Now in its 6th iteration what can Activision do to keep their genre leading title fresh and at the top of the guitar-sim pops? They can throw a whole load of new features and a re-imagined single player mode into the mix, that's how.
Continue reading: Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, Review Nintendo Wii
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
Sonic and the Secret Rings
Review Nintendo Wii
The latest in a long line of Sonic games Secret Rings manages to regain the pedigree that made Sonic a cult game all those years ago. The famous blue hedgehog gets awoken from his sleep by a genie warning of a nasty character Erazor who is slowly erasing the book 1001 nights from history and if he succeeds will be powerful enough to manifest into the real world. And so the mission starts, Sonic must collect...yes you guessed it, rings from various levels in an attempt to stop the maniacal Erazor from destroying the book and the world.
To help you get a grasp of the controls the game starts with a mini level split into chapters, each chapter explains a facet of the controls and game play. The control is held in steering mode with the 1 and 2 buttons being used for brake and jump, this is one of the only down sides to the game as it feels more like a driving game, I would have liked to have had the option of using the arrow keys to steer. To extend jumps or attack enemies the controller can be thrust forwards which is a little difficult to master the timing of but soon feels a natural way to do things.
Now down to the reason you are reading this in the first place, the game itself. From the start Sonic and the Secret Rings impresses. Fluent fast moving graphics capture the speed of the original and surpass any of the earlier incarnations with its graphical prowess. Visually its a stunning game and maybe shows us a glimpse of what the Wii is capable of. The feeling of scale on the levels is wonderful and sometimes you feel like you want to slow the whole thing down to have a good look around. There is plenty of variety to the levels, for example on some you can't kill enemies others you need to beat a time limit, these help to keep the game fresh and reduce the repetitive element that has thwarted this type of game in the past. Also during the game you can unlock characters and levels for the bonus party games that accompany this title, many of the party games resemble other Wii titles such as Wii Sports and Monkey Ball these can be played by up to 4 people.
Overall this is Sonic for the new millennium and a new console there have been 3D versions of this classic before but nothing that can touch the slickness of this one. If you own a Wii it's definitely worth a punt, but don't buy a Wii just for this title alone.
7 out of 10
Continue reading: Sonic and the Secret Rings, Review Nintendo Wii, Sega
Three years. Three long years since the first whispers of Nintendo's "Project Revolution". Slowly the trickles of information began to surface about this console which would - if Nintendo were to be believed - change the way we play games forever. Just as it had done with the DS handheld console, the big N was promising to satisfy core gamers, gamers who no longer play and even - the holy grail of all console manufacturers marketing demographics - those who had never played a video game. Nintendogs, Brain Training and 42 All Time Classics have proven that this business model can succeed in the handheld market, however with both Microsoft and Sony's power houses of the next generation using high definition visuals and incredibly powerful processors to up the ante of what is expected of new home consoles, can Nintendo really win the next gen console battle with an updated Gamecube and a new control method?
Continue reading: Wii, System Overview and First Impressions, Nintendo