Monster Lab Review
Wii | DS
Monster Lab box art
System: DS, Wii, PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Backbone Interactive 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Eidos 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 4, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

The most important stop in the castle is the Lightning Room. There, you can take whatever parts you have and assemble a monster. You can drag whatever body parts you want to their respective area and…presto! You’ve got your own monster. Later on, should you decide that you don't like one aspect of your monster – for example, they might have a crummy right arm – then instead of creating a brand new monster you can swap out arms, making the customization process simple. The culmination of the creative process is where Monster Lab really shines – it reminds one of a portable version of the Spore Creature Creator and, since there are tons of potential options in terms of monster parts, you'll want to keep coming back to perfect a monster or build a new one.

Monster Lab screenshot

Working in the castle's laboratory may be fulfilling, but the central reason for it – throwing a monster into battle – is surprisingly underwhelming. Fights between your creation and other monsters never feel all that impressive. Instead of a brawl, the sessions look like a bout between Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, with your creature and another trading licks back-and-forth. To be fair, there is a small layer of depth to the combat: each of your body parts delivers different attacks, giving you a variety of moves. However, you always have to keep an eye on your battery meter, which is measured in units. These units determine how often you can attack, and a lot of the time you'll spend recharging instead of attacking. Also, since the only way to defeat another monster is to destroy their torso, you rarely have an incentive to target any other part of your opponent's body. You do have the option of repairing your monster after a battle by – you guessed it again – playing a stylus mini-game, where you continually spin a wheel around to heal specific monster parts.

Not only do the battles themselves grow tiring, but trying to avoid other monsters during your quest can be a pain in the neck. Since the areas in Monster Lab are laid out in tiles, you rarely have more than two choices of movement. This results in constant clashes with other monsters. While fighting is good in terms of advancing your rank – you can only use certain parts once you reach a particular level – the fact that enemies continually re-spawn and are hard to avoid moves fighting from an elective process to one that is mandatory.

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Monster Lab does have a lot going for it: there's a level of charm and creativity here that's not present in many other DS titles, but charismatic intentions don't always make for a good game. Making your own monsters is fun even if it feels cheapened by the Pokémon-like collection of the parts system. It's too bad the stylus-intensive mini-games get in the way too often, giving Monster Lab the air of more of an interactive activity book than an entertaining gaming experience.

By Jason Lauritzen
CCC Freelance Writer

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
3.8
Graphics
The impressive polygon work on monsters, painted Tim Burton-like character design, and short movie sequences add up to a nice graphic package.
2.5
Control
Largely hit-or-miss or rather tap, trace, and then potentially miss. Some of the mini-games provide stylus fun, but tire quickly. Other times the stylus doesn't seem to register action properly (like flicking away tomatoes), leading to some frustration.
4.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Snippets of voice acting are performed well and the score continually thumps in the background, channeling a Danny Elfman vibe.
2.5

Play Value
Grafting random parts together to form new ones is an addictive process, but the constant brigade of stylus mini-games and lackluster fighting system weigh down the overall fun factor.

3.1
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Step into the shoes of a Mad Scientist: Starting as an apprentice working under three eccentric mentors, level up through the ranks as you master the mad sciences.
  • Outrageous Experiments: Cultivate your science skills through crazy yet ingenious experiments both in and outside the lab.
  • Create your own Mad Monsters: Over 150 million Monster combinations allow you to create a truly unique creature.
  • Monster Generation System: Never fight the same monster twice.
  • Multiplayer: Challenge and compete against your friends’ monstrous creations.
  • Explore a Challenging Fantasy Realm: Delve into six eerie regions, facing quests, challenges, and collecting powerful ingredients needed for your next mad monster creation.
  • Gesture Combat: Go head-to-head against evil Monster minions in a fast-paced, ferocious, turn-based combat system.


  • Screenshots / Images
    Monster Lab screenshot - click to enlarge Monster Lab screenshot - click to enlarge Monster Lab screenshot - click to enlarge Monster Lab screenshot - click to enlarge

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