IGN Review of Bionicle Heroes
Building with LEGO blocks. It's a calming way to play. A gentle, soothing pastime. But TT Games and Amaze Entertainment just took all that serenity and pitched it out the window, taking the wholesome LEGO brand and transforming it into a hyperactive twitch action shooter that's turbo-charged in every possible aspect of design. It's Bionicle Heroes, a high octane experience like you'd never expect from a game based on plastic building blocks. The excess energy, though, is a definite positive – if you can keep up.
You are the Hero. Given a mask of the Toa Inika, you absorb the powers of a Bionicle warrior and must quest across the island of Voya Nui. Your objective is to recover other masks, gaining further power, and then use that power to destroy the evil Makuta. There's really not much story in Bionicle Heroes. What there is, though, is shooting.
Lots and lots of shooting. From you, from your enemies. There's more weaponry, explosions and live ammunition flying around this title than in 90% of other Game Boy games combined. The action is viewed from a birds-eye perspective as you guide your LEGO hero north, south, east and west through Voya Nui's varied environments, blasting anything and everything that gets in your way. It's almost like a top-down Contra, or a free-range, roaming take on one of Treasure's classic shooters. You can pick your favorite comparison, but Bionicle is a definite match for the pace and energy level displayed in any past entry in the genre.
There are so many enemies swarming the screen that it can be easy to lose your bearings. Thankfully, the controls offer some choice in how to handle the hordes. Your hero has two weapon settings, with the A Button triggering a rapid-firing but weak rifle that boasts unlimited ammo and the B Button activating more powerful blasts. B's functionality changes depending on which mask you've donned, but can take the form of anything from tight, focused laser beams to slow, exploding mortar rounds.
The R Button is home to one of two strafing styles. The first is Auto-Face, where tapping R will quickly spin your fighter to face the nearest foe. The second is Hold, where keeping R pressed down will lock your weapon in any of the eight possible directions and free up the D-Pad to handle footwork alone. Both serve their purpose, but Hold mode strafing feels more natural and useful. You can switch between the two at any time from the pause menu.
Combat is fast, frenetic and satisfying in Bionicle Heroes, though it gets repetitive after a while. There's only so many times you can blow up the same respawning LEGO bots before you want to move on to something different. Thankfully the quest is freshened up from time to time with the discovery of new Toa masks, which upgrade your weapons or change them entirely. The level structure supports breaks in the monotony, too, with small, focused battle arenas following each long-form adventure area and a boss battle completing each region of the Voya Nui island.
You may get a sense of the old-school from extended play of Bionicle, coming in the form of slowdown. Classic, timeless too-many-characters-on-screen slowdown pops up in a few places during this Heroes quest, and is more of a cause to chuckle than a negative mark to the game. The developers really tried to throw everything at you at once, kitchen sink included, and it shows.
The genuine effort and creativity invested in Bionicle shines through, too, in the game's audio department. This is full force, in-your-face sound. The Game Boy Advance library is not known for its acoustic achievements, but it might have been if more soundtracks like this had hit the system in its early years. It's worth playing through each level just to hear what the background music will be for the stage to follow.
After making significant progress in the game, you'll find that you can revisit earlier levels through Free Play mode. There, some added replayability comes in with the game's allowance to switch dynamically between any of the different weapons you've collected through the rest of the mission mode. Collectible, too, are Bionicle runes. These can be exchanged for various cheats and extras, like activating the Cluck Gun. The Cluck Gun fires chickens. Live, flying poultry that assaults your enemies with an irrepressible bloodlust that could only have been born in a farmhouse. You first witnessed the madness of roosters when you tried torturing them in Zelda games – they've migrated, friends. No game is now safe from their wrath.
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