Ports. Never before has a console launched which has been so susceptible to developers cashing in with cheap ports of the previous generations games as Nintendo's Wii. By offering designers a machine for which no graphical improvements were required, a quick update with some motion sensitive control and they can rake in the cash with minimum effort and maximum profit margins. It doesn't have to be that way however. EA have shown with their updated The Godfather: Blackhand Edition that a Wii version of a last-gen offering can add more depth and longevity, raising a good title to a great one through clever use of the Nintendo hardware and extending the existing game infrastructure. Sadly, Traveller's Tales have gone for the easy option with Bionicle Hereos and the results are largely disappointing.
For their first foray into the world of Wii, the developers of the highly entertaining and hugely successful Lego Star Wars games have ported another of their games based on those plastic building bricks of your youth, this time using Lego's Bionicle franchise. It's basically a Wii update of last years PS2/Xbox/GC game of the same name, a third person shooter set on the island of Voya Nui where the evil Piraka have used the Mask of Life to wreak havoc and transform the local wildlife into an evil, destructive force. By collecting various masks the player can transform into a number of Toa warriors, each with their own unique abilities and weapons which are going to be needed to complete the twenty five levels and nineteen bosses as well as a huge number of collectables and other tasks before the games end.
Unfortunately, what should have been a fun shooter quickly deteriorates into painfully repetitive play. There are a huge number of enemies to blast but the poor control implementation means there is no precision involved and so just firing a constant, random stream of bullets proves the only effective way of clearing the screen of bad guys. This control issue really is the games major downfall. On the previous consoles with dual analogue control, the left stick was in charge of moving forward and back as well as strafing while the right one was used for looking around and aiming. With Wii's single analogue setup, the duties of right thumb stick are left to the IR pointer. This, in theory, sounds perfect. Just as the upcoming Metroid Prime 3 and the Wii-make of Resident Evil 4 have demonstrated, the Wii remote can be ideal for shooters. Traveller's Tales it would appear took no notice.
The reticule on screen directed by the IR pointer doesn't determine where you shoot. It doesn't even directly or accurately determine where you're looking. By moving the pointer to the edges of the screen, your Bionicle character will turn left or right, look up or down but in the most clumsy way possible. Suddenly the precision offered by the Wii's unique control mechanism has been tossed out of the window. By using this system to manipulate the direction you're facing, an auto target system locks onto enemies, allowing you to casually blast away at them without skill. Until you need to clumsily shift the view point to aim at more bad guys - again, without skill.
The largely dull gameplay is then made worse by the inclusion of Hero Mode. As you make your way through the linear levels, destroying everything in site, the Lego debris left over from the carnage needs to be collected. By picking up enough blocks your character's armour turns to gold, the music shifts to a rousing (yet predictably repetitive) theme and you become invincible with increased firepower. This invulnerability is not a rare event either. You spend a good third of the game in Hero Mode and it is, quite simply, not fun. Throw into the mix the fact each level is littered with energy replenishing hearts and any gamer worth their salt is going to struggle to see a game over screen during the course of play.
It's not all negative though. The game is big. Some 25 levels or so in total, each one with a decent area to explore, albeit in a linear fashion. There's also a huge number of collectables and unlockables to discover before you can consider this one 100% complete. Despite being a last generation title, Bionicle Heroes features some nice graphical touches; the water effects in particular are quite stunning and there are some rather impressive explosions to be seen. The soundtrack, while bizarrely eclectic does feature some epic scores and the sound effects are certainly adequate.
Overall, Traveller's Tales have given us a good example of how not to port games to Wii. The only positive points provided by this edition of Bionicle Heroes were there in its previous iterations and the new controls only serve to lessen the experience. In the end you're left with a thoroughly dull shooter which despite being large in scope provides little challenge and is so repetitive there's little incentive to follow it through to the end. If you want some Lego based action on the Wii, I'd suggest waiting for Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga released later this year and steering well clear of this unless you really are a diehard fan of the Bionicle franchise.
4 out of 10