As you hardcore readers will know well by now, we here at OAFE love Bionicle. Originating as a twist on the famously fun block-built kits known as Lego,
the Bionicle line has developed from its simple mythology-based action figure series to a fully overblown (with marketing!) toy line complete with movie(s), video games, lunchboxes, watches, and most importantly, line after line of toys.
But today, we're swaying from the toy-reviewing path to have a look at the anticipated but under-reviewed Bionicle video game. Released alongside the Mask of Light movie, the game follows the storyline of the original series of the toy line, involving the Toa taking on a new enemy - the Bohrok - after the twisting of the Rahi, evolving into the Toa Nuva and then facing the Rashki, leading to the discovery of the Mask of Light and the confrontation with the evil lord himself, Makuta.
The game itself is a traditional kind of 3D platformer, complete with a nice dosage of violence (don't jump yet, Mothers Against Violence, it's just Lego), annoying jumping problems, a stupid camera and a nice amount of variation from level to level. Each level invites the player to take control of a different Toa, beginning with Tahu battling Rahi in his hot... lavaland... place. [Ta-Koro --ed.] Then it's through the jungle with the, uh, Green One, snowboarding the mountains with Kopaka and swimming the flooded oceans with Gali Nuva. You get to be everyone!
The graphics are quite good; although the game doesn't run on high res, it also doesn't take a beast!! machine to run and everything looks nice. The designers have made a living, breathing Mata Nui and yet manage to keep everything still Lego - the Toa look great, the enemies are scary and the environments paint a nice picture of what it'd be like to live in the Bionicle mythos. Sound is a mixed bag - sound effects and music are great, but the sound mixing is slightly off and the voice acting isn't up to standard - though it wasn't great in the movie, either, which the game follows quite nicely.
The gameplay is where the game falls short. The controls are originally awful, but thankfully customisable. The switch between different Toa works well enough - varying the Toa changes up the gameplay and ensures, to some extent, the game never gets boring. Some of the levels are too platform based, which has never worked well in 3D games - platform means "flat" and flat means "2D." Fortunately, each Toa's power offers some protection against too many leaps of faith, and also offers plenty of variety.
I really enjoyed Kopaka's snowboarding levels - a race against time and a Bohrok Kal - and also the swimming levels with Gali Nuva; every level offers something different. Sadly, much of those levels are too short, and the game overall doesn't clock in too well at about five hours long. Also, Greenzilla's level gets intensely annoying with some of the worst platforming ever, even though it doesn't last long.
The in-game movies are quite good; although short and often confusing, the rendering bringing the Bionicles to life is just as cool as in the movie. The game also features a bunch of unlockable extras, including previews of the (now not so) new toy line, movie trailers and other tidbits. The whole package feels nice, dropping you right onto Mata Nui and the quest for the seventh Toa.
The game is, overall, a mixed bag. It has several obvious problems, but there's a lot of fun here for Bionicle fans. I love the idea of taking the role of a Toa for a while to protect the island of Mata Nui; even better, I feel this game is much more fun than the movie, particularly for the violence that the movie was sorely missing (what kind of children's movie is without violence, seriously? Oh, sure, we're quite happy for our children to see Jesus getting beaten like an Alabama housewife yet not even a bit of swordplay is allowed in a Lego children's movie? Stupid Americans.)
If you're a Bionicle fan, I recommend this adventure into the Bionicle world - though not for full price. Now that the game is a couple of months old, you should be able to get it cheaper, and I think it's worth it - enjoy your chance to play as a Toa for a day.
What's your favorite toy-based video game? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.