Nintendo did it again! Especially when you think that the gaming giant can no longer catch you on the wrong foot. The Switch makers prove once again the opposite. Cardboard templates used to make various tools according to instructions form the heart of the crazy idea called Nintendo Labo. But true magic only happens thanks to the physical integration of the Nintendo Switch console and the Joy Controller into these very cardboard structures. Many creative ideas make this simple premise an exciting and innovative new gaming product. But is Nintendo’s latest flash of genius only for the younger generation? Or do gracefully aged gamers like us have fun with it? And what about the different kits and the Labo workshop? You’ll find out in our review.
|Genre||Interactive model kit|
|Release||April 20, 2018|
|EVERYONE - Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.|
Once again for all those who missed the announcement of Nintendo Labo so far. They are in fact pre-cut cardboard kits from which various objects, so-called Toy-Cons, can be made. More precisely, there are two different kits. One is the Robot Kit. You can only make a Toy-Con. A robot backpack with everything you need. But it is very ingenious and extensive. The other kit is the Variety Kit. You can make several different things with it. About Variety Kit and how to use the Nintendo Switch extension hardware ingeniously and innovatively to bring the cardboard props to life, later.
Let’s work, then have fun
Before you can use the Nintendo Labo included in each kit, you have to do some handicrafts. Sounds like a few minutes of effort, but in fact, the tinkering often takes much longer. Of course, the actual time will vary according to skill and age. Even as an adult, you have to plan for time. From just under 10 minutes for the simple remote-controlled “car” to 3-4 hours for the robot backpack, buyers can expect a lot of preparatory work.
The good news: The whole thing is entertaining even for handicraft mufflers like us. It is an unexpected fascination and satisfaction to assemble a three-dimensional object with moving parts from flat, pre-punched cardboard blocks. And anyone who has ever assembled something should have no trouble with the difficulty level of Nintendo Labo.
Even better: Instead of the sleazy paper instructions of the four-letter furniture store, animated and interactive instructions are available on the Labo cartridge that you put into your Nintendo Switch, explaining everything step by step. Very practical and well thought out. Although there is a lot to fold, put together and decorate, we have finished our first Labo creations without any problems.
Important: The cardboard components make a valuable and durable impression and should therefore also survive the treatment of children’s hands quite well. So you don’t “accidentally” tear up one of the parts just like that. Ultimately, however, it is still a cardboard. Of course, it will suffer accordingly if treated too coarsely. But smaller wounds can be concealed or patched by hand. If a part is completely shredded, you can also buy parts of kits separately. There are also PDF templates to download so that you can cut your replacements in exactly the right size and shape on any piece of cardboard. But long enough talked about, we finally want to see the Toy-Cons in action before we go a little further into the technology behind it.
As mentioned at the beginning, there are two different kits. The Robot Kit and the Variety Kit. Let’s look at the Robot Kit first. In contrast to the Variety Kit, this offers only one single creation, namely the robot backpack. It includes loops into which you put your feet and grips for your hands. All this is connected to the backpack via cords so that movements are detected and transmitted to the Switch and, thus, to the TV. Besides, you also wear a kind of visor on your head, which contains one of the Joy-Controllers. It may look a bit strange, but it ensures that movements, such as tilting the head to one side, are detected and implemented accordingly.
Why all this? Simple, you play a robot that is supposed to raze a city to the ground. The better you score, the higher the score. It requires full physical effort, and in addition to simple movements such as a 1:1 transfer of the right or left hand, there are also various special moves. For example, you can squat down, and the robot on the screen turns Transformers into a vehicle that shoots the laser.
If you spread your arms, you can even hover over the scenery and perform ramming attacks from there. In addition to this high score mode, Nintendo has also packed several other challenge modes into this Nintendo Switch Labo Kit. So there is a lot to do. Especially for younger gamers, this experience is right in the middle of it, where you can live out your power fantasy, something that you like to come back to again and again.
For adults, however, the gameplay wears off quite a bit after a while, as long as you’re not exactly an excessive high score hunter. Nevertheless, the Robot Kit is fun, and it’s nice to see that you made an effort to get the most out of the gameplay possibilities, even if it wasn’t enough for a real, extensive story mode or something like that. The movements are well done, and there are more moves than you think at the beginning.
Also, the idea with the visor and the associated change of perspective as well as the steering of the robot by head movements reinforce the immersion into the city to be flattened. The same goes for the fact that you can change the color or other details on your robot using knobs you have also made yourself. The kit impressively demonstrates that not just something was sipped down here quickly, but that Nintendo has given much thought to both the hardware and the gaming experience.
If you can do without a robot backpack and prefer to make several different Toy-Cons instead, the Variety Kit is the right choice. Because here you will get everything you need to make the following: A remote-controlled car, a fishing rod, an interactive house, a motorcycle handlebar and even a working piano. Here, too, you will be guided through the handicraft process in a competent and easily understandable manner on the Switch screen.
The simplest Toy-Con of all is the remote-controlled car, which you can finish in about 10 minutes. But precisely because it is kept quite simple, the different mechanics can be easily recognized. The developers have thought very carefully about the capabilities of the Joy controllers and its integration into the Toy-Con in a funny and meaningful way. Anyone who thought that the HD rumble function of the Switch could help more or less only haptically depict explosions in a game is wrong. In a remote-controlled car, for example, you can use the rumble feature to set the carton vehicle in motion. The two Joy-Controllers are placed on the car.
The car moves through finely tuned vibrations. The control can be done in different ways and shows the versatility of the Switch controllers. One possibility is via touchscreen inputs on the Nintendo Switch screen itself. But it will undoubtedly be more interesting when the infrared camera of the Joy-Cons is used. It has different tricks in stock, among other things it can, of course, display images on your Nintendo Switch, above all, it can also track reflective light points. It is also possible to activate a kind of thermal imaging camera so that the Toy Con car follows a heat source, such as your hand. These are only some of the standard possibilities. Thanks to the Labo workshop, the realization of completely different ideas is possible.More about it later.
The other Toy-Cons included in the kit also surprise and delight with cool features. On a fishing rod, for example, a piece of line hangs from the bottom of the rod. It leads to a housing in which is the Switch. There you can see your virtual fishhook and the fish. By moving the fishing rod, the movement is transmitted directly to the screen. You can also see the caught fish in the aquarium, a kind of gallery.
The motorcycle handlebar is also impressive. It allows you to control a virtual motorcycle, complete with turning the accelerator/handlebars to accelerate, cornering and other refinements. You can make live tracks with a mini-cardboard bike equipped with a Joy-Controller. Roads with curves, height differences and everything that belongs to it. The motion sensors in the Joy-Cons make it possible. Alternatively, you can also scan your hand here and then drive over it as a hilly road.
The Toy-Con house is a little more abstract. You put the Switch in the house you have made, and then you see a creature in the house with which you can interact. You can do that, among other things, by adjusting screws and spring mechanisms. Which you have built and which you can use in different combinations. For example, you can run water into your house, which your pet won’t like. Also, you can activate a bowling mini-game. So there is also a lot to discover here.
Last but not least, the piano. It is a small masterpiece that you can assemble something like this from foldable cardboard, and it also works thanks to Joy-Con infrared detection. Of course, it has fewer keys than a real piano, but you can still make real music with it. Here, too, there are adjusting screws that suddenly turn music into cats’ whining or something similar, and so the possibilities of the Nintendo Labo piano are still far from exhausted.
Decorations and the Workshop
There would be much more to tell about every single Toy-Con, but this would merely go beyond the scope of this article. We admit we were pretty skeptical about the announcement of Nintendo Labo, but Nintendo did it again. Not only is the assembly fun, but also what you can do with the finished Toy-Cons is fascinating. Nintendo thought about how to extend the individual experiences and what unique features. For example, you can install moving parts. Also in the matter of materials and artistry one does not give oneself any pallor. The cardboard used is quite resistant and also does not withstand children’s hands quite as gently. But in the end, it is and remains cardboard, of course, and whoever empties liquids on it or gives a Toy-Con to the pet to play with is to blame himself, if afterward nothing is the same as before.
But just before the conclusion we come to an absolute highlight of Nintendo Labo – The Workshop. It allows you to take your first steps in programming and also provides lots of other information and inspiration for budding creative minds. You don’t have to deal with a complicated programming language but can do everything on a graphical interface. It works in such a way that you set different nodes and connects them with each other, so that action A triggers a reaction B, whereby there are many small and large possibilities. For example, you can set nodes on the Switch’s touchscreen at different locations, each of which emits a specific guitar tone. Then put some rubber bands over the Switch and the guitar is ready to make real music.
You can also find instructions on the use and the details of the individual Toy-Cons here. Don’t the fish bite when they’re fishing? Or do you want to know how to bring your fish creations into play? The workshop will explain it to you. Only time will show what other ideas the fan community pulls here from the workshop magic hat. But the possibilities are in any case huge. So you have no limits to the already great experiences of Nintendo. But you can also live out your creative imagination outside these limits. Of course, you can also let your creativity run wild when it comes to decorations and other designs.
Besides, there is also a separate Labo design package, which comes with some utensils for decoration. Of course, you can also use your handicraft material without any problems. Whether you want to decorate your fishing rod with tissue paper, plaster your house with stickers or paint your robot backpack with colored pencils, the cardboard will go along with anything. Only with liquid glue, you should be a little careful, too much liquid is not so good with cardboard. And of course, stickers made of cardboard are not so easy to remove. Nevertheless, creative minds can let off steam here and give their Toy-Cons an extraordinary touch.
Both kits offered us more fun than we had expected. In our opinion, the Robot Kit is the one with its high score and challenge aspect that appeals a little more to the gamer in you. With the Variety Kit the creativity factor gets through more. Starting with the dull and well explained crafting and decorating process, through the gameplay possibilities to the creative options with which you can significantly expand your Labo experience.
These three pillars, “Make, Play, Discover” are not just an advertising slogan. They also determine the visual concept of the software and structure it well. “Make” is the logical place to assemble. “Play” is the place where the action takes place. While under “Discover” you will find all kinds of additional information and other content that will enrich your “Play” experience.
We can’t wait to see what genius strokes the community will come up with here in the future. And we are almost sure that Nintendo itself is already making further “Labo” plans. Why not pamper and level up your favorite Pokémon in the upcoming Pokémon game for Switch in Labo House 2.0? Or in a Zelda classic to hold a cardboard artifact with moving parts in your hands. The possibilities for creativity as well as for hardcore games are manifold. We are sure that the Mario will come up with a lot more in the future.
From our point of view, the only thing that somewhat clouds the Labo joy is the price. The Variety Kit costs a good $69.99, while the Robot Kit even costs $79.99. After spending time with Labo, we find that quite fair for the amount of time spent tinkering, gaming and experimenting. However, many potential customers will ask themselves why they should be willing to pay such a price for pre-punched cardboard and software with some gaming experiences. Nintendo’s challenge is to convince the players and in many cases the paying parents with clever marketing and hands-on events.
As soon you achieve it, crafts fans can look forward to cool hours and Gods and Gods as well as parents can look forward to wonderful moments together with their child. In any case, we can only recommend Nintendo Labo to you. If you have a child around you at the age of 6 years or older, you can have fun twice. Shared joy is double joy. The juniors will probably also need the help of an adult on the fantastic journey of discovery called Nintendo Labo.
- Even the assembly is unexpectedly much fun
- Thanks to well-made, interactive instructions, even for absolute handicraft muffle easily feasible
- Very diverse occupations in the Variety Kit
- Quite robust and well thought-out constructions
- A lot of features, suggestions and inspirations to discover in the “Discover” section of the software with the Workshop
- Pedagogically valuable for younger players, you make something out of flat cardboard with your own hands
- Mishaps can be repaired by yourself, there are also PDF templates for cutting cardboard parts to size
- Considering the material costs are rather expensive
- Many additional functions and features are easy to overlook, especially for very young players and inexperienced parents
- Not much gameplay by default, but exactly for the “time after” the workshop with its potential is intended then