When news of Nintendo Labo for Switch was announced last month, I admit I was skeptical. Could cardboard really be the next hot gaming accessory? This past weekend Thomas and I were invited by Nintendo to join them at Toy Fair for an exclusive hands-on opportunity with Labo’s Variety and Robot Kits.
After creating a couple of the cardboard Toy-Cons that are part of the Variety Kit and trying out the Robot Kit, I’m sold and no longer a skeptic. Here’s what we learned during our time with the Nintendo team and Labo and what you need to know as you consider pre-ordering one or anxiously count down the days until April 20 when it’s schedule to arrive on your doorstep.
About Nintendo Labo
If you’re not familiar with Nintendo Labo or can’t make sense of all the things your kids are enthusiastically spouting about this new must-have for their Switch, Labo combines the magic of Nintendo Switch with the fun of DIY thanks to Toy-Con gaming accessories that kids make themselves.
About the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit
The Variety Kit ($69.99) contains five different Toy-Con projects: RC Car, House, Fishing Rod, Motorbike, and Piano. Here’s a run-down on each of the Toy-Cons that come in the Variety Kit:
Toy-Con RC Car
While you can start building items from the Variety Kit in any order, the RC Car is definitely the easiest to start with. Thomas started with the RC Car during our Nintendo Labo demo and found that the on-screen instructions were easy to follow.
The kit includes materials to build two Toy-Con RC Cars so you can race against a friend using a second set of Joy-Cons (additional Joy-Con controllers are required; sold separately). You can also set up obstacle courses or compete in a sumo-inspired challenge to try to knock your opponent’s RC Car over. Included in the kit are reflective stickers that can be used to create a path that can be used to set your car to auto-drive along a specific route using the IR Motion Camera on the Right Joy-Con controller.
The RC Car is full of unique and surprising features so while it’s fun to build the car, it’s equally fun to experiment with the car’s capabilities during game play and customize it to make it your own.
Toy-Con Fishing Rod
During our time with Nintendo Labo, Thomas got to build the Fishing Rod.
To start, placing your Switch in the stand, you use the fishing rod to sink the lure to different depths in order to catch fish of varying sizes. Points are assigned for each fish you catch but some of the deep-ocean fish are particularly tricky to catch!and He loved how the rod gave a satisfying click with each turn as he reeled in his catches and being able to see his collection of fish in Aquarium mode.
You can also create your own fish with different shapes and colors. Just insert and scan different cards in the Toy-Con Piano to get started. An assembled Toy-Con Piano is required to access Aquarium mode.
While Thomas didn’t get to build the motorbike, he sure had fun grabbing the handlebars and racing through different tracks to challenge opponents or collecting targets across mountainous terrain. Using the camera that is in the front of the Joy-Con controllers, players can even create custom tracks out of 3D objects.
Simply snap a photo of an object and the Labo software will transform it into a track for you to traverse. The sky’s the limit in the kinds of custom tracks that can be created so start planning your designs now!
The Toy-Con Piano is rumored to be the most complicated build in the Variety Kit and after playing with it and seeing how it works, I can understand why. The 13-key Piano has working keys that can be played just like any other piano to hold impromptu recitals. Future composers can also record your songs and play them.
Pop in any of the knobs into the top of the piano to experiment with various sounds and pitches to create a unique sound. Spoiler: There are four knobs: cat, choir, man, and acoustic and yes- you really can play or compose an entire song out of meowing cats!
The Toy-Con house is deceiving! What looks like a simple house is so much more. Once you befriend the cute creature living that lives in your Toy-Con House and is shown on the Nintendo Switch screen, you can discover different ways to interact and play with it, including mine cart races, bowling, jump rope, and even filling it with water for your creature to go for a swim!
About the Nintendo Labo Robot Kit
In addition to the Variety Kit, the Nintedo Labo Robot Kit ($79.99) will also be released on April 20. The Robot Kit features a robot suit that can be built, worn, and used to assume control of a giant in-game robot. Once built, the robot kit becomes a cardboard backpack-like object that features straps that go over your shoulders, cardboard pieces that get affixed around your shoes, and controllers that you hold on to.
One of the Joy-Cons will be put in the robot backpack and using the optical camera, will capture your movement as you bend your arms and squat and stand to move your robot to squash buildings. To play, dock your Switch and the included Labo software will transform your real live actions into game play you see on the television screen. It’s highly satisfying to channel your inner King Kong while wearing the Robot Kit you built!
If you are feeling competitive and have a friend with a Robot Kit and their own Joy-Con controllers, you can play two-player mode and challenge them to a two-player local battle or compare your high scores/rankings with other players.
About Toy-Con Garage
Toy-Con creations can be used together in Toy-Con Garage mode. Using the included software, kids can apply what they learn during the make, play, discover parts of the experience by combining various simple inputs and outputs to invent new ways to play – and even invent their own Toy-Con creations. Toy-Con Garage introduces basic principles of technology in a fun and accessible way and truly encourages kids to make, play, and discover different experiences through Toy-Con creations.
Once kids discover this possibility, they’ll be plugging in the cat know from the piano into the house just to see what happens and that’s exactly what we want them to do! Toy-Con Garage can also be used to customize the Robot Kit to level-up your in-game robot. Toy-Con Garage literally lets kids think outside the box as they figure out new ways to play!
Nintendo Labo Summary
In a world where many other toy companies are creating DIY products that includes the build as part of the fun, Nintendo Labo gets it right. While the cost may seem expensive for cardboard plus accessories for building, there is lots of value that comes with the purchase price of $69.99 for the Variety Kit and $79.99 for the Robot Kit.
Labo provides plenty of age appropriate fun by encouraging kids to build and get creative in decorating their Toy-Con creations even before game play starts. There’s also real value in the ease of the build, engaging games, and ability to make and discover creations of your own using the popular Switch platform that kids already love. The interactive hands-on building process inspires kids to become makers, nurtures their creative side through customization, and game play is pure fun whether you’re a kid or adult.
The Nintendo Labo Variety Kit is rated E for Everyone by ESRB while the Robot Kit has a E10+ rating. The included software is fabulous in guiding kids through the building process, know your child’s capabilities and what they might be able to accomplish independently or could cause frustration. Items in the Variety Kit might be able to be built independently by kids younger than 10 but other items like the piano or the Robot Kit are far more complex and could require assistance. Building can be half the fun but if you think the building process might cause frustration, work on building Toy-Cons together. Chances are you and your child will bond through the building experience and your guidance will help them be more successful.
Nintendo hosted us at Toy Fair, paying for transportation and hotel during part of our time in New York City. Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post. All opinions are my own.