Zapping for Colour
I don't know about you, but I'm mighty fond of fool's errands. Pulling the Lever of Doom after getting the avatar, repainting non-deluxe painted pets, training my lab rat, playing Bagatelle... these are all in a good day's fun. One of the most time-consuming, expensive, and outright absurd hobbies that I've taken up lately is something I like to call Zapping for Colour. By Zapping for Colour, I mean zapping specific pets for specific colours.
Now, don't get me wrong: Plenty of people zap their pets in hope of colour changes. When they aren't particular about the shade/species they'd like their pet to be (as long as it looks good to them), or don't mind pounding the pet and starting anew when things go horribly awry, this is a fairly sensible way of getting what one wants in Neopia. It's certainly cheaper than painting your pets by hand, if more time-consuming.
But what if you do care about your pet's species and gender? What if you only like one or two of the colours out there? What if you couldn't ever part with the darling pet that you're zapping? Well then, if you still want to zap, you're making a huge mistake. And I'm here to encourage it!
First, a brief primer for the uninitiated (if any happen to be reading). When I say “zapping,” I am referring to using the lab ray that one gains access to by buying and redeeming all parts of the Secret Laboratory Map. This ray can be used once a day, and can lead to changes in the stats, gender, species, and colour of the pet at which it is fired. Now that that's clear, it's time to move on to the real meat of this article: How to zap for colour without sacrificing what you love about your pet.
The first step in the process is to decide what you want, and weigh your options. If you were hoping for your pet to turn Baby, Plushie, Pirate, Royal or Usuki, zapping won't get you there, and you shouldn't try. The lab simply doesn't grant those colours. However, if you have a pet named Chocolate that you want to paint Chocolate, zapping is the only way – and it'll probably take a great deal of persistence to get there. The desire to have particular pets painted in lab-only colours like Robot and Chocolate is one of the absolute best reasons to zap for colour.
If, rather than zapping for a lab-only colour, you're hoping to find a cheaper way to your dream pet, you'd be wise to weigh your options. While zapping for Maraquan or Island is an endeavor I'd encourage, you may want to think about whether it'll be worth the time and effort needed to zap for any specific colour. You see, when you zap for colour you're probably going to have a species morph that you're going to want to undo with a potion, and it's only a truly good idea to zap for colours when you'll likely be spending less on repeated morphing than you would on the paint brush alone. It's also useful to keep in mind that if you're unlucky, it can be more expensive to zap even Maraquan or Island than to paint outright.
Once you have your goal in mind, and have decided that it's worth the risk to your bank balance (and sanity), it's time to prepare. After all, we only want colour changes, which means we have to be ready and able to reverse any damage the lab may do to any other aspect of our pets.
A major problem with the lab ray is that it's very fond of changing the gender of pets. Fortunately, the lab itself offers an almost-free way to reverse the process. To take advantage of this feature of the lab, you'll need to get the Lab Ray Scientist as a Battledome challenger. To do this, you need to refresh on the page that lets you select a pet to zap. And refresh. And refresh some more. (I generally read a book with one finger on the F5 key, looking up each time to see if it's happened.) Eventually, he'll pop up and challenge you to a fight.
After that, you should equip the pet you intend to zap with either a weapon or shield (the Wooden Blocking Shield that comes in newbie packs will work just fine). Then, when the lab ray changes your precious pet's gender, you can simply battle the Lab Scientist in the Battledome. During the fight, he often changes your pet's gender. If he does this early on, you can withdraw from the fight by visiting the Battledome Status page, and keep your reverted gender. If you lose the fight before he changes your gender, you can heal, regroup, and try again.
While beating the snot out of the Lab Scientist can be gratifying, particularly when he's turned your macho Grarrl into a Rosie clone, it isn't strictly necessary to fight back, so you shouldn't be scared of his high level. He will change your pet's gender, often fairly quickly.
We now proceed to a different risk of the lab ray. The most fearsome risk, in fact: species changes. Many people don't zap their pets, in spite of desperately wanting them to be a lab-only colour, simply from this fear. But unless you have a Draik, Krawk, or other highly-coveted Limited Edition pet, there's really very little risk. Species changes are easy to reverse. All you need to buy to return your pet to its normal species are morphing potions, a commodity constantly for sale on the Trading Post (a few even regularly show up in shops).
I do advise stocking up on a few morphing potions before zapping for colour, as having a few on hand means that you won't have to unexpectedly shell out a few hundred thousand neopoints at once, and you can always resell the potions if you don't end up using them. Do make sure to check prices well before buying, however (basic coloured morphing potions aren't always the cheapest in the species), and remember to check the transmogrification potion prices as well!
Remember, you don't need to care about the colour of the morph, since you'll be changing that in any case; just look for the cheapest way to your desired species. Even if you can't stand the sight of a mutant, you can feed it Turnip Tonic and see it change into a basic-coloured version of itself for few extra neopoints spent. (For that matter, you may want to keep some Turnip Tonic on hand simply for colour changes you can't stand.)
Morphing potions are where the ridiculous expense of zapping for colour comes in, simply because you really can't rely on the ray to give you a species you want. Could it happen? Sure. But I'm not waiting on it, and I will wait for just about anything else on Neopets.
The cost of morphing and re-morphing the same pet isn't so bad if you like Moehogs, Ogrins, or Unis (just to give a few examples), but if you're morphing a Hissi or Cybunny multiple times, you're probably not going to be terribly happy about it. Choose the species you zap wisely. The colour you're dreaming of can take days or years to show up. Expect the long haul, and you won't be disappointed.
That brings up another risk of the lab ray, and one rarely spoken of: boredom. The solution to this is simple... buy a second lab ray. No, really. Buy another lab ray, put it on a side account, and zap someone else, someone for whom you have less specific goals.
I know I found myself frustrated with the JubJub I'd been zapping for months before I bought my second lab ray. Now I merely consider zapping her to be a fun game, if a bit of a neopoint sink.
Sometimes you need to feel like you're getting somewhere, and when you're only zapping one pet, with a very specific goal in mind, there's a very good chance you're going to feel like you're never getting closer to the goal. With two lab rays, you're at least likely to get somewhere with one of your pets.
The final risk of the lab ray is, quite frankly, less of a risk: stat changes. The lab ray as a rule will raise your pet's stats, but it will do so very unevenly. Level and defense in particular tend to wind up low compared to any other stats on a lab rat. If you wish to keep up your pet's level and defense, you can do so by training while zapping. (And do train while zapping; don't wait until you're done – it'll be much cheaper if you deal with the problem immediately.)
If you mind your pet's stats being raised, you should probably refrain from zapping. Stat raises are the only “damage” the ray can do that cannot be undone. There is, to my knowledge, no way in Neopia to lower your pet's stats. However, most people who zap for colour see stat changes as the equivalent of the “s/he doesn't change at all” result. In that case, it really isn't much of a risk at all.
Now you know the risks, and the solutions, to the lab ray. After reading how simple the solutions can be, I hope that you feel a little fonder toward that mad Scorchio scientist, and decide to pay him a few visits. Zapping your pets really can be a great way to turn them into exactly the colour you've always wanted. All it takes is a lot of patience and a few neopoints. If you do decide to zap for colour, I wish you luck. There really is nothing quite like getting the zap you've always wanted on a pet you've always loved. I only hope to share the joy.