The Most Popular - and Feared - Place in Neopia
There is one place in Neopia that nearly everyone has heard of, although only a small percentage of people dare to venture within its walls. Neopets only dare to whisper its name to their friends, fearful that speaking too loudly would draw its terrifying director to their side. When asked, some Neopets that requested to remain unnamed in fear of being discovered by this horrifying being said that this place is scarier than Dr. Sloth's Lair and the Neopian Pound Combined. At this point, you must already know what I have been rambling on about, although you might very well be afraid to even think its name. Why, I'm talking about the Secret Laboratory.
The Secret Laboratory is perhaps the most dreaded place in Neopia and yet, we just keep on going back. Why is that? We spend near one million Neopoints simply to gain access to an area where no sane Neopet would ever want to wander. From the first time we visit, we can tell that terrifying Lab Ray Scientist is not at all warm and welcoming, let alone in his right mind. The room is cold and poorly lit, the only sources of light coming from that shining, threatening ray and a few blurred monitors. The other Neopets entering at the same time as you and your pet are trembling with fear, regardless of how many times they have been there before.
Why is such a horrifying place such a popular location in Neopia? I've pondered this very question for years and have finally managed to come up with a few theories of my own.
A Battledome pet for only a portion of the cost!
Anyone who has gone through the trouble of training their Neopet in preparation for battle knows that it costs much more than pocket change to turn out a vicious Battledome pet. If you intend on training your pet to a high level with equally high strength, defence, and movement points, you will more than likely find yourself spending well over the cost of a map to the Secret Laboratory.
For the sake of my own reputation, I will not say whether or not I personally have taken any of my pets to the Secret Laboratory. You know what, let's just go with no. No, I have never stepped foot in the Secret Laboratory. That's much better. Anyway, those who have used the Secret Laboratory for extended periods of time will likely tell you that stat changes happen much more often than colour or species changes, typically leaving the zapped pet with significantly higher stats than he or she had prior to visiting the Secret Laboratory for the first time. Because of this, the Secret Laboratory Ray is often used as a quick, relatively inexpensive way to train Battledome pets.
Paint Brushes and Morphing Potions... without the Brushes or the Potions!
Perhaps the most famous trait of the Secret Laboratory Ray is its ability to change your Neopet's colour and species. Although I certainly do not mingle with many Neopians who use this dangerous ray... *shifty eyes*... from what I have heard, most Neopians who purchase the Secret Laboratory Map do so because of this feature. I mean, it can change your pet to almost every available colour and species; it's a pretty nice deal, considering the price of the map!
However, is this inexpensive painting/morphing method really worth it? Well, that much is up to you! If you have a specific colour/species combination in mind for your Neopet, you will most likely find that the unreliability of the Secret Laboratory Ray makes it incredibly difficult and tedious for your pet to reach that desired look. In this case, you might be better off purchasing the proper Paint Brush and Morphing Potion to ensure that your pet does eventually get the look that you both covet. On the other hand, if you and your Neopet aren't quite sure what look would fit them best but still know that a change is needed, the Secret Laboratory might be your best bet -- if your pet is brave, of course.
Considering the risk that threatens all Neopets unfortunate enough to venture into the Secret Laboratory, I found it difficult to think that Neopians would send their pets there simply for the possibility of increased stats or a new appearance. Because of this, I figured there must be some other reason to make such a purchase. After much thought, I decided that the cause must be sheer boredom.
It makes sense. With the Altador Cup over and many pets growing tired of battling for the Obelisk time and time again, Neopians yearn for something to entertain themselves with. Although games such as Key Quest and Meepit Juice Break can temporary fulfill this craving, by nature, Neopians seek something that changes each day, something with no guarantee. While this leads some Neopians to the NeoBoards, it leads others to dangerous, unreliable places such as the Secret Laboratory.
Not all users of the Secret Laboratory can be visiting there each day out of boredom, however. After all, after you complete the long, winding journey following that incredibly confusing map (not that I would know), you only spend a few minutes there for the actual zapping before you're back on the road once more (again, not that I would know, as someone who has never visited such a place. I observed some unnamed pets discussing the Secret Laboratory and then decided on the real reason why this horrifying place still has such popularity: the curiosity of all Neopians and their pets surrounding it.
The Secret Laboratory is one of the few things in Neopia that can never truly be explained. Its Neopedia article is extremely vague, leaving many questions unanswered. Who is the Lab Ray Scientist? Why and how did he create this ray? Who was his owner? What happened to him or her? Where exactly is the Secret Laboratory? And, as this article attempted to answer, why do we keep finding ourselves here?
Perhaps one day, we will know the answers to these questions. Maybe we won't. Until the Lab Ray Scientist himself speaks up, the only way to attempt to answer these questions is to keep on making the journey to the dreaded Secret Laboratory.