NS Preview – Hands On With Nintendo Labo

Nintendo Labo Hands on preview

Labo launches this week in the UK and last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Nintendo’s UK office to get my hands on Nintendo’s cardboard creations. With two sets available to try out; both Toy-Con 01, the Variety Kit and Toy-Con 02, the Robot Kit, there was plenty of games for me to try out, with a number of Switch consoles and each of the Toy-cons ready made for me to pick up and try.

First off though I had the chance to push out the cardboard pieces and make-up my own Toy-con – my very own RC Car. With the pieces all in one sheet it was a quick process to get into and very soon I was folding and tucking before I was ready to customise it with stick on googley eyes, pipe cleaners, stickers, stencils and coloured pens. The card feels nice and sturdy, but could be damaged if not handled correctly. It’s easy to fold in the right places, with creases to use, but if not done carefully you could get rips or folds where you didn’t want them.

I was pleasantly surprised by the way the ‘car’ handled (it’s not really a car is it, it’s got spikey legs – but it does look pretty cool!) – it was quite fast sliding across the super smooth table I was playing with it at, sliding along and crashing into other players cars. Shuffling along carpet, I imagine, won’t be quite as exciting. It was susceptible to topple over, but of course you’re encouraged to customise these with stick on bit’s and pieces, so if you want a robust monster that won’t easily fall over then you can build it up to be like that. Multi-car fun seems to be the push here; and it’s worth noting that two cars can be controlled with one Switch, holding the console with one player at each end.

After a bit of RC Car ‘sumo’ (in which we knocked each others cars out of a ring, to much amusement), I sauntered on over to check out the Motorbike Toy-con. Quite a chunky construction, the one I used had been made a little while ago, but was holding up well. Don’t get me wrong – you can’t expect these things to survive if you sit on them, but this one had been used many times; twisting the right handle like a motorbike throttle felt really good, with a nice bit of resistance and good use of the hd rumble in joy-con adding to that ‘authentic’ motorbike feel. It was really impressive for a lump of cardboard. It was good fun to play too; although holding the handle in full speed felt a little uncomfortable after a while. The tracks in the game were quite basic, but I went straight into ‘600cc’ mode and it was very quick! There are three racing views to choose from, including one which positioned the camera quite high overlooking the bike on the track.

Next up in my adventures in cardboard toys was to check out the Piano. A musical toy in it’s purest form, I really didn’t find much to do with this game. Sure, the construction is amazing, intricate little folds make up the individual keys and placing different cogs in the top adjust the sounds effects you get from pressing the keys, from cats meowing to a traditional classic piano… you can also set a rhythm and record what you play. I think I would have got more from it if I was able to play a tune. I’m certainly looking forward to building this one, and I really hope there’s more to discover with the software.

Next I checked out the House – which quickly became my favourite of what’s on offer within the Variety Kit. Whilst the construction itself doesn’t seem too complex, and the way that the screen is simply placed in the slot on the front, it’s a bit vulnerable when you pick it. But, the options and fun range of games you get when using this Toy-con are great fun. Mini-games sure, but they really do make it all feel like a toy. Pick up and play, choose options by placing cardboard cogs in either side and in the bottom to effect what happens on screen. From turning a tap to fill the screen with water, putting sweets in a microwave, turn the handle to open the door, bounce the character around on screen and catch rings. It all feels very cleverly put together with that familiar attention to detail that you get from Nintendo.

Fishing Rod was next. This Toy-con had too had plenty of use – but was still a solid piece of construction. With realistic reeling to perform, as well as a string that somehow moves up and down on screen the same way it does in front of you, this too is a clever piece of kit. The fishing game itself involves reeling down into the depths to check out the range of fish available. Jiggle the hook and then jolt the rod back to catch the fish when he bites. It’s challenging, especially with the larger fish and sharks, and then it’s a case of winding, watch the fish as you go, up to the surface. You have to watch out for the plant life etc though, cause the fish will swim away if you catch your line. It’s not the deepest of games, but I would assume there are other challenges and modes to play in the final build.

Toy-con 02, the Robot Kit, was the last thing I checked out. Strapping on the Kit was interesting – I was impressed to see proper straps like you get on a backpack, and I can see why they are they. What with the punching and stepping, each item gets a real thrashing in a session on the main game. You can hear the paper weights in the pack on your back hitting each time you punch, and this adds to the overall feeling of playing. It feels really responsive, and it’s a fun experience, particular punching with both arms to smash buildings. Bending both legs down into a crouched position turns your robot into a tank, which is quick way of getting around the city, whilst spreading your arms apart makes you fly into the air. It’s a physical experience – and of course there’s a calorie counting mode in the game too I noticed. I do hope there’s more to it though, more modes and games to come back to, because Kit 02 is expensive, even with all that cardboard, for just one game…

All of the above said, there really is plenty more to discover, certainly more than I got to see. The software itself actually seems a little daunting at first, with loads of options and things to check out. With talk of cutting out shapes and scanning them in to the Piano to make your own fish for the Fishing game, instructions on how to fix sticky piano keys, making your own race tracks for Motorbike; there’s a lot of content in these Labo Kits. Plus, there’s Toy-con garage. I didn’t see a lot of this, but if you want to use your Fishing Rod to control the RC Cars, go for it. It’s a touch, drag and drop process to set-up input and output commands; you can even tilt a Joy-con to change the pitch of the notes. There are going to be samples included, to hopefully help explain how it all works, but I think maybe the only limitation will be what you can come up with – Nintendo certainly seem keen to see what the public make once the Kits are out in the public.

Do you fancy one of these Labo Kits for yourself? Perhaps for your kids? As a parent of an 8 year old I am DEFINITELY getting Kit 01, and maybe even Kit 02. Kids are certainly the target audience for these, but only time will tell what else will come in the future – further game integration? More kits? I’m looking forward to seeing more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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