I’ll be the first to admit that I scoffed at Nintendo’s “Toy-Con” line, known by the fairly bizarre name, Nintendo Labo. Who would willingly spend money on cardboard creations which will ultimately fall apart, get broken really really easily, and be tossed into the trash by the end of the day? Of course, in typical obnoxious gamer fashion, I made all of these judgments before actually trying any of these things.
So in comes Nintendo Labo VR, the company’s attempt at jumping on the VR bandwagon whilst also incorporating its collection of cardboard creations. I’ll be honest. I’ve never had so much fun with cardboard in my entire life.
Upon opening the Nintendo Labo VR box, I saw what I could only describe as a daunting amount of flat-pack cardboard which oddly weighed a ton. Not to be deterred by this – I’ve tackled my fair share of IKEA builds – I dove headfirst into the world of Nintendo Labo, and I’m a converted man. Nintendo has somehow managed to make building mundane cardboard creations a hell of a lot of fun. Oh, and the VR applications are a laugh a minute, too.
With the Nintendo Labo VR Kit you begin by building the housing for your Nintendo Switch, because like Google Cardboard, the VR experience comes from the software itself. Unlike Google Cardboard however, this kid has you building every piece from scratch, and it’s actually almost as entertaining as the software itself. What I found most impressive about the whole kit was just how easy it was to remove each separate piece of card from the larger board they’re cut out of. Normally, I’d be a bit too ham-fisted and end up ripping a tab, but this has been cut in such a way that it just simply falls out.
The next thing that blew my mind was how Nintendo have incorporated the Switch into the build itself. And I don’t mean how the Switch sits in the headset, I’m talking how you have the console off to the side and it plays through the instructions at a speed that suits you. Adding to this, you can, at any point, pause the build and rotate zoom into, and twist the on-screen piece to see how it all goes together.
I can’t remember the number of times paper instructions have just baffled me as all it has to represent an action is an arrow or something so abstract that you don’t realize you’ve placed something wrong until you’ve almost completed making whatever it is you’re making. I would honestly pay a premium for Nintendo to collaborate with IKEA to release software alongside their products so that we can interact on-screen as we build. My god, this is a genius idea.
After building all of the parts of the VR kit, I was surprised how actually well build and well designed each “Toy-Con” was. While alone, the cardboard could be considered flimsy, when built this card became quite sturdy. Nintendo hasn’t cut any corners here, there are layers upon layers of cardboard (in combination with plastic washers, clips, and elastic bands) making each creation actually quite durable. Though they’re not indestructible, they’ll definitely last being tossed around a few times before they give up the ghost.
So once you’ve built the housing for the Switch, which probably took me around 30 minutes, you slide it in and hold the makeshift VR headset up against your face. Oh, one thing of note this is how you’ll be using the Labo VR Kit as there are no head straps to keep it glued to your face. But that’s not actually a problem as most of the builds require the user to use their hands anyway, so it makes total sense. Anyway, once you’ve slid the Switch in place, you can dive right into the world of VR.
Before you’ve built anything else, there’s already so much for players to experience with the headset build alone, this is anything from controlling a little robot, to driving a vehicle, to playing a round of boomerang. Almost immediately you’re getting lost in your own virtual world and it’s incredible. But what about the rest of the kit?
In total there are four other large cardboard creations, a camera, a rocket launcher, a bird, and an elephant (and a few other smaller creations). Each one of these offers their own completely unique VR experience, whether it’s diving in an underwater world and taking snapshots of various fish (and feeling slightly panicked at the same time) to solving puzzles in mid-air as an elephant, or firing rockets at an alien invasion. Hell, players can even create their own VR experiences using their creations, the world is literally their oyster.
I’ve always shunned VR as I’ve found it to be more of a gimmick than anything really worthwhile. With the high entry price (which is admittedly lowering as time goes on) nothing really screamed “VR is the future” until now. Nintendo Labo VR is probably the most fun and accessible Virtual Reality can get. Okay, sure, it still requires you to purchase a console that’s around £300, but for those who already own a Switch and are curious about the world of VR, this is the best, most affordable option.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Nintendo Labo VR Kit experience is definitely a budget VR option. Don’t expect to be experiencing Resident Evil 7 or other high-end VR experiences any time soon. But what it does offer is a simple experience that’ll quickly have anyone using it saying “Oh my god this is so cool!” (trust me, I’ve shown it to three separate people who have each said that exact line.)
Simply put, Nintendo Labo VR is in itself a two-part experience. The building is an incredibly fun and satisfying experience, and the ability to follow along on-screen with interactive instructions makes it such a thoughtless and almost cathartic experience. Once you’ve built your creation you’re then transported into cute little worlds each with their own adventures for you to get lost in.
As for the virtual reality performance itself. While the quality isn’t 1080p (as the screen essentially splits in two in order to be displayed via the two fixed lenses) it’s pleasant enough and doesn’t create any discomfort after prolonged use. When passing it around a few times, it did drift slightly, but when it gets too much the console asks to be calibrated anyway by being placed on a flat surface. It does also struggle to keep up with being moved too quickly, but generally you’re not going to be moshing whilst wearing the headset, so it’ll unlikely be that much of an issue in normal use.
With the lack of head strap, there were times it became quite awkward to hold while also trying to fumble with a Joy-Con, it was even more difficult when using the much larger bits, like the launcher. While it offers places for your hands to rest and hold it up, little hands may find it a bit too heavy over time – but then it does regularly remind you to take rests, so maybe that’s not really an issue for Nintendo.
Outside of the collection of cardboard, the software for the Nintendo Labo VR is incredibly vast. With a total of 64 mini-games available in the VR Plaza, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. However, in addition to this, there’s so much to explore like the Discovery area. This area has little clips and illustrations letting you dive deep into the headset and how virtual reality works.
Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed with not only Nintendo’s Labo line but also the Nintendo Labo VR kit as a whole. For those wanting a taste of VR in its simplest and accessible form, this is the ideal experience. For those who also love building things, albeit pre-made cardboard creations, then this has the best of that world too. I’m genuinely considering diving into Nintendo Labo’s other Toy-Cons.