Monday, December 2nd, 2002 at 10:51am by Jon, BZPower Co-Owner
So you got the first Bionicle video game for Gameboy Advance and you weren't very impressed, and now you're wondering if this second outing is worth your time & money.
I just finished playing Bionicle: Matoran Adventures from start to finish, and I'm ready to give you the lowdown: from mechanics and gamepay to entertainment value.
First, let's get the official description out of the way:
In BIONICLE: Matoran Adventures, players must avoid and overcome the mighty beasts Rahi and the ravenous bug-like Bohrok, as they solve puzzles, avoid traps, open doors and activate switches to reveal hidden chambers in each of the environments and liberate their homeland from the Bohrok bug-like grip.
B:MA is, at its core, a platform shooter. You play the game as Kongu (you can later play as other Matoran; more on that later), and venture your way around Mata Nui collecting various artifacts and objects which in some rare cases have a purpose (to light the way in the caves of Onu-Wahi), but in most cases are simply the means to open the door at the end of the level in order to move on. Kongu can jump and double-jump (think Banjo-Kazooie, where a second, higher jump is executed at the height of the first), throw his disk (or later, two disks) at enemies, and all the regular run/swim/climb that you'd expect from a platform game.
At the beginning of each level, you will first seek out the Turaga for that region. For instance, in Ko-Wahi you will find Nuju, Nokama in Ga-Wahi, Onewa in Onu-Wahi, etc. You might think that having a Turaga tagging along would make you quite a bit more powerful, but that's not the case. The Turaga follow you through the levels (much like your companion ape in the Donkey Kong Country franchise) neither getting in your way or taking damage unless selected. And you'll only want or need to select the Turaga (by tapping the L or R button) for a couple of specific tasks: tripping switches (for which your Matoran is too light) and breaking through walls or floors (for which your Matoran is too weak). Aside from that, your Turaga-in-tow is pretty useless: he can only jump about half the height of Kongu, and he has no projectile attack.
Along the way you'll encounter a dozen or so common enemies, from familiar Rahi like Nui-Rama & Nui-Jaga, to less familiar bugs resembling those from the online game or the Master Builder set, all the way to the Bohrok.
A Bohrok By Any Other Name...
While on the subject of the Bohrok, I want to mention that B:MA suffers, in many ways, the fate of any platform shooter adapted from an existing license: other than the look of the game (which is very attractive), it just doesn't feel very Bionicle-ish. The Bohrok are a good example. You'd think the Bohrok would attack our Matoran hero by hurling that dangerous krana at him, right? Wrong. They roll up into a ball and try to bump into him, only becoming vulnerable when they stop and stand up straight. I'd never heard of the Bohrok using its rolled-up body as a rolling weapon, but I suppose it's possible. My point is, if you changed how the game looked, you wouldn't recognize any elements as specificially Bionicle. For instance, if you took a Spider-Man platformer and changed every image, but your character still shot ropes and swung from building to building, you'd say, "Gee, this seems like something Spider-Man would do." There's nowhere in B:MA where, without the visual clues, you'd ever say, "Gee, this feels like something I'd do as a Matoran." This is not to say it's a bad thing, but something to consider.
So on the heels of that complaint, let me give credit where credit is due: the visuals in the game are great, partiuclarly for a handheld. The different Wahis in the game are clearly differentiated by just the types of environments you'd expect.
Ko-Wahi, the realm of Kopaka, is white & snowy decorated with Kanohi-adorned snowmen.
Ta-Wahi, the realm of Tahu, is an inferno with a volcanic background rippling from the heat.
Le-Wahi, the realm of Lewa, is green and lush, with the occasional tropical rainstorm.
Ga-Wahi, the realm of Gali, has waterfalls and rivers which curve into the horizon.
You get the idea; the backgrounds are as attractive as they are varied. And with visual variety comes gameplay variety as well. The snowy Ko-Wahi platforms are peppered with slippery ice patches which make jumping & dodging the Bohrok even tougher. The underground caverns of Onu-Wahi are quite dark and have pits filled with dangerous stalagmites. But the most varied environment has to be Ga-Wahi, which has not only platforms to jump, but underwater caverns to swim through and explore.
Once or twice, the very environment becomes the adversary, as in Ta-Wahi when a fiery eruption sends Kongu running for his life, as the bridge he is traversing starts to burn and crumble behind him. What ensues is easily the most fast-paced section of the game as you must race against time, all the while dodging Bohrok and leaping chasms, to escape before the ground you're on crumbles and sends you falling into the fiery abyss.
Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!
I wouldn't classify B:MA as a puzzle game, because there's really nothing to solve. It's more of a game of exploration, seeking out relics and artifacts in order to advance. Along the way, you'll find your standard platform power-ups too. Extra lives are surprisingly plentiful, as are throwing-disc power-ups, and life & energy power-ups. In addition to those, you'll also come across pieces of different Kanohi. As you collect all of the matching pieces, you can later play the game as a different Matoran (for example, find all the pieces of the purple Pakari, and you can play as Onepu).
The idea is great, but unfortunately, once you've played all the way through the game, the likelihood that you'd want to do it all over again just because you can be a different Matoran is unlikely. The replay value just isn't that strong.
You're Not The Boss of Me
As with any action game, levels are generally concluded with a boss battle, and B:MA is no different.
There are a sprinkling of boss battles in the game, and at first they seem pretty tough. The problem is, every boss battle is the same. The each start with a great wide shot, followed by a bit of Mode 7 scaling to zoom into the action (from which it never zooms back out), and the enemies you're pitted against (early on, you fight the "Kama Nui" and at the end, the Bahrag Twins), while varying in appearance, never vary in strategy.
Even a mildly seasoned gamer will quickly learn the boss' attack pattern, and then it's just a matter of executing enough head-shots with your throwing discs before the baddie falls.
Though well executed, the boss battle lacks variety and after the second one, you'll find it old and unchallenging.
The best example of this is the final fight against the Bohrok Twins. I thought to myself, "This should be interesting -- a lone Matoran against the Bahrag Twins... this should be quite a challenge." But alas, I was disappointed to find that the battle against the Bahrag is simply two boss battles back-to-back, one with a Cahdok & one with Gahdok.
While boss battles are generally the high point of platform games, most players will quickly tire of their repetition & ease and long for them to be over so they can get back to the game.
The Final Word
So at the end of the day, what you're probably looking for in this review is the answer to the question, "Is it worth it?" Well, I don't have an easy answer for you, instead I offer this general summary and let you make your own decision.
I've been brutally honest about elements of the game which I found to be disappointing, but that's because I'm a demanding Bionicle fan. B:MA is still a decent platform game, with a surprising amount of variety. Just when I started to get that "Oh, no, not another jump & shoot level" feeling, it treated me to something unique just in the nick of time.
Does it stand up to the big boys? No, it's no Super Mario World, but it never pretended to be.
If you were disappointed by the first Bionicle offering for GBA, then you might want to give this one a shot; it's definitely a huge step up in terms of quality and playability. Better yet, if you the the first game was peaches & cream, then you'll absolutely love B:MA!
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