Some games are clearly designed for a certain audience. While it's undoubtedly hard for game developers to create games that gain critical praise and massive sales, it's worth sparing a thought for the guys that slave away on titles aimed squarely at kids. Bionicle Heroes is such a title, and as such is a game that is likely to be perfect for fans of the Bionicle toys and movies, but offers little of interest for everyone else.
Bionicle is actually a Lego spin-off, and in the game you take control of six Bionicle Heroes in order to save the island of Voya Nui from the villainous Piraka. Your character can switch between each hero by changing his mask, and each brings with it a unique power, as well as a gun of some sort. The Piraka are remarkably similar to one another, and to my untrained eye the only real difference between the lot of them is their colour.
The game itself is a third-person shooter of the most basic variety. Yes, it's a game aimed at kids, but it must be one of the easiest games I've played in years. Each mask you possess acts as a life, so even if you do manage to die, it's not all that serious as you can continue as any of the other heroes. After a few of the six areas have been completed you'll have earned enough Lego blocks to max out the health, weapon power and skill attributes for the majority of the heroes, and by that stage you can pretty much run through each level, pressing the 'fire' button until you reach a boss.
The only things that stop you from doing this are obstacles. These are usually bridges that need to be built or doors that need fixing. One of the masks gives you the power to move objects (in a similar way to how you use Jedi powers in Lego Star Wars), and by standing close to the object in question and activating your special move ability, you can fix or build it, and continue on your way. At other times the abilities of your other heroes will need to be used, such as climbing walls and jumping long distances. It's all signposted clearly in the game, so it's never taxing, but does give you some sense that you're more than a guy with a gun.
Every object or enemy you destroy releases Lego blocks, and these act as a currency and fill up your Hero Meter. Gold rubble is found lying on the floor numerous times in each level, and the only way to move this is to fill the meter and enter Hero mode. This is the recipe for the whole game, as you'll face room after room of spawning enemies that need to be repeatedly killed in order to fill your meter. Bosses use a similar mechanic, with the creature that the rubble turns into dishing out damage (usually three times), before you have to take them out with your own weapons. It's tedious in the extreme.
Lots of effort has clearly gone into making the game fun and easy to play for all ages, but it makes the control scheme rather awkward for anyone who's got more than a basic level of skill with a dual analogue controller. The left stick handles all movement, as if the game was a 3D platformer, while the right stick handles aim. The problem is that there's no strafe unless you hold another button, and even then it locks the aim, making it rather pointless. There's a rather helpful auto targeting system that makes aiming rather redundant anyway, but the inability to play the game like most other third-person shooters makes adjusting to the controls a real chore.
Bionicle Heroes is a multiplatform title, and it shows in the visuals. They're basic, even on the Xbox 360, with an overly blurry blur effect, depth of field and some intense bloom lighting being the only significant differences. Again, fans will no doubt appreciate the characters that are modelled in the game, and the bland environments probably aren't going to be a major problem. The less said about the audio the better, and thankfully there's very little to talk about. Characters are all mute and the music soon becomes repetitive.
As in Lego Star Wars, there's a shop that sells numerous extras, and you can mess about in a playground of sorts, but whether you'll want to or not is another matter. The Xbox 360 version also includes some generously handed out achievement points, which you'll earn the majority of by simply playing through the game.
Bionicle Heroes does little to make a name for itself, with repetitive and overly simplistic gameplay, and some rather uninspiring visuals. If Bionicle means nothing to you, there's simply no reason to pick up Bionicle Heroes, but should you have a keen interest in the franchise and can live with the novice control scheme, the merely competent action game gameplay will seem much more entertaining.