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Feral Interactive
Release Date

November 12, 2004 | Alex Nonnemacher

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When I was just a squirt, I had a red case full of Lego building blocks, those plastic, nobbed cubes and rectangles that stacked, bridged, and otherwise inspired the architect within. And along with the buildings, cars, ships, and shuttles I built, a crew of tiny Lego men stood by, awaiting deployment. They were blocky, with claw-like hands and a blithe, willing smile, cheerful but utterly devoid of motivation. They required you to supply them with a personality, a mission, some sense of purpose in their plastic world.

Bionicle's characters are not your average Lego homonculi. Lego has crafted a kind of mythology, with quasi-robotic heroes whose powers spring from the natural world around them. They look robotic, with distinct animal and naturalistic cues. They talk. They have unique personalities and motivations. They carry weapons.

Let Them Eat Myth
In Bionicle, you play the Toa, legendary heroes sent to Mata Nui to protect the locals, called the Matoran. The Makuta threaten the Matoran's happy island life, and the Toa protect the Matorans.

The Toa derive their powers from the elements. Tahu, a Toa, draws his power from the fires of the Volcano at the center of Mata Nui. Likewise, the other Toas derive their powers and personalities from their native environments (snow, water, earth, stone, air). Likewise, Toa heroes may run, snowboard, swim, ride, or glide.

When the Makuta attack, a Toa's got to fight back. Attacks are drawn from the "elemental energy" of Mata Nui, which the Toa expend as bursts of energy when firing upon enemies. Alternately, some Toa can charge up and expend all of their energy in one ferocious blast. You reabsorb energy by using your shield, or by commanding your Toa to recharge from the elemental energies that abound in the environment. This is accomplished by holding down the shield key. Recharging can be done as often as you like, although you have a limited number of shots in your energy pool. Indiscriminate use, therefore, can leave your Toa defenseless and in need of a quiet place to reabsorb some elemental energy.

Toa may also have a specific ability unique to the Toa's territory (swimming, digging, pushing massive objects, and gliding between jump points). Despite this variety, the characters generally behave the same way, especially when on the attack. Attack, by the way, is an auto-target affair, although you can cycle between targets.

You play through the game as each Toa, finally unlocking a scret character in order to defeat the Makuta. Similarly, as you progress through the game, additional Makuta are unlocked to provide a new challenge, and helpful Matoran chieftans appear to guide your quest. You can also unlock short movies as you move through the game by collecting both coins and stranded Matorans.

Features and Specs
Bionicle is a single-player game. It is fully playable using only the keyboard; no mousing on Mata Nui. However, it clearly lends itself to a gamepad, a nod to its console heritage.

Feral has taken Bioncle, which has been around on the PC for a while, and given it some freshening up. According to Feral, they have increased the available resolutions from the PC's 1024x768 ceiling. Furthermore, to accommodate Apple's use of wide LCDs, Bionicle can be run in full screen. In addition to the standard methods of tweaking the game to suit your hardware, Feral added a "Shadow Toggle," whereby you can turn off the shadows cast by your Toa, the Makuta, and the native creatures under their control. Full-Screen Antialiasing (2X) is another optional video feature, and the most recent build supports gamma control. Other features are standard Feral fare, including iTunes pausing and an option to set your iChat status to away while playing the game and let your would-be chat buddies know that you're playing Bionicle.

Bionicle promises an interactive experience for fans of the Bionicle line of toys. Graphics look sharp, and game play is varied. This title should also score well with parents looking for family-friendly gaming.

System recommendations are as follows:
Minimum System Requirements
Mac OS 10.2
PowerPC G4 1 Ghz
256 Mb RAM
Hardware accelerated 3D Graphics Card with 32 Mb VRAM
1.5 Gb free hard disk space
DVD Drive
Mouse and Keyboard

Recommended System Requirements
Mac OS 10.3 or later
PowerPC G4 1.33 Ghz
512 Mb RAM
Hardware accelerated 3D Graphics Card with 64 Mb VRAM
1.5 Gb free hard disk space
Mouse and Keyboard
DVD Drive
Game Pad (as of the 1.0 release provided for the purposes of this preview, my aging Gravis Eliminator wasn't working with Bionicle)


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