Released last year on most major consoles, Bionicle Heroes was about as bad as it comes without actually being broken. The action was blatantly derivative of Traveller's Tales' Lego Star Wars games. The game also featured mind-numbingly simplistic and repetitive gameplay, as well as a dearth of worthwhile added content. Luckily, the Wii version has come along to deliver the coup de grace, effectively retaining all of the games vices while delivering a control scheme that would be obnoxious even if the camera controls weren't completely busted.
Playing out over the course of several books, comics, and movies, the Bionicle Lego story enjoys an ever-growing library of source material. And if you're familiar with the lore, you'll know that Bionicle Heroes mostly follows the Bionicle Legends story arc. However, if the Bionicle name is new to you, you'll have the stage set by a brief narration at the beginning of the game. And that's about it. Because the only other "voice talent" you'll hear throughout the rest of the game is a few grunts from the menacing yet simple-minded enemy Piraka in cutscenes, you'll be left to infer what exactly is going on. So here's the gist. You arrive on the island of Voya Nui in an elongated tube, where some weird little robot kid hooks you up with these masks that give you elemental powers. From there, you'll need to enter six element-themed zones—forest, ice, fire, and so on—defeat the six evil Piraka, and recover the Mask of Light. There's also some kind of parasitic golden banana peel thrown into the mix, most likely for good measure.
How you interact with Bionicle Heroes is nearly identical to Traveller's Tales' other Lego series, Lego Star Wars. You'll run around a linear environment, exploding Lego pieces and enemies into a burst of smaller Lego pieces of varying point totals. These totals range from 10 to 250, which you'll then be able to spend on upgrades and unlockables in the cantina, err, Matoran Enclave. You'll find even more of these Lego pieces with the help of each character's individual elemental power, which looks exactly like the Force and behaves similarly to constructing in LSW. Along the way, you'll also collect gold and silver Toa canisters, with some being inaccessible until you go back through the level after you've upgraded your robot. By finding enough of these canisters, as well as passing zones and bashing bosses, you'll be able to visit a trophy room, where you can read up on gaps in the story. But by the time you've aggregated enough tidbits of information for the story to become semicoherent, you'll probably be past caring and will wish that you'd just read the books.
Plot holes aside, one of the major problems with Bionicle Heroes is its dull, repetitive gameplay. Heroes is so dull precisely because of the game's core feature. Hero mode activates once you've picked up a certain number of Lego pieces. When in hero mode, you are completely invincible to all damage, and this invulnerability lasts until you activate a giant golden statue to access the next area of any given level. By being even remotely selective with how you pick up Lego pieces, you'll be invincible a good two-thirds to three-fourths of the game, which means that nearly every situation before a boss battle is utterly trivialized. And on the off chance that you do die, you'll simply lose your currently equipped mask and receive a full bar of health. Replacement masks can be found around every corner, but because they're rarely needed and picking one up switches you to that character, they're more of an escalating annoyance than a life-saving necessity.
Even if the camera control wasn't broken—almost to the point of being unplayable—the control translation from a gamepad to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk would be frustrating and cumbersome. Bionicle Heroes uses a rigid auto-aiming system, where your target is selected from the many enemies and Lego constructions littering the screen. Because you're nearly always invincible, the lethal and nonlethal targets are functionally the same, so the auto-aim isn't much of an issue. However, if you are vulnerable, it can be a chore trying to target the enemy that's shooting at you. You're able to strafe right or left and move forward or backward with the Nunchuk's analog stick, and using this in combination with the Wii Remote to shift around the camera, you're able to finagle out a bead on the target and kill it. A more unwieldy system there never was devised, made worse by the fact that the game lends itself quite obviously and naturally to just using the Wii Remote as a sighting reticle.
Surprisingly enough, the obnoxious controls aren't even the most severe problem here. To pan or tilt the camera, you point an onscreen reticle in the direction you want the camera to move. However, if you try to move the reticle across the screen too fast or with too many graphical effects firing off, it will stutter and skip (on both standard and high-definition setups), unable to keep up with the motion. This produces an effect similar to having the frame rate dip into single-digit territory, which is as irritating as it is infuriating. Making matters worse, the reticle slightly sticks to the sides of the screen, doubly so for the corners. This compounds the jerky camera motion as you try to brute force the unresponsive camera off the side of the screen, invariably causing it to skip and then latch on to the other side of the screen. And this is to say nothing of the tension or strain that will quickly build up in your arm from having to babysit the reticle in the center of the screen, fearful that it will creep to the side and wreck you for the next 30 seconds as you try to get it back under control.
Much like Lego Star Wars, Bionicle Heroes has a quirky sense of humor that occasionally shines through the drudgery. You'll get a glimpse of this in the cutscenes, but most of it will come by way of the unlockable content found in the Piraka Playground. Here you'll find all of the Piraka that have been defeated in the stages, and now that they're no longer harassing the fine folk off Voya Nui island, they're free to build sand castles and engage in other tomfoolery. These scenes are pretty funny the first time or so, but they're rather short and don't hold any lasting appeal. You'll also find three bonus stages, which are two-minute missions to see how many of a certain underling robot you can kill. Aside from that, there is no multiplayer co-op or battle mode. A battle mode would have gone a long way in extending the value here, especially because slugging it out against another player with the six different elemental powers could have potentially been pretty neat.
The Wii version's graphics look midway between the PlayStation 2 and PC versions of the game. Like the PS2 version, the Wii version doesn't support depth of field, blurring effects, or bloom lighting, which in this case is good considering they were poorly implemented in the Xbox 360 version. Otherwise, the graphics are as clean and crisp as they were in the PC version. The Bionicles animate well and have a shiny robotic luster, and the game plays heavy on having a lot of explosions and other effects onscreen at once. A bit surprisingly, the game looks better in standard definition because there are some lighting issues when you switch to HD. Unfortunately, the musical score here will have you searching for your own self-destruct button. Because you'll be in hero mode for the vast majority of the game, and hero mode has a track that trumps the music of any stage, you'll be listening to the same Indiana Jones-inspired tune looped ad nauseam. However, many of the other arrangements that you'll occasionally hear aren't exactly a pleasant alternative, such as the cacophony produced by a French horn and electric guitar mash-up. Thankfully, you'll be able to turn these, as well as the sound effects, down or off.
Bionicle Heroes is without a doubt aimed at kids and is as E10+ as a shooter can get, but even the simplest of gamers will quickly grow bored by the lack of challenge, innovation, and story development. Although the game does have bursts of inspiration in the form of its charming cutscenes, these are spread entirely too thin and don't come close to carrying the package or making up for the disappointing gameplay. With other viable versions available, even diehard Bionicle fans should steer clear of the Wii version because the busted control conversion pretty much breaks the game.