When it comes to video game remakes, they're all pretty much destined to be hits, because why remake a game that would be a dud upon re-release? Crash Bandicoot's modern day refresh, the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy helmed by Vicarious Visions with support development from Toys For Bob, has sold over 10 million copies to date, according to its February 2019 financial results report. People missed the orange marsupial with attitude a lot.
It was perhaps inevitable that one day Activision would see the influx of cash the Crash series could still deliver in the modern day, even as its original developer has moved onto more dour sorts of adventures. Thus, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, the first new Crash game since the mobile 2010 game Nitro Kart 2, is officially coming this year from developer Toys For Bob. It looks zany and colorful, teasing levels in its trailer like a futuristic city, a volcanic environment with a T-Rex lumbering toward the screen, and more. It looks, well, like a modern-day Crash. Only with some key twists.
Now I know what you're thinking: Isn't there already a fourth Crash with Wrath of Cortex? I pose the conundrum to Toys For Bob Design Producer Lou Studdert: What makes this Crash 4? Turns out, it's more than just being set immediately after the cliffhanger of Crash Bandicoot: Warped.
"For us, we want to come out of the gate and call it Crash 4 because we're not just continuing the storyline from where it left off, but also using the original trilogies' gameplay kind of as our inspiration and as our base," says Studdert. "After the original trilogy, the franchise diverted a bit to more open-world exploration type things. For us, what we wanted to do was go back to what we found really lovable and are just huge fans of with the original trilogy."
Wrath of Cortex, released in 2001 and developed by Traveller's Tales, was the first entry in the series to cast aside its PlayStation exclusivity. The Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, on the other hand, was never nailed down to just PlayStation like the original series, and Crash 4 will follow suit as it launches across multiple platforms this fall. Crash 4 isn't merely a traditional platformer in-line with the faithful remakes though; it's introducing a number of new twists on the formula.
Wall-running, rope swinging, and rail grinding are new platforming additions that are built into levels from the start for the primary playable characters, Crash and Coco. (Familiar supervillain Neo Cortex, as seen in the debut trailer, is also playable, but mum's the word for now on how the alternate perspective will play out in-game.) The biggest new addition is the "Quantum Masks," which add a "reality time and space element" for Crash and Coco.
"As you're going through this adventure, you're going to be meeting up with these four quantum masks in an effort to help heal time and space," says Studdert. "When you meet them, they'll join in with Crash and Coco's team, and from that point on in the story, there'll be certain areas and levels where they'll come in to help a hand. And when they come in to help a hand, they get equipped to Crash or Coco as a crazy suit of armor that shows the player that they now have control over their power."
Unlike the classic Aku Aku mask that can shield Crash from harm, the Quantum Masks shield Crash and Coco's entire body in a full-body suit, and gives them special new abilities. Studdert was only able to talk about two particular Quantum Masks at this time: Ika-Ika, a gravity-shifting mask that allow Crash and Coco to run on the ceiling, and Kupuna-Wa, a time-slowing mask.
"Kupuna-Wa allows players to slow down time at the press of a button, which allows for Crash and Coco to interact with the kind of the world and the challenges in really fun and unique ways either by bypassing things that are moving at rapid speed that you couldn't bypass before, or even interacting with the boxes and crates that have existed in the franchise in new and unique ways," says Studdert. "An example of that is if you slow time, you can actually use that split second to hop on top of nitro crates, which before, you know, would explode immediately upon touch. You can use them now as platforms, and then once the time slow effect wears off, they'll explode behind you." So, those green nitro boxes will be a little less intimidating now.
Upon launch, the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy weathered some criticism from fans and critics alike for being even harder than the original-some argued it even boiled down to the slight difference with its precision jumping. As for Crash 4, retaining that challenge remains important for the developers at Toys For Bob. "[T]hat difficulty level is something that is part of Crash's DNA. It's also something that a lot of fans do appreciate and do want," says Studdert. "That said, we want to make sure that we're making a game that appeals to as many people as possible, as well as those diehard Crash fans."
To appeal to that, Crash 4 will be implementing a handful of new quality of life improvements. One will be a limited amount of right camera control. "So even though we were doing the fixed perspective, players can get some bearings, an additional look around the levels," he explains. Another addition is that Crash 4 will welcome two game modes: Modern mode and Retro mode, which handle how lives work, and general progression.
In Modern mode, dying merely sends you back to the latest checkpoint. Retro mode is closer to the original Crash Bandicoot experience: collecting Wumpa fruit nets extra lives, and if you die enough times and run out of lives, you're kicked out of the level entirely and have to start the level anew.
"So in making those modes, we had to figure out, 'Okay, what else can Wumpa mean for the Modern mode?', as well as giving it more value for that Retro mode," says Studdert. "And that allows us to also layer in some really good additional end of level rewards and additional things for players to do during their adventure."
In addition to a more forgiving mode, "Toys for Bob is exploring a variety of options to support accessibility and will provide more details as they become available," according to a statement provided by an Activision spokesperson. Activision also detailed that at launch, it will support fully localized voiceover and subtitles in "English, French, Italian, German, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Portuguese (Brazil), Arabic, and Japanese." There will also be localized subtitle support in Russian and Polish.
Most recently, Toys For Bob helmed the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. This will be the first Crash game on which the team leads development, though it's lent support development in the past. Working on past Crash games is aiding the studio in its pursuit to make a brand-new, "authentic"-feeling Crash Bandicoot game. "[It] really helped inform all of these design decisions that we made when making a new game from the ground up," he says. "Being able to try and make something that felt like an authentic Crash game was very, very important to us from the beginning, and so getting that right is something that we took that experience to heart with."
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, and the success of the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, are standing proof that the mascot platformer (and racer) isn't as dead as the rest of triple-A games may make it seem. Unlike the Crash games post-Warped, Crash 4 is a return to the series' roots. For now, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is set for release on October 2 for just PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Toys For Bob isn't talking about any other platforms at the moment, including next-gen, but it's worth noting that the N.Sane Trilogy, Reignited Trilogy, and Nitro-Fueled all eventually saw ports to other platforms like Switch and PC.