Monster Lab Review
Wii | DS
Monster Lab box art
System: Wii, PS2, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Backbone Vancouver 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Eidos Interactive 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: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Unless you stick to only purchasing Nintendo’s own software, the Wii can be a very difficult system to buy games for. So many cheaply made, quickly produced, and shallow games constantly flood the market, effectively burying the few hidden gems of greatness beneath a pile of brightly colored boxes. If you manage to dig deep enough you may uncover excellent titles such as Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure or Boom Blox, but you’ve definitely got to know what you are looking for. While Monster Lab isn’t quite as impressive or innovative as either of those two titles, it is definitely a fun and surprisingly deep Wii game.

Monster Lab screenshot

The concept of Monster Lab is similar to that of a Pokémon game, but instead of collecting a ton of weird creatures, you actually get to create them. You start off as an apprentice in the Mad Science Alliance, which has recently seen its share of misfortunes. Working closely under the tutelage of Professor Fuseless, a fairly eccentric mad scientist, you will receive training in the basics of gameplay. From him you’ll learn the intricacies of mixing ingredients, how combat works, and how to build your own monsters.

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Every monster in the game is put together with five main parts consisting of a head, legs, a torso, as well as left and right arms. In the beginning, you will only have a few basic parts to choose from, so your first monster will be rather basic. As you complete missions, defeat enemies, or successfully complete mini-games you will receive various ingredients. These can be mixed in groups of two to produce new parts for your existing monster, or used to create a new minion from scratch.

Monster Lab screenshot

This is where much of Monster Lab’s depth is derived from. Different enemies and areas will provide you with a diverse array of ingredients, allowing for a seemingly endless number of possible parts that can be created. When you first start making parts it can be rather intimidating because the game does little to tell you what your mixtures will create. However, once you realize how abundant most of these ingredients are, experimentation quickly becomes the name of the game.

To mix ingredients you will need to play a mini-game ranging from tracing a line with a welding gun to throwing brains into a moving robotic bucket, all of which utilize motion controls in some way. The better you are at these mini-games, the better the created part will be. If you botch the mini-game, your new part may have reduced hit points or power, but if you successfully fill the mini-game’s meter, the resulting part will have maxed out stats and perhaps even a bonus effect during combat. This can become a little frustrating when playing some of the game’s tougher mini-games, but most are actually pretty simple and easy to complete.

Monster Lab screenshot

Parts and ingredients come in three basic categories that directly affect combat. It’s your basic paper, rock, and scissors scenario with mechanical parts beating biological, biological besting alchemical, and alchemical defeating mechanical. Having strong parts from every category making up your monster is essential; since you’re never sure what type of foes you may be facing. The enemies you’ll face in the game are just as varied as your monster, being made of a random assortment of parts as well. While you may see a few that resemble each other, most will have differing body parts, which helps to keep the constant face-offs interesting.

Strategy plays a very large roll when fighting enemies in Monster Lab. Battles are one-on-one, turn-based affairs. Whenever you run into another monster when navigating an environment, you and your opponent will be teleported to a combat arena. To win a fight, you must either destroy your enemy’s torso or the combination of its arms, legs, and head before they do the same to you. Each body part has its own hit points and attacks, so using the correct part of your monster to attack the most threatening part of your opponent is key to your monster’s survival. Each attack also has its own energy cost, which depletes the amount of stored energy your monster has. Whenever you run out of energy you must either fully recharge, leaving yourself open to an attack, or dodge, which usually evades your enemy’s strike and replenishes a small amount of energy. The combat is actually incredibly deep, especially when you begin facing some of the game’s more difficult enemies where making one wrong decision will typically result in death.

Screenshots / Images
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