capsule review

Bionicle

If your household includes anyone younger than 12, you’re probably well acquainted with Bionicle. One of Lego’s most successful toy series in recent memory, Bionicle is a build-it-yourself collection with its own mythology and characters. It has also spawned its own console game, which Feral Interactive has recently brought to OS X. Alas, the result hardly seems worth the effort.

In Bionicle, the dark spirit Makuta has turned the island paradise of Mata Nui into a desolate wasteland. Six heroes, known as the Toa, have risen to challenge Makuta’s rule. Each hero represents one of the six elementally themed regions of Mata Nui. For example, Gali Nuva, Toa of Water, is a strong swimmer, and Pohatu Nuva, Toa of Stone, has incredible strength and can climb walls. By mastering each Toa’s special powers, you’ll help them gather the Mask of Light and ultimately defeat Makuta.

Bionicle is a third-person platform game, which means there’s a lot of jumping over chasms, moving past obstacles, and brawling with evil creatures. Figuring out how to make the best of your environment is an important element here—for example, surfing churning rivers of lava, racing across the desert, or swinging from vines in a densely canopied jungle. You’ll also occasionally need to find and rescue the Matoran, the civilian villagers of Mata Nui.

Bionicle is aimed at the kids who are buying the toys, so experienced gamers probably won’t find much challenge here. For example, although each character carries a sword, a set of axes, or another dangerous-looking object, you use those weapons as guns—easily blasting bad guys with a convenient automatic-aiming feature. For kids with intermediate gaming skills, Bionicle requires little more than a few hours to finish.

But even inexperienced gamers may not enjoy playing Bionicle. Thanks to the game’s absolutely wretched camera controls, you’ll frequently find yourself in awkward views that prevent you from getting a sense of where obstacles or bad guys are positioned—this creates frustration, not challenge. Game developers have had years to work out details such as these, and Bionicle’s original developer has no excuse for getting them wrong.

Another serious drawback is the price. At $40, this game costs considerably more than you’d pay for the year-and-a-half-old console version.

The Bottom Line

If there’s a Bionicle fan in your house who hasn’t already played this on a console, it may be worth your while. Otherwise, the game’s frustrating camera controls alone make this one to avoid—pick up a copy of Feral Interactive’s Rayman 3 instead.

Master the special powers of each Tao and save the land in Bionicle.
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