Reviewed: January 3, 2007
Released: November 15, 2006
Ordinarily this space is used to fill you in a little on the story or setting of the game, or something like that. With Bionicle Heroes I can do no such thing. All I know is that there are these Lego dudes. They wear masks and are different colors and fight bad guys. In this case the bad guys are called Piraka.
So you are just about as up to speed as I am, and Iíve played the game.
Within a minute of starting this game youíll notice that itís different from almost every other 3rd person shooter youíve ever played. Why is that? The camera is in a static position just over your right shoulder. Thatís right instead of being centered your character is in the lower left hand corner of the screen. Aside from constantly wanting to look left it isnít too bad. What makes it worse is a complete inability to look left without turning that way. The camera doesnít move unless you do, and it drives you a bit crazy.
Once you get used to it though, the game plays smooth, and you generally have a good field of vision. The only place where it gets restrictive is when youíre walking through small tunnels or hallways.
Aside from the camera problems and perspective Bionicle is built similar to the Lego: Star Wars games. You have a central hub from where you can select your level, view the secrets youíve found, and buy upgrades/bonuses with the pick-ups youíve been collecting in your travels. While this works well for Star Wars, it isnít quite as effective here.
For starters the levels are longer and more time consuming than those in the Star Wars games, so you arenít quite as enthusiastic about hopping through a stage three or four times to get all the goodies out of it. Worse, the game is built so you have to go through a stage at least twice to get everything. That is, if you wait for that second trip until youíve beaten the game.
The main play element to the game is that you have six different masks you can switch between. Each one has its own unique weapon and abilities that help you progress through each mission and a special ability that helps you access secret areas. There are also six bosses that you can play as after youíve beaten them, and playing as them gives you access to other areas. Not only all of that, but there are random piles of rocks that you can only manipulate after youíve beaten the final boss, so if you want to get everything youíre either in for a bit of a slog or just wait to replay anything until after youíve finished.
Switching between masks actually gives you a good variety of game play, with weapons that range from a grenade launcher to a sniper rifle, and special abilities that let you build things with spare Lego parts, climb walls, or walk on lava. You also have as many life meters as you do masks, so if youíre low on health you can switch to a mask you donít use very much, ďdieĒ, and then switch back to your favorite with full health.
While this is a neat trick, it means you are never really in danger of being unable to complete a mission. To make that even harder, after you collect a certain amount of pick-ups (they were called studs in Lego: Star Wars) you enter hero mode, turn gold, and become completely invulnerable. Hero mode isnít permanent though, as you have to use your power to manipulate stacks of gold blocks to clear a path or help you fight the boss, and once youíve done that you start back over as just a robot. Wise use of hero mode and the ability to switch masks makes it easy for you to juggernaut through levels with little or no damage.
Bionicle is one of the least blocky Lego ďworldsĒ. Where everything else is built on square blocks, Bionicle is built out of technic pieces, which work more like Tinker Toys or Erecter sets (yes, I did just say Erecter). The graphics in Bionicle Heroes reflect this with Lego pieces used as destructible objects and characters and the rest of the environment richly textured backgrounds.
The graphics overall are slightly too bright, so you get very rich colors, but also a little too much lens flare and blurring. So despite the fact that everything is built out of Legos the effect is much softer and more organic looking than you would expect. I will say that the TV Iíve been playing on isnít the best piece of technology so some of my impressions could be colored by that.
While all of this is nice, what really makes this game pop is the special effects. All of the weapons have unique effects and as you upgrade them they get cooler. The grenade launcher alone is worth it, because you go from a little glowing sphere to a basketball sized rippling ball that explodes across most of the screen, shock wave included. Not only that, but the character models change to reflect the upgrades as well.
The cinematics are put together using slightly better than game graphics, and aside from being a slightly juvenile are pretty funny. They donít carry camp as well as the ones from Lego: Star Wars, but there isnít as much to poke fun at here.
Music in this game is an appropriate mix of background faux techno (or something like that, I can never keep techno, house, or whatever straight). Itís pretty catchy, but not overwhelming, which is good because there is a theme song for hero mode, and as much time as you spend in that the last thing you want is gratingly annoying music.
There is little voice acting in the game, mostly just a bit of narration at the beginning. While this does cut back on depth of story, most of the cinematics are sight gags anyway, so you donít really notice the absence of impassioned (terrible) acting.
The audio effects are as impressive as the visual ones, with great explosions, crumbling structures, and laser blasts wizzing left and right.
With 24 levels and three bonus stages there is plenty to keep you busy on your initial run through. If youíre obsessive about mining everything from the game then you have plenty of replay value. Not only this, but after you defeat the bosses you get a chance to enter the Piraka Playground where the defeated bosses wander around a Ďzooí for your amusement. You can even buy equipment for them to play on, exercise with, or even dance to.
While it isnít quite as addictive and flat out fun as Lego: Star Wars it is a good time. You wonít be dragging all of your friends to come see it, but you will certainly get your moneyís worth.
While the Lego titles in general are more geared towards children Bionicle Heroes seems to be more so than the others. It is fun for all ages, but isnít very challenging for older gamers. If you like the franchise youíll like the game, and it offers a unique take on a shooter.