|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! Youve 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.
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.
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.
CCC Freelance Writer