Eidos' Monster Lab, developed by Foundation 9's Backbone Entertainment, is a blend between action & RPG, allowing you to compose your own fighter by mixing & matching various body parts, taking your creature out to fight others and upgrading as you move up the ladder.
I'm going to come right out and say it: There just aren't enough monster creation/fighting games out there, especially for the Wii. If you're like me, then you've often found yourself sitting around the house thinking, "Gee, I sure would love to create an automated death-dealer. If only there were a way I could develop the know-how and spare parts to put together such a fantastic creature." Well, rest easy, my friends, because Monster Lab is here to make your wildest dreams come true.
Monster Lab takes place in the Uncanny Valley, where four mad scientists once ruled in relative peace. However, Baron Mharti let the power go to his head, and he has since declared himself supreme ruler of the land, and he unleashes his vicious creatures on anyone who dares oppose him. As the new mad scientist on the block, you are seen by the others as the one who may finally be able to take down the evil (even by their standards) baron and make life comfortable once again.
n order to challenge the baron, you must first create a monster worthy of defeating him, and that is where the bulk of the gameplay resides. Monsters are composed of mechanical, biological or alchemical parts, and each type of component reacts to the others in a rock, paper, scissors fashion. Furthermore, each body part you create is composed of primary and secondary components, which, when mixed, create a unique new piece that is either helpful or detrimental to your creature as a whole. You can mix and match the body types all you like, and new primary pieces will be earned through combat, while secondary pieces can be won via minigames. You can also store up to 10 monsters at a time, so you can easily design a whole stable of monsters to combat various enemies out in the overworld.
Combat itself is turn-based, and each action will cause differing amounts of damage based on your enemy's affinity and the power of your creature. Rather than forcing gamers to memorize complicated damage charts, Monster Lab keeps it simple. When you select an attack, you'll see how damaging it is by looking at the color of the enemy. The more brightly colored red the part is, the more damage the attack will do to it. Each body part has its own attack or ability, and victory is determined by either incapacitating all of your opponent's extremities, or knocking out his torso.
Don't just think you can go item mining for good parts and load up your creature early on to breeze through the game. Each body part you create has a certain madness level attached to it, and adding a piece to your monster increases the madness meter. If the monster's madness level exceeds your abilities to control him, then he takes on a mind of his own during battle. Your commands become virtually useless, as he will do whatever he pleases, from tearing through opponents to simply run ningaway until you bring him under control with less powerful parts.
All of the different body parts and their skills, coupled with the madness meter, make Monster Lab a lot deeper than it would seem on the surface. While you'd think this is a simple kiddy game just by looking at it, it's actually a fairly strategic fighter that should do a pretty good job at keeping adults entertained as well.
Of course, no simulation/fighting game would be complete without some kind of multiplayer mode, and thankfully, Monster Lab has you covered on that front. There will be a competitive multiplayer system where you and a friend can take your monsters into battle and duke it out to see just who the true mad scientist is.
The game presents a dark yet cartoonish world, something akin to The Nightmare Before Christmas with the edges filed down a bit. Since it's being released on the Wii, you won't be blown away by the visuals, but they are quite functional, and the game looks just fine. The team is still working on adding the final visual touches, such as sparks and shrapnel when body parts are knocked off, as well as improved death animations, and thus far, everything seems to fit together quite well.
When I first got word I was covering Monster Lab, I thought it would end up being just another Wii shovelware title, but I'm happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong. The guys at Backbone have put a lot of work into this game, and it looks like it could be a whole lot of fun. Besides, it helps you figure out how to construct your very own reanimated, undead army, and what could be better than that?