There once was a time when you got a box of LEGO toys, you had a bunch of blocks, some instructions how to put different objects together, and your imagination. Instructions for objects like castles, cars, helicopters, and houses were included. Eventually LEGO expanded their line to include licensed properties like Star Wars, Batman, and Harry Potter. Then they decided to try something new with their new property Bionicle. Bionicle is a series of toys with their own back story of the heroic Toa fighting against the vicious Piraka.
In Bionicle Heroes, you play as the heroic Toa Inika. You’ll gather masks to assist you in destroying the evil Piraka and win back the coveted Mask of Life. You are the Hero that can bring peace to the island of Voya Nui.
While Bionicle Heroes was ported from the PS2 and GameCube, it can’t explain the graphic quality of the game. The characters have little in the way of textures to help give them a little bit of detail, but they don’t enhance the visuals very much. They are blurred so they don’t give the amount of detail that they could. The polygon count is low for the characters. The environments are even worse. The backgrounds look blocky and jagged. The game looks bad for even a PS2 game.
There are a few bright spots in the graphics. The lighting effects of the game are plentiful. Gunfire explode brightly with lots of sparkles. When in the Golden Toa Mode, your character shines in a gold hue. Golden Constractions shine brightly while they are being assembled. There are also several different environments in the game. While they aren’t revolutionary (an ice level, a forest level, a lava level, etc.) it is nice to have a little variety in the levels. These details aren’t enough to give the graphics a higher score.
The music in Bionicle Heroes has a heroic feel to it. You can feel the developers wanted to make the game feel epic in scope. Unfortunately, the music is repetitive as you hear the same thing over and over again. Some variety between the music in the levels would have been appreciated.
The characters are mostly silent throughout the game. You hear an occasional roar from the enemies, but there isn’t anything that really distinguishes one enemy from another. However, there are plenty of sound effects. The Bionicle parts clink when you destroy an enemy or open up “chests” laying around. These sound almost exactly like the clinking in LEGO Star Wars.
The weapons all sound radically different. The flamethrower definitely burns, while the freeze ray sounds icy. The more powerful weapons actually boom with a huge thunder. The developers should be given props for the weapon effects. It’s disappointing that the rest of the game sounds so boring.
The game controls have some similarities to other shooters. Some of the control decisions are a bit puzzling. Movement is handled with the left stick and looking around is done with the right stick. Strafing is done by holding down the left or right trigger and moving the left stick. Cycling through the Toa characters is done with the Left Bumper and Right Bumper or hitting Y. Firing a weapon is done with A while using the Toa’s special ability is done with B.
The controls are odd because when you lock onto an enemy, you continue to face that enemy until it is destroyed. This takes some adjustment since it doesn’t come natural when playing a shooter like this. When you are used to having complete control of the on-screen character, this adjustment can help and hurt you.
Bionicle Heroes was created by Traveller’s Tales, the same people who did the LEGO Star Wars games. Because of this there are several similarities between the gameplay of both games.
At the beginning of Bionicle Heroes, you start off in a room with five different pathways for the five different bosses. Some of these are locked up at first, but more open up as you play further through the game. Each of these pathways has entrances to the different areas in each level. You must travel through each of the levels in order and collect an item at the end of the level to progress on.
The levels are very linear with only a little bit of sidetracking. You go from the starting point, collect LEGO pieces, and fight a boss at the end of the level. As you go through the level you also collect masks. These masks give you different abilities and different weapons. Jaller with the Mask of Fire is fast and gives you a Fireblast. Hahli with the Mask of Water is able walk on water and has the Watershock. Matoro with the Mask of Ice has an ice weapon that doubles as a sniper rife. You can switch to any mask you have on the fly.
When you pick up a mask, your health bar automatically fills up. You can be filled up to five hearts. You can also refill your health by picking up hearts that get dropped by enemies when they are destroyed. If you lose a mask during the game, there is usually another mask laying around somewhere, so you don’t have to worry about losing a mask in the level.
There is an auto-targeting system that takes a while to get used to. While moving you can lock onto a target. Unfortunately, it can mean that you lock onto the wrong enemy and you have to move wildly to lock onto another enemy. This can be especially disorienting during boss battles.
As you destroy enemies, they leave behind LEGO pieces. You can collect these to upgrade your weapons and armor for the different characters. What’s more important is that when you collect enough of these pieces you go into Hero Mode. In this mode you are completely indestructible and your life is constantly filled. Also, certain constractions need to be created while in Hero Mode. Constractions are piles of LEGO pieces that need to be assembled to construct something to continue through the level.
The biggest problem with the game is how similar all the levels are. You start at the beginning, destroy some enemies, gather LEGO pieces, create a constraction, move on, rinse, repeat, and fight a boss. It’s so repetitive that it gets boring quickly.
The game is aimed at the younger set, but it is still very easy. You aren’t going to worry about losing a mask because there are plenty of masks available on the level. If you need a mask to complete a specific level, you can usually find it on the area somewhere close by. You also will be able to complete the game in a very short period of time.
There are lots of unlockables in the game. Some of these you get by collecting the LEGO pieces. Other unlockables are found in silver and gold canisters found across the levels. Some of these canisters can only be accessed through upgraded masks or through a second playthrough. Over 100 objects can be collected through the gold canisters.
Once you defeat a boss, they end up in the Piraka Beach. You can play as the Piraka in this area and buy equipment to mess around with.If you have a young one who is big into the Bionicle story, then they’ll probably enjoy Bionicle Heroes. However, the flaws of the game really stand out to make this feel like a lifeless and incomplete experience. The Traveller’s Tales development team really nailed the feel of the Star Wars universe. Their attempt at bringing Bioncle Heroes to life feels like an empty shell.