Let’s assume that Nintendo Labo can hardly be called a game. With that in mind, we thought it was not a good idea to compare this product with other games and so no rating is attached to this review. Of course, we have plenty to tell after a weekend of extensive tinkering with the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit.
Nintendo Labo consists of various building kits that allow you to assemble all kinds of objects using digital instructions with cardboard. Then you can enter your Switch screen and/or your Joy-Cons and then play a number of specially developed games for Labo. Nintendo has released two packages: The Variety Kit, with which five different objects (Nintendo calls every project a ‘Toy-Con’) can be made for various supplied games, and the Robot Kit, with which you make a kind of robot suit for yourself something more extensive game.
Fun with building
We had the most fun by assembling the different Toy-Cons itself. A clear menu clearly explains how to put something together. First, it is indicated which cardboard plates you have to remove from the box and which figures you have to take out of there. Then step by step per figure is explained how you can put it together so that you can control a game with it. The Variety Kit contains five different Toy-Cons, which last a quarter of an hour to an hour or two or three to assemble. The Robot-Kit consists of one large project where you can easily enjoy three to four hours of cooking. After building you can use a separately available decorative package to provide you with all kinds of stickers and colors, but nothing prevents you from using material that you already have at home.
When starting the supplied software, you can choose from the different Toy-Cons. It makes more sense to start small, but in practice, it does not matter that much: the software played on the Switch screen or your television clearly explains what needs to be done. You determine the speed at which the explanation is conjured up on the screen. If you have pressed A a bit too quickly to go to the next step, you can always rewind.
You spend most of the time folding cardboard on the appropriate fold lines. The cardboard bends easily in these areas, so you always know for sure that you are folding in the right place. The cardboard itself feels nice and sturdy and we did not accidentally destroy something once during construction. The cardboard easily clicks into each other in the appropriate holes and the end result always feels so solid and solid that you are not afraid that the whole thing will fall apart after a play session. However, when making a steering wheel, there was a part of the cardboard that did not stay in place so well, because we had put it in and out a few times. We strengthened this with some tape and the problem was solved.
The building is very rewarding. You regularly check the screen to see what the next step is, but above all you are, whether alone or with your partner or children, physically working with your hands. You really build something. Because you put everything together step by step, you are constantly surprised about how inventively the cardboard creations and the accompanying stickers and rubber bands are put together and form a larger whole. These things have really been thought about, so much is clear.
After completing each creation, you can get started with the supplied software. For example, if you have built a piano, you can simply ping on the keys to make music, adjust the sound and tone frequency with different buttons and switches, or even play your own tunes and save them. The steering wheel contains a simple racing game with three tracks, although by using the Joy-Con’s motion sensor you can create your own track by scanning objects in your house. With the fishing rod you can – surprise – catch fish and with the robotic suit from the Robot Kit, you will be dropped in a city where you can kill and kick all buildings. Because this is the only software in the Robot Kit, this game is more extensive, with challenges and even a ‘free’ mode after long enough play.
Yet it must be said that playing these simple, arcade-like games is far less fun than putting together the Toy-Cons itself. Making the cardboard objects is actually the selling point of Labo, the supplied games are only to show that everything really works. While playing, you are most amazed at the fact that those cardboard objects that you have just folded together really drive a racing game or produce sound. It also makes you realize that there is impressive technology in the Joy-Cons and the Switch screen. However, we got tired of the software after fifteen minutes to half an hour and we were looking forward to the next construction project. An exception to that rule is the simple remotely controlled trolleys that you can fit together in fifteen minutes with a small amount of cardboard and two Joy-Cons per car. These really, physically, move around in your living room. This is much more fun than catching a set of virtual fish on the screen or driving around on a virtual track, precisely because it is so unique and different.
Finally, both the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit contain a ‘garage’. Here you can assign specific properties to the Joy-Cons. This is especially useful when you have become creative after building all Joy-Cons and you invent and make your own cardboard creations. That way you can actually start an infinite number of projects and hopefully, it will also stimulate other players to put their own made guides on the internet if you are not that creative yourself (that is not what we are yet).
Nintendo Labo shines during the building of the Toy-Cons and in the few minutes after building you try out the supplied software and see how ingenious it all works. However, the included games are not intended for prolonged gaming pleasure. That is basically not a problem: certainly, with the Variety Kit (69.99 euros) we have easily spent about 15 hours building and we completed the last project with great satisfaction. The Robot Kit (79.00 euros) is more expensive and also contains less construction fun because it is one big building project. Especially the first package we can, therefore, recommend to everyone. And we really mean everyone, not just fathers and mothers who want to be creative with their children; it will amaze you how much fun it is to make something out of nothing.
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