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Publisher: Feral Interactive    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G4 @ 1000 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1500 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

April 26, 2005 | Michael Miller

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I somehow suspect that I'm not the only one whose primary emotion upon seeing the video game title Bionicle was, "What?"

This confusion was only heightened by seeing a colorful Lego emblem on the box. I mean...what is a Bionicle, and how does one play with it? Would I be stacking bricks into what seemed to be a robot action figure?

Unfortunately, most of the descriptions say something to the effect of; "With the awesome elemental powers of the Toa at your fingertips, it has fallen to you to defeat Makuta and return the island of Mata Nui to light."

Well, that's nice. Glad we cleared it up.

So in case these thoughts have echoed through your mind, I'm here to explain them away for you.

Bionicle is an adventure game, in which you play one of six different characters. You play by solving jumping puzzles, a few rudimentary switch puzzles, and hitting enemies with energy bolts while blocking their attacks with an energy shield.

Each of the six different characters you play has a different specialty -- being able to swim, for example, or glide, or surf on snow. There is a phase of the game devoted to each of these characters, and the levels are built around their abilities, so it's never up to you which to use or when. Despite that, the differences aren't meaningless, as most levels end up feeling quite unique as you go.

The game is definitely geared towards younger players, but as you go through the game it does get more and more challenging. The last few levels in particular required some very precise timing in gliding, and I found it to be extremely enjoyable -- having to play this game that way throughout its entirety would be boring drudgery, but by taking only one small slice of each ability and making it easy, the game designers found a way of keeping the game fresh until the end.

One thing all characters share in common is the basic combat system. You have an energy bar that depletes as you press the attack key, and your attacks manifest themselves as bolts of energy that fly through the air, tracking the targeted enemy. The game automatically targets enemies for you, and while there is a key to switch between targets, I never found a use for it. Of course, your enemies attack you as well, which is where you throw up your shield. The shield only lasts a few seconds, so it's useful to tap that key.

If you manage to block an enemy attack, you'll recharge your depleted energy slightly. Your second option is to stand still and press and hold the shield key, causing your character to enter super-impressive-special-effect energy mode and recharge their bar to the top.

Although you can't really do that in combat, the bottom line is that fighting enemies is really simple and doesn't provide much of a challenge at all. Different characters do have a few special attacks, but with combat being as easy as it is, they aren't necessary. This results is the fighting being something of a ho-hum exercise.

Curiously enough, the boss battles at the end of each level are actually different and enjoyable. Most of them vary substantially from one another, with one or two exceptions, but all of them employ gameplay mechanics that are used throughout the game (this as opposed to many games where fighting the boss is, for undisclosed reasons, done in a manner that has little or nothing to do with the rest of the game).


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