You might have noticed that this review looks slightly different to other reviews on VideoGamer.com. That's because we look at games clearly designed for younger gamers in a slightly different way to other games. We'll endeavour to tell you just what you need to know in a clear and concise way so you'll be confident it's the right purchase for whatever your situation.
What is it?
Think Pokemon meets Frankenstein and you'll be somewhere near Eidos' Monster Lab for Nintendo DS. Essentially this is an adventure game in which you play an apprentice mad scientist who collects body parts which can then be used to create monsters back at his lab. These monsters creations can then be put into battle against other monsters.
Monster Lab features some complex ideas (mainly the creation of new body parts by combining those you already have, and making monsters by selecting the parts you wish to use), but it's presented in such a way that it will be pretty simple for anyone with competent reading skills and familiarity with the way the DS works. The game does get rather tricky at points, with monster re-builds being required to defeat the harder boss characters, but it's nothing a gaming savvy eight-year-old should have too much trouble with.
Combat is fairly simple too, coming across like a heavily watered down system you'd find in a traditional RPG. Still, it does its job here, with the building and collecting taking prominence over the combat. Mini-games also crop up throughout the game, and make good use of the DS stylus, breaking up the adventuring, collecting gameplay.
Pokemon is one of the most successful games of all time and Monster Lab falls into the same 'gotta catch 'em all' genre. There are tonnes of body parts to collect, meaning there are thousands of possible monsters to create. The focus on monsters probably makes it more suitable for boys, but any kid who enjoys the cartoon monster japes of Scooby Doo will likely find Monster Lab very enjoyable.
Some impressive art design makes Monster Lab a great looking DS game, even though the 3D visuals are a little crude. Although the graphics aren't cel-shaded there's a strong children's TV show vibe throughout and the main characters are well designed. Sadly the combat looks a little basic, with your creation more or less slugging it out with the enemy.
Anything for adults?
The core gameplay in Monster Lab is enjoyable, but it's very simple stuff. Pokemon can get away with it as it's a long-running series and has characters people are familiar with, but unless you're after a simple adventure game you're probably best leaving Monster Lab for the kids.
The simplistic adventure game seems to be incredibly popular on the Nintendo DS, and Monster Lab is another fine entry in the genre. The production values are good, the creation-based gameplay is different and the quest is enjoyable. Kids with a creative side and an evil streak are sure to enjoy their time with Monster Lab.