At first glance, one might get the impression LEGO’s Bionicle sets serve as the “action figures” of their product line. Relatively simple with only a few dozen parts, the figures snap together in mere minutes for “immediate good vs. evil role play” which basically means preteen boys can make ’em really fast and play-act fights with them.
Now, which is good and which is evil is fairly subjective. Both battle lines are made up of menacing, biomechanical figures with absurdly oversized rocket launchers and blades. The Hydraxon represents a typical model, a skeletal warrior with huge weapons, fighting for… well, you’d have to read the books and comics and watch the movies to figure out the storyline. That’s right, much like LEGO Group’s competitors for the hearts and minds of preteen boys (e.g., G.I. Joe & the Transformers) there are countless books and three direct-to-DVDs chronicling the seven year story arc. Basically, the good guys (the Toa) seek to help the “great spirit” called Mata Nui, while opposed by a rogue’s gallery of baddies. Is it Joe vs. Cobra all over again?
The more you check out Bionicle, however, the less apt the comparison with Joes becomes. First, there’s the assembly. While simplistic compared with more mainstream LEGO models, you must still put each model together. This gives you the option to swap in parts from another models or even construct all new ones. While the parts aren’t really conducive to some projects (ever tried making a fire station out of cyborg skulls?) there’s a lot you can do — even vehicles. Incidentally, the really cool Bionicle vehicles include some amazing <a href="arthroform walkers featured in the ’07 line and more “speeder”-like jets in the ’08 line, due out in August.
Which brings me to a very important point that Bionicle parts are 100% compatible with LEGO Technic parts, allowing the specialized Bionicle elements to join more traditional LEGO projects… as long as you are okay with the sinister biomechanical look! But just to show you that non-martial stuff can be done, check out this Bionicle rose by builder MuffinToa. For a more typical usage, take a gander at the excellent Alien Queen to the left. Most of the Bionicle parts connect with standard pins, but none of them have the classic LEGO studs.
Ultimately, like any building set, Bionicle kits are what you make of them. If you’re content to put the kit together and roleplay cyber-mayhem, so be it. For the truly creative, learning to employ the line’s uniquely-shaped pieces presents all the challenge they need.