because of how splendidly vibrant and giant it all looked.)  Levels can be quite long, too, easily the longest of any entry in the franchise and filled to the brim with complexity whilst mostly remaining fair.  The Bonus stages in each level, meanwhile, differentiate themselves as more than just consequence-free additional side-scrollers by often being semi-elaborate puzzles requiring lateral thinking to properly solve.

And then there are the Quantum Masks, temporary power-ups that alter the world around Crash & Coco to help them pass through certain segments of a level.  Lani-Loli switches between two dimensions which allows certain platforms, crates, and obstacles to shift in and out of proceedings; Akano allows a never-ending turbo spin that can destroy anything and traverse slightly longer distances than standard jumps; Kupana-Wa slows time; and Ika-Ika flips gravity.  It’s a concept recycled from Wrath of Cortex, which also featured elemental masks with cartoony personalities but only as themed power-ups for recurring boss Crunch, being put to actual use here and they’re (mostly) great.  Combining all of these with the high skill gate, somewhat tighter controls than even the N-Sane Trilogy, the now-standardised double jump, added landing indicator, and the new recommended “Modern” mode – which does away with lives entirely, merely adding a death counter in the upper-right and swapping out life crates for golden wumpa fruit; an admission that these levels will kill even the best Crash players remorselessly – is what makes the best of these levels pop.  They’ve been designed with all of these factors in mind and juggling the various systems is exhilarating when you somehow pull it off.

Sometimes, the game has the player take control of non-Crash/Coco characters, each still operating in the same general mechanics as the main bandicoot duo but just differently enough to have gameplay feel slightly varied.  Tawna has a grappling hook and wall-jump for range-based boxes and time-sensitive traversal, Dingodile uses his vacuum to hover and suck up/fire crates at obstacles and enemies, Cortex can dash and has a blaster which turns enemies into platforms.  They all play well enough for variety’s sake; Dingodile, in particular, is great since the game mostly stops asking for pinpoint platforming during his stages which makes them a nice change of pace.  What they mainly bring to the table is an additional welcome burst of character to the story, which is more present here than in any non-Twinsanity game and has a winning Saturday morning cartoon tone I always pop for even if it’s not particularly gutbusting.  I actually wish there were more cutscenes and story beats, frankly.  What’s here is good but ultimately disjointed and the nature of the game (plus Crash & Coco’s silent protag status in-game) means character outside of the really good cutscenes can be rare to come by; the masks suffer the most from this limitation.

(And, err, yeah… somewhat racially uncomfortable stereotyping regarding the masks and N. Sanity Island villagers is something unfortunately baked into the very core of Crash Bandicoot as a franchise at this point.  Not excusing it, just noting that there’s not a whole tonne you can do besides a total reboot which would probably erase a defining visual characteristic whilst not actually fixing the underlying problems.  I guess at least nobody has tribal tattoos this time?)

So, yeah.  Simply aim to do nothing more than beat the game’s 43 available levels, and Crash Bandicoot 4 is damn-great, sometimes even fantastic.  Controls are mostly smooth, level design is largely superb – the big exception being a recurring series of rail-sliding sections where the inherent flaws regarding depth perception in this particular series become giant pulsating blobs impossible to ignore – systems-wise it is neither a rehash of past glories nor an over-complicated mess of gimmicks, the difficulty is a real challenge but does still play fair (mostly) for Crash fans of any skill level, and the visuals are absolutely gorgeous (this is easily one of my favourite looking games of the generation).  A super-casual playthrough is great.

Try to do literally anything more than that, however, and things fall apart real fast.

Let’s start with crate smashing.  Past Crash games would very rarely have more than 80-odd crates in a level.  Very late-game Cortex Strikes Back and Warped levels would tiptoe into triple-digits, but for the most part they remained manageable as was securing the gem for breaking every last one.  The crate total on the very first level of Crash Bandicoot 4 is 104.  That’s the start, that’s the baseline.  They’re not mostly Nitro crates either, although many stages do go rather hog-wild on the usage of Nitros, so you’re trained from the outset to realise that finishing a level pre-Nitro switch with a significant gap between the total no. of crates and your current amount is an indicator that you’ll be doing the whole level again at some point.  And then, just to finish preparing you for the hell you’re gonna be in should you try going for a collect-a-thon run, you’ll almost certainly finish the first stage missing one box, unsure as to where that box was.  If you had that scenario happen to you like it did me, it’s probably because you didn’t notice a stray crate tucked in front of one of the first logs you have to jump over, the crate placement and camera setting effectively making it invisible to anyone not already super paranoid and scouring every single nook or cranny for stuff.

Not only is that an indicator for how the game is gonna play crate collection throughout its runtime – get ready to discover a lot of stray crates are obscured off-camera, sometimes requiring you to violate typical Crash common sense, and other times giving you only one shot to grab them before they become inaccessible for the remainder of the stage run – but the sheer amount to grab in each long-ass level is endemic of the game’s completion criteria overall.  Since main progress through the game has reverted back to Crash 1’s linear map structure with no crystal requirement, Toys for Bob instead chose to significantly expand the side-collectable criteria required for 106% completion.  Now, instead of one (sometimes two) non-coloured gems to collect in each level, there are six.  One for smashing all the crates as per tradition, three for collecting different percentages of a level’s Wumpa fruit (thereby justifying still grabbing those if you’re on the lives-less mode), one for finishing a level in three deaths or less, and one fiendishly hidden about the stage somewhere you have to physically grab.

I actually don’t have a problem with these new gem requirements, conceptually.  The Wumpa gems are effectively gimmes since grabbing most of the fruit along the path and smashing most of the non-tricky crates basically guarantees you cross that threshold with room to spare (I never finished any level without all three Wumpa gems).  The hidden gems can suffer from the same issue as certain crate placements by being unfair and artificially difficult in their placement (“Run It Bayou” easily being the worst in that regard), but they do at least encourage player curiosity and full exploration of the otherwise linear hallways.  And the three deaths gem strikes a solid balance on these lengthy, murderous levels by asking for high player skill but not demanding perfection, a good way to invoke the spirit of Crash 1’s gem requirements (where you would have to break every box and not die once) without that game’s definitely-not-play-tested cruelty.  They also each require the player to approach the levels in differing playstyles: rather casual for the Wumpa, paranoid scouring for the crates and hidden gem, cautious and smart for three deaths.  Sure, thanks to there being 38 non-boss levels, that means you’re going for 228 gems total but it’s not a total grind.

But, it turns out, that’s not all when it comes to completion criteria.  For one, time trials make their deeply-unwelcome return, now sans a post-game Crash Dash aid to make things a touch easier – instead, you get given a Triple Spin that provides a short momentum boost whenever correctly activated, except that I am still yet to get the timing down (mashing as in Warped’s Death Tornado does nothing) and I probably don’t have to tell you the inherent issue with having to spin basically the entire time – and with Platinum Relics required for the completion rather than any Relic doing the trick.  Every Crash/Coco level, meanwhile, also has a Flashback Tape dotted along the main path.  Reach it without dying at any point and you unlock one of the game’s bonus levels – effectively the Bonus stages of the main levels on steroids that also provide back story on the bandicoots’ time in Cortex’s lab; they’re bastard-hard and honestly one of the standout parts of Crash 4.  They start off roughly a third to halfway through a stage, but are soon located deeper and deeper into the game’s most rock-hard stages until they crop up right before the very last obstacle on the very last level, at which point they negate the existence of the three deaths gem almost entirely since the Tapes demand perfect play.  Dying even without spinning a checkpoint box voids the Tape and you must reload the entire level to try again.

Oh, and then there are the N. Sanely Perfect Relics.  What are N. Sanely Perfect Relics, you ask?  Well, they involve beating a level, collecting 80% of the Wumpa fruit, breaking every single crate, and doing it all without dying once!  And, yes, the game wants you to do this on every single level and demands that you do so in order to unlock the true ending.  Yes, this does mean that the three deaths gem is completely pointless when there are two required collectables that insist on perfection rather than near-perfection.  Yes, this does mean the game is demanding utter perfection on long levels (many have Sapphire Relic clear times of almost four minutes), some sections of which are on-rails, that are often brutally difficult even casually, with lots of easily-missable crates due to intentionally frustrating placement and design, where a single cock-up at any point voids the entire run.  Starting to see how this whole house of cards is on the verge of collapse?

Crash 4, in almost any goal other than simply getting to the end of a level, demands perfection.  And if a game expects perfection out of the player, then it had damn sure better provide perfection back to the player mechanically.  These don’t just need to be rock-solid, they need to be titanium, nay, vibranium levels of solid.  Every single death needs to be the player’s own fault to justify this near-psychotic level of commitment – hell, even those mythical super-gamers who can clear everything with no sweat and full foreknowledge will have to play each level a minimum of four times each to satisfy all the criteria (I haven’t even touched on the N. Verted levels simply because I haven’t really touched the N. Verted levels).

Crash 4 and Toys for Bob provide that mechanical perfection, or at least something close to it… roughly eight out of ten times.  That’s a pretty good average, objectively, but I sure as shit wasn’t thinking that during my umpteenth restart of “Bears Repeating” due to being fucked over by the horrid collision detection on the closing riding segment, inches away from the Flashback Tape.  Depth perception on jumps in any non-sidescroll segment, even with the added circle underneath a character’s feet, can still turn into a crapshoot at the very worst possible times; basically all of my enemy deaths came from the game suddenly deciding to get real snooty on what counted as a hit or not (most aggravatingly in “Toxic Tunnels”).  Cortex’s dash input would sometimes simply not register, necessitating numerous hair-pulling restarts at the opening of “The Crate Escape.”  Sometimes it can be hard to consistently get the height necessary to make a specific jump, meaning that the initially funny hanging animation when you come just short of a ledge lost its humour very fast.  Spinning non-explosive crates in an explosive stack and not getting blown up is a coin flip.  Targeting anything with the non-Crash/Coco characters is frankly impossible to do with regular accuracy since those snooty hitboxes were clearly not designed for ranged attacks, leading to more unfair avoidable deaths.

I started the game aiming to finish each level with the Wumpa gems, the three deaths or less gems, and the Flashback Tapes.  By the time I reached the *shudders* ice physics levels, I dropped those self-imposed goals to just the Wumpa gems and the Flashback Tapes, since the latter actually provided new platforming content I wanted to experience rather than a percentage number incrementally rising.  Even just aiming for that extremely low bar began turning levels into battles of attrition since a single mistake, either of my own making or of the game fucking me over, would necessitate yet another trip back to the game’s load screens.  Technically, restarting in Crash 4 is faster than any prior Crash Bandicoot before it, since those games didn’t have dedicated restart buttons outside of the time trials so you’d have to quit back to the warp room/map and load back in from there.  But you try telling yourself that when you’re having to constantly sit through flow-destroying 30 – 40 second load times (on the base PS4) every single time you screw up your perfection-demanded quest for the Tape, on levels that can take several minutes to get back to the segment which screwed you over last time.

I was aiming for only just above the bare minimum and that turned Crash Bandicoot 4 into something I was pushing through out of pure spite far too often.  So many a level would conclude with me going “thank FUCK that’s over” with genuine pissed off irritation rather than relief over besting a strong but fair challenge.  Once again, I am not against ultra-difficult challenges in games which demand perfection.  During this write-up, I’ve finally been digging into Cuphead and am loving it because every single one of my fuck-ups and necessary restarts so far has come entirely from my own mistakes. I didn’t react quickly enough, I forgot how far the evade moves me, I mistimed the consistent parry window.  Those are also true of Crash 4… 80% of the time, and that’s not an acceptable percentage in a precision platformer like this.  If a game demands perfection from me, then I expect perfection from the game.

To close out this way, way, way too long mini-dissertation, what Crash 4 most reminds me of is when Neversoft first took over Guitar Hero.  Neversoft were huge fans of Guitar Hero prior to taking over from Harmonix – in fact, it’s what got them the job in the first place – and they approached their first time at the bat of the franchise, 2007’s Legends of Rock, like hardcore fans.  In some respects, they made things a touch more accessible, namely significantly loosening the timing on hammer-ons and pull-offs and making input windows in general more forgiving than before, but they also over-charted a good number of tracks, charted some keyboard segments to add fake difficulty, and licensed a lot of the game’s late-stage songs seemingly more for their difficulty than their actually being fun to play.  I get how this happened and the why, they were all hardcore Guitar Hero players who could best whatever the earlier games threw at them and wanted a challenge, but this ended up creating a real brick wall in the late-game where only the similarly most hardcore guitar heroes would be able to break through, and even less might have fun doing so.  (Also, they did that stupid boss battle mechanic that fucking sucked.)

And I can’t help but feel like that’s what’s happened with Crash Bandicoot 4.  Toys for Bob are clearly huge passionate fans of everything Crash Bandicoot.  You can see it in the oodles upon oodles of callbacks and fanservice in the story, levels, character designs, and general tone.  But you can also see it in how accurately they have managed to recreate the mechanics, feel, and design of that PS1 trilogy for an original blueprint instead of a remake (no disrespect to Vicarious Visions’ work on N-Sane Trilogy).  This feels like a Crash Bandicoot game whilst also feeling like the natural evolution from where that series left off, rather than a rehash (a la Wrath of Cortex) or a complete shift (a la Twinsanity).  It really does feel like Crash Bandicoot 4.  It’s a labour of love by hardcore fans.

But it’s also taken a hardcore fans’ view that nearly every element of classic Crash Bandicoot is a sacrosanct part of the experience which is to be built on-top of rather than fixed-up or replaced.  The old games’ merciless difficulty was just as much the result of technical limitations and sub-optimal mechanics than intended design, something the player learned to live with in spite of rather than because of, and the levels were short enough and the completion criteria manageable enough (after the first game) that going for 100+% wasn’t an exercise in migraine-inducement.  “Stormy Ascent” was the exception to Crash levels, not the rule – y’know, cos it got cut from Crash 1.  But Toys for Bob are hardcore Crash fans so the original trilogy’s more extreme levels and obtuse collection designs become the new baseline rather than the ceiling.  Self-imposed challenges that Crash players would do for personal fun, like perfect-running a level or using exploits to get unreal times, become officially gamified and a requirement for full completion whether they’re fun for the non-1% of Crash players or not.  When paired with the usual AAA bloat of needing SO MUCH CONTENT to do regardless of whether or not it’s fun, it all saps the weird charm out of Crash and just leaves the limitations.

Halve the game’s completion criteria, specifically anything that currently demands perfection to achieve, and I would legitimately call Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time the second-best Crash ever.  On some days, maybe even the first since it lacks Warped’s somewhat displeasing vehicle levels and is smoother to play than that game was.  But, God, trying to play Crash 4 the way it’s clearly intended to be really wore me down by the end of it.  Normally when I play a Crash Bandicoot game, I stick it out, rip and tear until it is done.  But with this one, I have only finished the story (plus the Flashback Tapes) and am now stowing it away for upwards of a year until enough distance has been put between me and the game that I can feel up to going back for another, more complete collecting run-through.  It’s hard to focus on what the game gets right when trying to play the way it’s intended (cos they wouldn’t gamify those requirements for completion otherwise) just isn’t fun.

Callie Petch got bad news but they didn’t fight.

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