Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: Novembe 15, 2006
I still can’t believe this is the development house that gave us the abysmal Super Monkey Ball Adventure and Sonic 3D Blast.
Of course, respect where respect is due: it’s also the house that gave us the hilariously fun Lego Star Wars games. The lesson here? Let’s keep Traveller’s Tales far, far away from Sega, and give their development staff more Lego blocks to play with. It’s clear where these coders’ strengths lie.
Bionicle Heroes is the “official” game of the Lego Bionicle franchise, meaning that, if you’ve got an Xbox 360, chances are you’re not part of the Bionicle line’s core demographic. Bionicle is a series of Lego toys that came onto the market years ago in an attempt to “modernize” the Lego brand. There’s a whole universe, storyline, and cast of characters to go with it, and through massive amounts of marketing (including a few CG movies), it’s all managed to survive for this long. As with any franchise that’s survived for a while, it can get confusing if you’re jumping into it for the first time. You’ll have to deal with Toas, Pirakas, Voia Nuis, and lots of other new-age sounding words.
Or, maybe you won’t.
The secret to Bionicle Heroes’s quality is that you don’t need to know any of this lore, with its complicated names and world-settings, in order to have a good time. You may, however, wish to learn more upon having spent a few fun hours with this game. As a gateway drug, this thing is golden. Of course, if you’re already a Bionicle faithful, prepare to be in heaven as all of your favorite entities are represented, ready to be explained to your friends who will have no idea what things, places and people this game refers to half of the time.
Heroes has you primarily playing as the Toa, the Bionicle “Hero” characters in question, against the evil Piraka. You do this by collecing masks that contain the powers and spirit of the Toa warriors in question. In traditional gaming terms, you’re collecting the souls of your hero characters, and each of these have different weapons and attributes. One has a sniper rifle. Another has a rapid-shot and is good around watery territory. Still another has a rockin’ flamethrower, and yet another is the only one who can navigate rocky territory and scale cliffs. Gameplay progression is as simple as solving puzzles (usually by matching the right warrior’s powers to the right piece of terrain), and blowing up anything that moves (or sometimes, things that don’t). It’s straightforward, but the action never lets up, nor does the combination of powers that one can use, which is what makes the game special. It’s not incredibly deep, but it’s solid.
Not only is the game solid, but it’s easy to pick up and play, as well as control. The camera is rarely disagreeable, and from the get-go, the game bombards you with helpful hints as you play, so that it’s almost impossible to get lost. In addition to the many weapons you’ll be using, you can also attain a golden “Hero Mode” by collecting a sufficient amount of Lego pieces as you blast away. Hero Mode grants you invincibility and added power for a short time. Given the amount of shooting you’ll be doing here, you’ll need all the help you can get.
Upgrades abound in the game’s hub world and shops, along with hints and collectibles. You also have the option to play as any of the bosses that you defeat in Free Play Mode, much like the character unlocking mechanism in the Lego Star Wars games. In fact, this entire game is pretty much Lego Star Wars’s older, most testosterone-filled brother. While the little ones (and their parents) play LSW, this is the game that their not-quite legal siblings will be blasting away with.
More so on Xbox 360 than on any other platform, the game’s special effects truly shine. Every other minute or so, you’ll end up interacting with Lego pieces, either on an individual level, or collectively. The Toa have the power to “construct,” or telekinetically build, structures out of Lego pieces. These can range from anything to boats to get across rivers, gears to help unlock doors, or bridges to traverse dangerous terrain. They can be created as specially marked construction sites, and often only by a specific Toa. Activate a construction, and you’ll get to see Lego pieces assemble themselves into something far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s actually quite cool to watch, and is another demonstration of how well Traveller’s Tales knows how to treat the Lego franchise.
The sound is just as good. Booming, epic background music graces your ears, and each weapon has its own distinctive aural identity. You can hear the “clink” of Lego pieces as they drop around you, or as they connect together and build into something huge. There’s nothing to complain about in this department.
Possibly the only thing missing from this game that truly stands out is any sort of multiplayer. A co-op option with increased difficulty and mask-sharing between two players (to encourage teamwork) would have added to the game’s longevity. As it stands, while the game stands well on its own, it’s a lonely experience with little variety to be found for a quite while into it. This, along with the game being tailored to hardcore Bionicle fans before others, can make for a confusing experience when played by one’s lonesome. Some kind of competitive mode would have worked well too, perhaps with a rock-paper-scissors element involving the different Toa masks.
As an acquaintance of mine once said, this game takes away the blood and gore that makes most shooting games cool, but replaces it all with robots, which are equally cool. Thus, don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t underestimate Bionicle Heroes just because it’s based on a line of toys marketed to kids. There’s actually a good game in here, packed with old-school shooting action, and replay value to boot. Don’t be afraid to give it a go.
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