Each Set Sold Separately - Let's Play BIONICLE: The Game

Inaugural LP time. Here we go.

What is BIONICLE: The Game?
BIONICLE (hereafter “Bionicle”) is a franchise about six robots with magic powers fighting an evil spirit to protect other, smaller robots without magic powers. The evil spirit is also a robot. It was created by Lego in 2001 as their first original story-focused product, and was very successful, running for almost 10 years.

BIONICLE (hereafter “Bionicle: The Game”) is a video game released in 2003, developed by Argonaut Games and published by EA. It kinda-sorta depicts the Bionicle storylines from 2002 and 2003, and kinda-sorta from 2001 as well.

Ah, so this is a nostalgic trip back to your childhood, then?
I’ve never seen Bionicle: The Game crash or softlock. Its checkpoints work properly, and it saves data correctly. That’s about all I can say in favor of it. It is blatantly missing at least half of its levels, the levels that are there are a slog, and it would be decent-looking if it were a PS1 game.

But it’s short, it’s goofy, it emulates well, and bad games are kind of my thing. So that’s what I’m playing.

By my estimates, most updates will come with a bonus video or two, covering some lore or other information the game doesn’t cover. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Short stories? Post them, and I will respond, as is traditional.

Now come and journey with me, to an island paradise where the run cycles are silly, the combat is simplistic, and the sheer audio compression can drive lesser men to madness…

Table of Contents:

Part 1 - Tahu's Quest

Watch the video
Bonus 1: Toa Profiles
Bonus 2: The ICONIC Legend of Mata Nui

Part 2 - Kopaka’s Quest
Part 3 - Henshin Heroes
Part 4 - Gali Nuva’s Quest
Part 5 - Pohatu Nuva’s Quest
Part 6 - Onua Nuva’s Quest
Part 7 - Lewa Nuva’s Quest
Part 8 - Tahu Nuva’s Quest
Part 9 - Finale: Takanuva’s Quest

Ah, I remember the old days of knowing a substantial amount of Bionicle lore. I’ve dropped most of it by now, of course, in part because I stopped following the movies once they all turned into spiders. But I did play this game a fair bit back in the day. Mostly this first stage. Because it’s comparatively the only good one.

I’m hoping you show the game overs in the Kopaka section. One of them, the first I think, was absolutely hilarious to me as a kid.

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Update 2: Kopaka’s Quest

Bonus: Main Menu Theme
This game has some…good isn’t the right word, but it has some evocative music when it isn’t compressed to hell. I’m playing the GameCube version, so maybe they crushed the music to fit it onto the disc? Or at least, thought they had to do that to fit it on the disc?

Bonus: “The Bohrok Awake!” comic
As you might expect, Bionicle had tie-in comics. This was issue #1 for 2002, covering the introduction of the Bohrok. The writer for the comics, Greg Farshtey, began doing novelizations of the story starting in 2004, which he was probably a little more suited. The characters’ personalities don’t come across at all here. Also, re-reading this comic has reinforced my opinion that American comic artists don’t know how to lay out panels or draw.

Glad you reminded me about those, I would’ve skipped them otherwise.

2005 was a dark time for Bionicle. And 2006 was even worse.

VillagerScream.wav is still fantastic. Peak voice acting of the game.

Even considering they probably weren’t super concerned with the original toys at this point, it’s super weird that there isn’t even a Borak Queens fight before this arc ends. There is one normal stage and a gimmick stage and then it’s done.

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Update 3: Henshin Heroes
The Bohrok Saga reaches its nerve-shattering climax! [citation needed]

Bonus: Ta-Wahi Exploration & Ko-Wahi Drifts
More music. Since Kopaka is snowboarding the whole time, the Ko-Wahi music only plays in cutscenes.

BTG is one of the most transparently unfinished games I’ve seen. At least Sonic 06 has [almost] all of its levels. But you can’t fall through the floor in BTG so I guess we’ll call it even.

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Update 4: Gali Nuva’s Quest

I didn’t mention it in the video but if you’re curious (or if you aren’t) the fish enemies are called Ruki.

Update 5: Pohatu Nuva’s Quest
How can a game missing half its levels have filler? I don’t know, but that’s where we are.

RIP Onua. He never scored.

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wow dont lewd the bioncles

Update 6: Onua Nuva’s Quest
there are spiders in this one

Next time I’ll post some more bonuses. Not sure exactly what; there are several possibilities. Yeah, I just used a semicolon.

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Wow, Bionicle’s a thing I haven’t heard about for in ages. I’ve recalled seeing some of the ads about the films and the lore, but I don’t remember being interested in them that much—probably not helped by the fact I was like… 7 or 8 at the time.

I’ve gotten up to Part 2 and I noticed that the Bohrok in that is one I actually owned in the past—Gahlok (the blue one) to be precise! I remember that the Bohrok in the Lego set have this silly move where it sticks its head out forwards when you push down on one of the parts in its back:

I suppose it was too much to hope that the game would animate them doing that, but hearing them scream during the fight when you struck them from a snowboard made up for that.

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I think Bionicle distinguished itself early on as having a lot of people passingly familiar with it and maybe owning 1 or 2 sets, and then a relatively small number of seriously invested fans (like me, except that I wasn’t an avid collector). That would be distinct from contemporaries like Pokemon, which was pervasive enough that Mewtwo Strikes Back got a review from Roger Ebert, and Harry Potter, which was part of the monoculture.

You saying this made me spend almost an hour looking up what sounds the Bohrok made in different depictions. I was this close to posting my findings, but I thought that would be a little…weird. But if anyone’s intrigued by that, say so.

Update 7: Lewa Nuva’s Quest (and extras)

I didn’t realize until right now, but this level has no enemies in it. Anyway, lots of bonus content today!

Bonus: Rahkshi Profiles

The Rahkshi are the enemies for the Mask of Light saga, and neither the game nor I really explained them at all. I compiled this video out of two different sources: a Rahkshi TV ad, and the mini CDs that came with the Rahkshi sets.

The BioMedia Project is a near-complete archive, and has the ISOs of said mini CDs available for download. After opening Lerahk’s ISO, I clicked a button, which caused the program to crash and Windows to softlock (if you didn’t know it was possible to softlock an operating system…well, it is). After that, every CD insisted QuickTime wasn’t installed and refused to run.

Fortunately, these mini CDs are completely unencrypted, so I was able to assemble what is probably a slightly better experience anyway out of the content on them. I also discovered the mini CDs weren’t region-specific, having relevant voiceovers for every country the Rahkshi were released in.

Bonus: Unlockable Extras, Part 1

For getting 90 lightstones in Tahu’s Quest, 180 in Kopaka’s Quest, and 80 in Gali’s Quest, you get a trailer for Mask of Light, Concept Art Library 1, and a “Toy Sneak Peek” (a short Rahkshi ad), respectively. The video includes the concept art, but I’ve also posted the concept art here in this post, along with some brief text commentary.
Concept Art Library 1

Some kinda flying machine I guess. No idea where it would appear or what it would be for.

The crane from Gali’s level. I have concluded this partly from its appearance, and partly from the words “Ga-Wahi Crane Concept #2” in the image.

An archway with Lewa’s Mask of Levitation. Another indication all the Toa Mata (that is, the Toa in their 2001 forms) were initially intended to have levels.

The mask in this picture is the Mask of Strength, and this looks like a refinery or something along those lines, so this is probably concept art for Onu-Koro.

This is one of the rooms from Tahu’s level. The path to the right led to the giant Nui-Jaga, and the tower in the middle is the Suva. The treadmill-powered door isn’t visible.

A…thingy. I guess it’s a fountain sort of deal? Looks like an abstract statue of a Rahkshi. Based on the in-game architecture, maybe it would have gone in Onua’s level.

Ga-Matoran huts are usually depicted as being made from leaves and float like lily pads, but the huts in BIONICLE: The Game are made of wood.

Size comparison of Matoran, Toa, and an archway. Canonical sizes are scarce, but Toa are supposed to be about two meters tall (that’s ~6’6" for my peeps).

Uh. A statue of a dude with a tablet. The Matoran symbols on it are gibberish. Since there are trees in the background, maybe it was meant for Le-Koro?

On one hand, it’s nice they tried to mix things up so that each Toa plays differently. On the other, boy the gliding sections are rough, and this game’s platforming isn’t great even when the level’s focused on it.

Sorry for the delay. I had a variety of issues, but most of them were problems surrounding the next part which is the finale, and I’d wanted to release the two parts back to back…but then I realized that was silly and there was no reason to do it. Anyway…

Update 8: Tahu Nuva’s Quest (and remaining Bonus Content)
An epic race to reclaim the fabled Mask of Light!!! And at the end, a shocking turn of events!!! Kono tenkai wa…!?

This is the worst level in the game. If you were wondering.

A very minor thing I forgot to point out in the video is that the game only notifies you that you’ve unlocked some bonus content if you pick up the required number of lightstones on a return visit to the level. As can be seen in every previous video, if you get enough lightstones on your first run through a level, you don’t get notified. Minor bug, but I’m not sure how you manage to miss that…

Bonus: BIONICLE: The Game Trailer

I found this on the Rahkshi Promo CD, though it is of course already on the Biomedia Project. The trailer only has like 10-15 seconds of gameplay, but you can see gameplay of Lewa Mata (that’s 2001 Lewa), more or less confirming all six Toa Mata were originally supposed to have levels. Also, almost none of the environments in the trailer appear in the finished game. Also also, like most crappy games, the game looks a little better in the trailer than it does in the finished product.

Bonus: Unlockable Extras, Part 2
For getting 150 lightstones in Pohatu’s Quest, 150 lightstones in Lewa’s Quest, and 130 lightstones in Tahu Nuva’s Quest, you unlock the “Toa Evolution Movie” (I’m…not exactly sure what this is. But it’s a movie.), Concept Art Library 2, and a short text dump called “Story of the new tool”, respectively. The video includes the concept art and Story of the new tool (it’s lowercased like that in game), but I’ve also posted them here, since that’s a more pleasant viewing/reading experience.

Concept Art Library 2

I have less to say about this set of concept art. Yeah, even less than the first set.

I think this is the starting platform of Gali’s level.

Good thing those arrows are there to tell me that…Tahu is moving forward?

If this was higher res I might be able to read the text on this. But it’s not, so I can’t.

I think this might be a storyboard for the intro movie?

Concept art of some Suva shrines; I think Ta-Suva and Ga-Suva, or maybe two possibilities for the Ga-Suva.

An archway with a Miru on it. Again. But now with a…thingy next to it. I think that’s a Yu-Gi-Oh! card…

Story of the new tool

'Takua’s Staff is exclusive to the video game, here’s a few things you may not have known about our friend Takua. Takua has led a singularly adventurous life for a Matoran. Due to his knack - some would say ill luck - for being present at most of the island’s major triumphs and catastrophes, he has been appointed the official Chronicler of Mata Nui, charged with the task of recording significant events as they unfold. Takua gathered the stones that summoned the Toa to Mata Nui. It was he that warned the Toa of the coming of the Bohrok, and it is he who will fulfil his destiny in the battle for Mata Nui. Takua’s staff itself is perhaps a clue to the mighty task that lies ahead for him. As the Chronicler, Takua with his Chronicler’s Staff, will be there to guide you in your quest as you bravely battle to return Mata Nui to light.

Cakey’s Comments:
There’s an opening quotation mark but no closing quote, a comma-splice, an excess comma, and they misspelled ‘fulfill’. More importantly, you get this bit of what I will generously call ‘lore’, which tells you that something special might happen involving Takua only after you’ve beaten the level where he becomes the Seventh Toa. Thanks, guys. What a reward.

Now, it says that “Takua’s Staff is exclusive to the video game”. At first I just accepted this, because in the 2003 set and the film he carries a staff for playing Kolhii, which looks different. Then I thought “Wait a minute, I remember the Chronicler’s Staff being a ‘thing’,” so I looked it up on the Bionicle wiki, BioSector01. It turns out that what they meant by ‘exclusive’ is that the headpiece of the Chronicler’s Staff was packaged with the game, though despite having bought the game new for PC and used for GameCube I don’t remember ever seeing it.

See you next time for the finale!

Gee, Tahu, how come Argonaut lets you have two levels? (It’s Red Ranger bias, that’s why.)

On one hand, I don’t remember having as much trouble with this stage as I did with the mine cart. Then again, I barely remember the level at all because it might be the one I played the least. So, S H R U G.

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When I started this LP, I didn’t think I’d be able to get enough lightstones in Kopaka or Pohatu’s levels in one go, but I got better at them really quickly. Tahu Nuva’s level I feel like every time I play it, it gets a little harder. Maybe because your success or failure has so little to do with your performance.

What I remember being hardest is actually Lewa flying behind the Gukko bird.

I gave all the main updates custom thumbnails on YouTube, which makes me feel like a big boy grownup. You might need to refresh the page to see them.

Update 9: Finale - Takanuva’s Quest
The final battle has begun…

There are some lightning effects in one part of the fight that may look glitchy. This isn’t an issue with the game itself, it’s caused because the game runs at 60fps but the footage was recorded at 30. Other than that detail, I think everything I have to say I said in the video, so…it’s over. Go home. No, wait! Comment first, then go home.

Well, as someone who never followed Bionicle in his youth, this was most certainly something to see even if it isn’t a good game for the most part. I had tried to look into the series briefly as this LP went on but it has so much terminology behind it I had to stop trying to make sense of it.
It was a fun watch though, so thanks.

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Speaking as someone who was super into the series back in the day: hoo boy reading even a wiki entry is is difficult now.

Bionicle has a reputation for having impenetrable lore, and that’s because…it does. In the early years it’s about the original creators attempting to nail down every aspect of the world; it’s not set on Earth, so everything needs to be named. Fair enough. But this shifts as the setting and the writers changed. The 2004 and 2005 story years are a flashback set 1000 years earlier than what came before, then '06 and '07 switch to yet another team of Toa, '08 returns to the original heroes, and '09 was in hindsight an attempt at a soft reboot.

That’s pretty tangled by itself. But I think the real reason things became so dense is the writer, Greg Farshtey. He started out writing the Bionicle comics, but gradually assumed more responsibilities until almost everything from 2004 onward was written by him - and he wrote a lot. I think he’s actually a decent writer for the most part, but he’s also a fan of superhero comics. That’s fine of course, but it seems like he looked at the ponderous kudzu tapestry of lore that Marvel and DC gradually and unintentionally built up over the course of decades and said “yes perfect this is exactly how stories should be” and managed to create something nearly as dense in a matter of years. Alternate dimensions? Why the fuck not!