Now that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is officially revealed, we can get down to our interview with Paul Yan, who is co-head of Toys for Bob, the developer of this latest Crash title. Naturally, the first thing we had to ask was what took them so long to make this game? If you remember, Crash Bandicoot: Warped originally released back in 1998, while Mind over Mutant released in 2008 (itself a long gap from the previous title).
It’s About Time is technically the eighth game for the series, but Yan explains the deliberate choice to name it Crash 4 because they’re positioning it to be the true sequel to the first three games, originally developed by Naughty Dog. The name ‘It’s About Time’ is also a play on the wait, besides the first three games having been considered high points of the series – and of course, the game mechanics themselves: Neo Cortex, Dr. N. Tropy and Uka Uka have escaped being trapped on a distant planet, ripping a giant hole in the fabric of universe and space time, exposing a multiverse. It will be down to Crash and Coco to reunite and assemble the 4 Quantum Masks to restore the balance.
They could’ve gone for a remake or remaster considering the high profile remakes of recent time – FFVIIR, RE3 Remake – but after the positive reception of the N. Sane Trilogy and CTR, they wanted something new to add to the Crash Legacy.
With the multiverse setting, we tried to pry if spin-off game characters would be made canon – like Rilla Roo, von Clutch, and Willy Wumpacheeks to name a few.
“We’re not trying to ignore them … those stories and adventures happened in a different and alternate timeline that may not may not have some influence on this adventure.”
The jury’s still out, so we’ll have to wait and see where these guys might end up at.
It’s About Time will both explore the backstories of the Bandicoot family, along with a more “linear” storyline, what Yan considers the advantage of hopping between times with how the game mechanics present themselves. There’s a complicated relationship between Dr. Neo Cortex, Crash and Coco, with Cortex having been the series nemesis for so long. Yet, there was a time Cortex was training Crash to be his general.
New playable characters, including Cortex himself, will be in the game, and in the case of Cortex, he’ll be having a different moveset and abilities from Crash and Coco. Crash and Coco will be able to spin, slide, belly slam and double jump, but a mad scientist won’t be so… physical, let’s say. He relies on his intellect, with his trusty ray gun able to shoot hazards in his path and change their forms e.g. from solid to bouncy platform.
“Cortex levels are specifically designed for his abilities and will be more strategic and cerebral… you’ll need to be more thoughtful on how to engage a hazard.”
With that in mind, more playable characters are hinted to come with unique abilities. Cortex and Coco will be earned and become part of the team as you progress the story and main adventure. Anything about co-op mode won’t be revealed just yet, but we’ll be hoping for it.
Crash and Coco will be getting new platforming tricks, like the wall running and rail grinding that they can also hang underneath. Rope swings will be in, and of course, the Quantum Masks, and there’ll be even more platforming abilities!
There’s four Quantum Masks in total, which Crash and Coco will need to reassemble to save the day. Wearing them will grant them abilities, which Yan talks us through two: the Time Mask and Gravity Mask. As with Uka Uka, all the masks in Crash have their own name, voice, powers and personality. Kupuna-Wa is the Time Mask, granting Crash the ability to slow down time to a crawl. With this ability, the previously one-hit kill Nitro crates can be activated by touch, and be escaped from safely with slowed time.
The Gravity Mask is Ika-Ika, and will grant the ability to invert gravity and flip directions to let you walk upside down. Walk on ceilings or underneath platforms and employ creative ways to get past obstacles that seem impossible at first. The Masks are also meant to be a way for the game to be easy to pick up and hard to master, with no need for inventory management. With only a handful of things to keep your focus on, Yan and the team can get the game to be what they want it to be: a precision platformer. Your timing and skill will be challenged!
That’s one part of gameplay, done. The bosses are supposed to be something that “has never been seen before”. Yan tells about how they wanted to preserve the classic gameplay of Crash while adding to its epicness. He gives an example in Papu Papu, where you defeat him by jumping over his staff and bopping his head three times. Modern players probably don’t see much challenge in it, so they’ve scaled up accordingly in the newest title.
Engine will have a gigantic robot you’ll need to fight in 4, drumming along and firing off dangerous musical notes. You’ll somehow have to get past those to bonk him, and that’ll just be phase one. Similar phases for bosses will be implemented across the board.
When you look at some of the biggest titles these days, they might more often than not be open world RPGs, and platformers may be relegated to indies. Yan believes openness has also been applied to today’s platformers, with more spread out environments. With the challenges also more spaced out, he feels they’re closer to adventure games than actual platformers, compared to classic Crash with dense, highly-focused levels and courses.
“The streams of hazards and platforming challenges are almost rhythmic in nature. There’s a musicality to them when you understand a level’s timing and placement to enter a state of flow as you navigate. That’s what we’re taking to the next level in Crash.”
The Crash universe is a rich one, with a long legacy of characters, environments and stories to enjoy. As a developer, Yan says cherry-picking any of those aspects is one of his favourite things to do, and he promises a lot of easter eggs for fans to keep an eye on. They may not always be obvious, but if you pay attention, you’ll see a connection to a much wider universe.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will be launching 2 October 2020. Yan can’t share with us any news regarding a next generation console release just yet, but it won’t be surprising if it does come out. In any case, watch out for Crash and co’s interdimensional hopping! We’ll be finding out soon enough if it can live up to being a true sequel.