Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time marks the first time that a new mainline Crash Bandicoot game is releasing in over 10 years. This game is a sequel to Crash Bandicoot 3 (Warped) and plans to build on the original trilogy that was created by a little studio called Naughty Dog.
We got to speak to Toys For Bob, Co-Studio Head, Paul Yan about everything Crash 4. We found out why Crash has a brand new look, discovered that the game will have two distinct modes for classic Crash fans and newcomers, how the evil Doctor Neo Cortex is bringing a whole new dimension to gameplay and how the Quantum Marks bring new and exciting powers to Crash and Coco.
You’re calling this Crash Bandicoot 4 which is a pretty big deal, considering it’s obviously a main entry. Why do you see the game as a mainline entry and was this always going be the case?
Paul Yan: Technically, this is the eighth game in the series, but we very deliberately called this Crash 4 to position this as a true sequel to the first three games that were developed by Naughty Dog. We think it’s because there was something really special about those first three games and it was certainly a high point in the series, and it was reflected both critically and commercially. Our game is called It’s About Time and yes, it’s sort of a play on words, in the sense that that It’s been so long since we’ve seen a new original title.
It’s been 12 years like you pointed out since Crash Warped, but it’s also literally about time it chronologically. It follows the events of Crash 3. Where we picked up off from Crash 3, Neo Cortex, Dr. Entropy and Uka Uka, they’ve been stranded on this distant planet. They’ve been trying fruitlessly to escape, but they finally managed to get out and in doing so, they’ve ripped this giant hole in the fabric of the universe, exposing a multiverse. So it’s gonna be up to both Crash and Coco to reunite and reassemble the four Quantum Masks to restore balance to this multiverse. So when we think about time in the context of all these different games, we do want to harken back to those three but other sequels, they did exist and we think about them as existing on alternate timelines that may or may not have some reflection in this adventure.
Does the story assume that you’ve played the original Trilogy or could someone who’s heard about Crash and is picking this up as their first Crash game pick this up and understand what’s going on?
Paul Yan: A really important thing is that this is designed both for people who know and experienced and have nostalgia for the previous games but also for a new audience. So there may be a lot of Easter eggs or nods and winks to the past that may gloss over new players heads, but it’s not critical information that they would need to experience its adventure from start to finish.
It’s mentioned that Crash 4 this is a modern take on a classic game. What does this mean for the gameplay and how has this influenced design decisions?
Paul Yan: So I think one thing that’s really important for us was when we set out on this adventure, we asked ourselves, what sets apart Crash gameplay wise, what’s distinctive about him, and when we look at some of the other platformers that are around or have evolved over time, many of them have gone in a direction of being more open and as a consequence, the environments being a little bit more sparse, the activity is more about exploration, leisurely collecting items, or maybe it’s focused on combat. For us when we look at Crash, though he has like bits of all of those, when we go back to those first three games and what they introduced to just gaming in general, the term that we’ve landed on is precision platformer. We’ve used this sort of as a design pillar in terms of how does everything funnel in and focus gameplay, the games, we structure our levels in a linear hallway type, so they are moving forward and back into space and scrolling
There are certain advantages to that. Gameplay is more tight, it’s more focused. When we think about hazards and enemies and how they’re distributed, they stream across in almost a rhythmic way, so we’ve been really focused on how do we maximize that and use that differentiation to really push Crash gameplay. As we listen to the community, it’s also been really refreshing to hear that this is a type of gameplay that we don’t see a lot of today and it’s been really refreshing to see in the remasters. So we’re taking that and trying to take this to the next level. At the same time, we’re introducing new locomotion tricks, so now along the way Crash and Coco are going to be able to run alongside certain walls in the levels, there’s going to be grind rails that they can slide on and hang under and there’s going to be ropes to test the players precision and timing and when they jump on and when they release.
The game has a retro mode. What does this mean for the gameplay and what’s the difference from the standard mode?
Paul Yan: We offer both a retro and a modern, both are which related to how lives are managed. Retro mode is exactly like how the N.Sane Trilogy approached it. There’s a limited number of lives, as you earn 100 Wumpa, you pick up a one up and you increment that life and if you all your lives expire, you get presented with a game over screen. If you choose to continue, you get a hard reset at the very beginning of that level. There’s a good population of players who want to experience that game in that same nostalgic way and we offer that, but we also want to recognize that that type of friction feels a little bit foreign for some modern players or maybe some new players and so we’re also offering what we call a modern mode, which doesn’t really count lives. Instead, you’ve got an unlimited amount of attempts to complete a level, but what we are counting in the modern mode is the number of deaths that you have achieved in completing the game. So you can complete a level in 100 deaths and you still complete it, you can complete it with zero deaths and still complete it.
But we’re also adding in modern mode, a new type of clear gem reward, so if you complete the level in four deaths or under, let’s say, for that particular level, you will get this clear gem reward. So that sense of mastery is still important, but we think that this is the right balance of encouraging people to perfect their runs, but at the same time, not having such a hard friction against that challenge and of course, players can choose between these at any point in time. It’s not like they’re locked into it from the very beginning.
In terms of structure of the game. Is it still broken down into set levels and worlds?
Paul Yan: So the game has taking a cue from the very first game and we’re actually introducing something called the Dimensional Map. So in between levels, you will be visiting with a hub. The Dimensional Map will be where the player navigates between the different dimensions and the different time periods of the adventure. The levels will be structured in a fairly linear manner, which gives us two advantages. One is we get to tell the story in a more focused and chronological way and the second is that, in the challenges, we can ramp challenges in a more reliable way. So the types of mechanics and enemies that we introduce in one level, once you complete that level, we can reliably ramp them in and twist them and layer them in more convoluted ways in the subsequent levels. So we have a smoother approach, we preserve that same challenge of the original game, but it makes it more approachable too.
Dr Neo Cortex is playable. Why was the decision made to make him playable this time around?
Paul Yan: The universe is so rich and I think wanting to experience other characters is just something that the audience have wanted to see and something we’ve always wanted to do. It’s also a way that we can inject new gameplay styles without overloading the simple to pick up a hard to master nature of who Crash is himself. So Crash and Coco share the exact same move-set, they can jump, double jump, spin slide, belly slam but Neo Cortex has a completely different set of moves. He has a short flight dash horizontally that he can bridge gaps on. But also as an intellectual mad scientist, he’s reliant on his brain and his devices. He’s got a ray gun that he carries with him and he’s able to shoot hazards along the path and transmogrify them in to either a solid platform or a bouncing platform that gives him access to higher elevations if he jumps on them. And so as you can imagine, that kind of gameplay is going to feel very, very different. It’s a little bit more cerebral, a little bit more strategic, you’re going to have to be a little bit more thoughtful about whether or not you engage with the hazard, whether or not you convert it into a platform, when to convert them to a platform and what type of platform to do in order to navigate his obstacle courses and the levels that are built specifically to challenge his set of abilities.
The game has a new art style, which is noticeably different from Crash Team Racing and N. Sane Trilogy. Why the change up after the last two remakes?
Paul Yan: It was important for us to set a new look to be distinct from the remasters. We want to set a new tone for all future games moving forward. The remasters N. Sane Trilogy CTR were built in the alchemy engine and we’ve built this from the ground up in Unreal and so there are decisions that we’ve made both stylistically in terms of how do we maximize the amount of detail that we put into the screen while changing up the camera so we can see more, as well as playing to the strengths of the game engine itself.
When you went to the drawing board for a new game, how quickly did you land on the idea of the Quantum Masks?
Paul Yan: Well, masks are such a core part of what the Crash franchise is, obviously we’ve got Aku Aku and Uka Uka and some of the other games tried to extend it upon that idea as well. Masks were a really organic way for us to extend Crash’s abilities in ways that didn’t compromise his ability to be simple to pick up and hard to master. The two Quantum Masks I’m happy to share about today are the time mask and the gravity mask. When Crash wears these masks, he’s gonna have new abilities that he can take advantage of that sit on top of the abilities that he already has.
So the first one is the time mask and like Aku Aku and Uka Uka they have personalities and names. Her name is Kupuna-Wa and when Crash wears her he’s able to slow down time to a crawl, and he’ll be able to navigate past obstacles and challenges that are way too fast to navigate in at normal time, but he’ll also be able to get past Nitro crates in unique ways. So crates classically are one touch one kill, but with the power of time, Crash will be able to slow time down so that he can jump on a Nitro, trigger the explosion but have just a small window of enough time for him to get away before it explodes and obliterates everything in his path. The second mask is the gravity mask and his name is Ika-Ika. When Crash and Coco don this mask, they’re going to be able to flip the direction of gravity so that they can walk on the top of the ceiling or underneath platforms in ways that are really head scratchy and can navigate out of impossible platforming challenges.
What about multiplayer? There’s more than a few characters here. Will the game be playable in multiplayer?
Paul Yan: At this time, we’re just talking about the single-player campaign. We will have more secrets to share at a later date.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will be out on October 2nd for PS4 and Xbox One.