There is a level in Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (which is out now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) that nearly broke my will to go on. It was Cortex Castle, the next-to-last level, which should give you an indication of how far this game pushed me to the brink. If you are the type of person who wants something relaxing to play after work, or favors the narrative experience over the gameplay experience, this game is a hard sell. But I say that ironically, as a gamer who typically fits into both of those categories, I stuck it out and endured hundreds of losses to my eventual satisfaction.

The closest comparison I can make is to 2013's Guacamelee. Like Crash Bandicoot 4, Guacamelee also featured precision jumping, eccentric bosses. and game-altering power-ups that diversified your movement in new, exciting ways. But in Guacamelee, the truly crazy levels were an optional challenge after completing the core experience. Crash Bandicoot 4, on the other hand, shows no mercy. The developers locked the "regular ending" behind a truly fiendish challenge—one that would be a "true ending" final test or DLC in any other game. Here's a clip from that penultimate level, which I recorded from my playthrough. Watching it back, I impress myself, but that feeling is tempered by the aggravation I put myself through to record it.

To give you some perspective of what you're looking at: Crash is using the powers of four different masks to navigate this open area; touching the pink lasers means instant death. The purple mask allows you to conjure a powerful tornado that propels you farther and more powerfully, though you'll die if you touch any explosives. The yellow mask allows you to slow down time, albeit for a few seconds. The green mask inverts gravity, forcing you to reorient your perspective. And the blue mask phases matter in and out, which means you have to switch platforms, midjump, to prevent yourself from tumbling into the abyss.

It took me (as you can see in the upper right-hand corner of the screen) 123(!) tries to get up to this point in the level; the prior challenges in this same level were no cakewalk either. But believe it or not, this is not even the most difficult part of the level. The truly intense part occurs right after this one, and it is the level's final sequence. 

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