Monster Lab

Tim Burton's Fire Emblem, or thereabouts.

Eurogamer knows a thing or two about making monsters. For example, we give money to rogue states to fund nuclear proliferation, and murder the fathers of impressionable lion cubs. However, Monster Lab has a more entertaining alternative: turn-based strategy battles, interspersed with agreeable Wiimote mini-games and backed up by Edward Scissorhands graphics, a Count Duckula sense of humour and Creep Show sound effects. Do you like the noise of scrunching cartilage? Squidge this way.

In Monster Lab, you join an alliance of Mad Scientists trying to overthrow a naughty one. Beginning under the direction of Professor Fuseless, you build a monster, go out into the world and do some fighting to collect more monster parts, then upgrade yourself so you can do more battles. Each monster is made out of the bits you'd expect - head, torso, arms, legs - and these grow increasingly outlandish as you get hold of more obscure ingredients. Even in the early stages of the game, monsters pitch up with giant anchors for fists, cannons for arms and grandfather clocks for legs.

It all sounds a bit twee, but like Pokmon there's a satisfying depth to the combat. Each of your custom body parts has certain attacks associated with it, each of which impacts particular areas of the enemy's anatomy. If your arm is a circular saw, for instance, you may be able to target an enemy's arm. Individual body parts take their own damage, too, contributing to the whole, and if you concentrate on one area you can knock it off completely. A missing head is always amusing, but you might prefer to knock off the giant mace that your opponent is smacking you with instead. Or do you aim for the torso? After all, if the torso goes, the fight's over.

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A man with a Cylon head prepares to rain the mace.

You also have to be mindful that each attack uses up a certain amount of battery charge. When you run out of this, you need to use a recharge move, assigned to your torso, which takes up a turn. Add to this a rock/paper/scissors style relationship between the three monster component types - biological, alchemical and mechanical - as well as the occasional missed blow and the ability to dodge, and you already have the basis of a pretty varied fight system. And so it proves. You can also repair yourself post-battle, using Field Repair, which restores your vitality the quicker you can shake the Wiimote within a time limit. Take big damage and you may struggle to recover.

The degree to which all the tactical planning applies will intensify as the game wears on, but even in the opening stages your burgeoning understanding of its intricacies feeds into how you focus your monster research and development. Each fight throws up different ingredients when it's over, and of course you can collect them elsewhere in the world, and then back at your base you can do some mixing. This is to a large extent where the mini-games come in.

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