LOS ANGELES--Developer Traveler's Tales struck gold last year with Lego Star Wars, a kid's game with a great deal of humor, whimsy, and addictive (if simplistic) gameplay. It took Star Wars, Lego, smooshed them together, and created something really incredible. So it's not such a terrible shock that those holding assorted Lego licenses would want to tap the developer for new Lego-related projects. The Bionicle line of toys is one of Lego's most popular brands, and Traveler's Tales is hard at work on Bionicle Heroes, a shooter that's kind of reminiscent of a simplified version of that great multiplatform robot shooter, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. But of course, the little Lego touches are to be found throughout, and the game follows a very similar design formula to Lego Star Wars.
First and foremost, Bionicle Heroes is a third-person shooter. The camera perspective is a little weird, in that the character you're controlling takes up the lower-left quarter of the screen, rather than a more centered section. But it works pretty well. For the most part, all you really need to do is aim and shoot, and as the enemies die. They don't just die, mind you. They crumble into little Lego pieces, similar to Lego Star Wars. Bionicle Heroes doesn't seem to contain quite the same brand of absurdist humor that Lego Star Wars does, but the game has its charm.
The key gameplay component in Bionicle Heroes is masks. Each character gets access to several special masks that provide unique weapons and abilities. Some mask abilities are needed to access certain areas and defeat specific enemies. For instance, there's a blue mask that lets you walk on water, and a black mask that lets you scale walls. Similar to Lego Star Wars, you can't actually die in Bionicle Heroes. You simply lose masks if you take too much damage. However, you can re-collect them later on in the level. Throughout the game, you'll be collecting tons and tons of Lego pieces from chests and fallen enemies. You will then use these Lego pieces as currency to purchase new weapons and abilities. The game's levels are designed for replay, in that you can't access every area unless you have all the upgrades.
Visually, Bionicle Heroes actually had a pretty nice look to it. The game is very colorful, the Bionicle characters are nicely detailed, and there are even some nice lighting and motion blur effects at work. Again, it doesn't have quite the same kitschy charm as something like Lego Star Wars, but it's not a bad-looking game at all.
Bionicle Heroes is set to ship later this year for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and PC, and handheld versions of the game for the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance will hit around the same time. We'll bring you more on the game soon.