The BIONICLE franchise, an extension of LEGO, has been growing more popular over the last two years. Accompanying its impressive line of models, there have been two feature length movies released on DVD and a videogame that is available on multiple platforms.
The BIONICLE toy is essentially a do-it-yourself action figure for children seven and up, depending on the difficulty of the model. BIONICLEs will appeal to young boys mostly as the models available usually have some kind of visceral weapon or are armed with projectiles. Since there are several small pieces, it would be wise to heed the age requirement to prevent accidental choking on any of the parts. The models come disassembled in approximately 150-200 small pieces with a very thorough, but easy to follow picture instruction manual that will guide the assembly.
BIONICLEs come in a wide range of models, ranging from stalwart looking humanoids to fierce insect-like creatures. As such, there is definitely an opportunity to begin a collection. What’s more, there is incentive to collect all of the BIONICLEs in a particular set because the separate models can be dismantled and reconstructed together into an uber-BIONICLE, for which instructions are provided with each BIONICLE in the set. At around twenty dollars for each model, collecting the set will not break the bank, especially if the purchases are spaced out accordingly. By doing this, LEGO has extended the replay value of each toy. Beyond that, the child is also welcome to use his or her imagination and ingenuity and create a BIONICLE of their very own, sans instructions. If your child is up to that level with any toy, then you know you got your money’s worth.
Assembly took about an hour, but you may want to supervise your child with some of the stubborn pieces that require a bit more muscle power to fit into place. Thankfully, those moments will be few and far between. Opening the box is the real ordeal. The package does not have shrink-wrap or a simple piece of tape holding the flap down. Instead, every access point is literally glued shut and you will be hard pressed not to destroy the box entirely just to get to the contents.
Playing with the BIONICLE is hit and miss. The model looks great when you pose it, as most of its parts are movable. It’s easy to imagine the action of the scene you’re playing out when you can move the legs and arms realistically. The BIONICLE I played with, Makuta, had a movable torso that was activated by a hidden knob in its back which allowed for life-like slashing with its polearm. On the other hand, rough play with the model is not advised, even if the natural inclination is to bash your BIONICLE into another BIONICLE in a last-man-standing kind of warfare. This warning is largely due to the movable joints held together by small cylinders of plastic that could easily snap in two. Moreover, other parts were simply not created for rough play, like the head of my Makuta, which kept popping out of its socket and crashing to the ground. The real enjoyment to be had is in the construction of the model. Parents who are interested in building motor skills and teaching their children how to follow directions would be wise to pick up this toy. Your child will feel industrious as the model takes shape and he or she will marvel at the simple engineering of the interlocking and moving parts. I did, anyway.
BIONICLEs satisfy a niche in the building blocks genre of toys. With its slick design and unique parts, the BIONICLE models can easily be categorized as “LEGOs advanced,” however, parents should beware that BIONICLEs will not deliver the same experience as the standard LEGO playsets, which normally construct into a locale like a castle or a pirate ship. Therefore, parents with burgeoning LEGO maniacs should really decide if their child will be happy with having one sleek looking model with realistically moving parts over a playset that depicts a particular setting. In any event, the BIONICLE line of toys is a worthy addition to the LEGO universe. It is a solid product with very good production value and plenty of room for expansion. For the mechanically inclined child, this toy comes highly recommended.