While I was at Sierra's preview event today, I got to see the latest Bandicoot title, Crash: Mind Over Mutant for Wii - it's also hitting Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, DS and PSP in the spring.
In this title, seminal antagonists Dr. Neo Cortex and N. Brio have invented some kind of technological device that has turned everyone into zombie-like obsessives, and Crash is the only one unaffected. To stop the evil scientists, Crash will have to liberate the area's mutants - not unselfishly, of course. The core mechanic relies on using the unique abilities of the beasties you save to fight other monsters, navigate areas and solve puzzles.
I watched the rep use Crash to knock some sense into a big, knuckle-dragging brute, and then ride on his back - once jacked onto one of the creatures, the player can use that creature's special ability - in this case, the player slowed down time enough to get through a fast-chomping skull obstacle safely (think God of War 2's Amulet of the Fates).
I actually haven't played a Crash Bandicoot game since the first PlayStation, so it was interesting to see what's changed - and what hasn't.
Even though, like I said, it's been a long time since I saw Crash, I noted many of his classic mechanics, like spinning around in a fluid rush to smash open boxes, are still intact, and you wiggle the Wii remote quickly to accomplish this move. Another thing I thought seemed promising was the drop-in-and-out two-player co-op; your friend can pick up a second Wii remote and try being Crash's friend Coco, and when your friend is finished playing, they can simply put it down and you can go back to your game.
Interestingly, though, the characters can be carried not only by monsters, but by one another. So let's say you and your friend are playing co-op and you want to get up to get a drink - you can hop on your buddy's back and they'll simply carry you through the level until you return.
The Wii visuals were decent and colourful, and the gameplay looked like it would be fun to try. When my colleague Flynn saw the Xbox 360 version a few months back, he thought it was a little "more of the same" in terms of the platforming and free-roaming, and suggested it might appeal to kids a little bit more.
Kids definitely are into it - one feature I saw was Crash's house, where you can try on skins for Crash from the monsters you've beaten and page through a concept art notebook. The rep told me that 6 kids were chosen from a big concept art contest to have their drawings appear in the game, and that they were very excited. Aww.