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Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit

Posted by GG Goblin On August - 24 - 2018

Let’s play with cardboard.

The Nintendo Labo kits burst into stores last April, after a lot of head scratching and bewilderment from the gaming public. Nintendo are known for thinking out of the box, and are often surprisingly successful. But seriously, self-built cardboard constructions to interact with the Nintendo Switch? It was all a bit too much.

labo1 (Copy)

However, jump forward a few months and, after getting my hands on the Variety Kit, I think I can understand where Nintendo were going, and where they could go in the future. Risking paper cuts a-plenty, I started popping out myriad pieces of cardboard and folding like it was going out of fashion. Given that we are coming to the end of the Summer, and I would guess that the largest number of Labo kits are going to be sold in the upcoming holiday season, this is what I discovered.

Let’s start at the very beginning. The Labo kits are aimed at younger children, and the Variety Kit comes with a number of different models to make which interact with the Nintendo Switch to allow the builder to play a selection of mini games. In the Variety Kit, the owner will get a game cart, a baggie filled with different components such as elastic bands and stickers (yeah, no-one warns you about the stickers), and a whole load of sheets of cardboard with seemingly random shapes pressed into them that the builder can simply pop out without too much effort. The sheets are colour coded, and the construction is so well thought out, that there is never any confusion. And so begins the fun, or work, of putting this stuff together.

The Labo experience comes in two halves. First, there is the building, and then the playing. Despite the fact that the Labo kits are aimed at the younger audience, I think the building side, which is going to take a fair few hours for the Variety Kit, may be a little beyond the skills of most six year olds. Perhaps this could be more seen as a parent and child activity, unless the parent wants their expensive lumps of cardboard destroyed. There are five different models in the Variety Kit, each of which will take a different amount of time to build. Nintendo have been kind enough to print estimated completion times on the side of the box, so parents can plan their afternoons accordingly. Either way, aside from the little RC bug/car, expect to spend at least a couple of hours on each model.

labo2 (Copy)

And they are models. Let’s not kid ourselves here, building the kits represents a large amount of the fun with Labo, and part of that joy comes from seeing just how incredibly well built and designed they are. Pop the game cart in the Switch and pick a model to construct, and the instructions will be clearly explained on the screen. Pop out certain pieces of cardboard, fold them just so, slot them all together in the right way, maybe put some stickers on, an elastic band or two, and you have a working piano. Well, you will have in a couple of hours anyway. And the Switch will keep checking in to make sure that you have a break every now and then. That’s Nintendo, always looking out for you.

As you sit there, putting these models together, the complexity becomes apparent and doesn’t fail to amaze. It is not only about creating the shapes with moving parts, which is impressive enough in itself, but also the way the Joy-Cons are attached and used to interact. You can imagine how some things work, such as stickers moving and being detected by the Joy-Cons, but realistically these kits are nothing less than wizardry.

So, what do you get in the Variety Kit? Well, to start with there is the little RC Car, which is the easiest of the models to make, only taking a few minutes and a few quick folds. The result is magical. You end up with a little cardboard bug thing with six legs and slots on the side to slide the Joy-Cons into. Then, using the Switch, the user can activate the HD rumble on either side to make the RC Car turn to the left or right, or activate both together to make the car move forward. Amazingly, the IR camera set in one of the Joy-Cons can even offer a picture of sort, of what the car can “see”. While the game side of this is non-existent, as a toy the RC Car works great and could potentially offer hours of fun to a young child, especially as they are encouraged to decorate the model.


Moving on to the more complex models, next up is the fishing rod, which will take a while to build and consists of a complicated telescopic rod, complete with working reel, attached by a string fishing line to a holder for the Switch. There are slots for the Joy-Cons, and the result is kind of like those old magnetic fishing toys, but so much more special. The Switch screen displays a fishing lake, and casting off, the player can lower their hook into the water, catch a fish and then reel it in by turning the handle on the rod and raising or lowering the rod itself. This was probably where I had the most fun, especially as the fish that you catch are then displayed in an aquarium for later viewing.

The motorbike handlebars come next, and again will take a little while to build. Here, the player is able to slot the Switch into the centre, while the Joy-Cons go into each handlebar. There is even an ignition switch, which is a nice touch. Anyway, with a track displayed on the screen, the player will twist the accelerator to start racing and use the brake to slow down. It’s all very intuitive, and works very well. The cart even offers the chance to build your own courses, which adds to the longevity.

labo3 (Copy)

The piano is the most complex of the models, and the build time reflects this. However, once built, you have the most amazing little piano to play around with. Play music, record your own tunes, this little piano does pretty much everything you would expect, which is kind of impressive for a load of pieces of cardboard.

Finally, there is the house, which will prove the most entertaining to the younger players out there once built. Building it will take a while, but not as long as some of the other models. So what you have here is a cardboard house. A Joy-Con slots in the chimney, the Switch sits at the front, and there is a hole on each side and in the base. You also make three different “tools” – a key, a button and a crank. Starting up the game, the player is greeted with a little room containing a monster that the player will have to interact with by inserting these different tools in different configurations. For example, place the button on one side and the crank on the other, and a hamster wheel will appear for the monster to exercise on when the player turns the crank. There are a bunch of different little games to play, which reward the player with candy that can change the colour of their monster. It’s great fun.

However, all of the games and activities are limited in their scope. Most of them feel more like some kind of tech demo, showing what the Switch and Labo is capable of. For the more adventurous, there is a Discover section in the software that will allow users to make their own cardboard creations and even program software to work with it. This is where the most longevity comes from, but the audience for this will be much more limited. Still, there is a lot more that the user can do with Labo than perhaps first meets the eye.

labo5 (Copy)

The Variety Kit is a great introduction to what the Switch and Labo is capable of. The games are short and will grow tiresome quite quickly, but for the creative types, the options are endless. However, building the models is the highlight and will entertain for as long as some games last, and there is something nice about sitting with a youngster and putting these kits together. They are very well made, and the cardboard is more robust than I was expecting. While the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit won’t be of any interest to most gamers out there, for parents and children there are hours of interactive fun.




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