Innovation and creativity have become the things that characterise Nintendo as a company. While the other big console manufacturers have, for the most part, done things like they always have before, Nintendo has focused on motion sensors, interesting controllers, and new ways to play games in general. Sometimes Nintendo is impossible to predict, because who would have ever thought they would bring us video games based on folding cardboard? The whole concept might at first glance seem silly to most people, but Nintendo is again proving that they are innovators at the very top of their class.
When we first start up the game we're faced with lots of different options. There are five different creations to build - or "toy-cons" as the game calls them - and so we started our Labo adventure by building the toy-con car. This is the simplest one of them all. The funny thing is that it doesn't really look like a car; it's just a block with a few spikes at the bottom on each side. The way it works is through vibrations from the joy-con controllers mounted on the sides. Each vibration from the controller steers the car, depending on which one of the joy-cons vibrates. All of this is controlled by the Switch console itself, which for this toy-con acts as a remote control. You can even use the infrared camera on the joy-con to see through the eyes of the car. Nifty stuff!
The infrared camera is one of the most important tools for making most of the toy-cons work. This is especially apparent with the toy-con piano, which is the toy-con with the longest build time. It should have been expected, but the piano takes around three hours to build. To start building this in the evening would be a grave mistake, so beware! Although it sounds like a bother to construct these funny cardboard contraptions, it's actually quite the opposite. It takes time, but it sure delivers some good old childhood entertainment! It feels like building Lego again, and the amazing tutorials the game offers make everything a lot more enjoyable.
The tutorials make sure it's pretty much impossible to make mistakes. They show you exactly what you have to do phase by phase through accurate 3D-models with a free moving camera. There are even text boxes that pop up telling you what you have to do, just in case. These text boxes have a lot of personality and charm. One great example of this is: "This next part is a doozy. It will take a long time, but you can do this!". Wow, thanks for the heads up, game! It's almost like having an artificial friend helping you out while you build!
Let's not forget that under all this cardboard there's also a video game. The piano is simply a piano with some nifty cranks and nobs to make different sound effects. But there are also games like the fishing game. In this game we're able to put the tablet down underneath our amazing cardboard fishing rod to get the sensation of fishing on the Switch screen. This felt surprisingly amazing because of the realistic vibrations from the joy-cons and feedback on the screen while we moved the rod left and right. This particular game really uses all of the technology in the joy-con to the fullest.
Unfortunately it doesn't take long before the fishing becomes a bit boring and repetitive. In fact, this is a recurring problem suffered by all of the toy-con games. They start out great but soon become nothing more than a simple gimmick, lacking true depth. The toy-con house is perhaps the most disappointing one since it just feels like a mildly interactive toy where you press different buttons or turn a wheel to see something happen on the screen; it hardly feels like a game at all. Parents take note, it might be better suited for younger players. The motorbike game is the one with the most depth. The racing part itself is just about interesting enough, but there's also the option to make your own race tracks.
Lastly, we'd like to mention that the game also includes something called the Toy-con Garage. It's a creative tool whereby you're able to create your own toy-cons. Nintendo has already shown off lots of possibilities using this tool through trailers. Of course, players all around the world have already made some amazing creations. Examples range from working instruments to copies of Pong and Flappy Bird.
When we look back at our time with Nintendo Labo, it's the building part of the experience that we remember most fondly. It will take you some time, sure, but it's fun. If you ever loved building Lego, then Labo is sure to bring back that fun and creative enthusiasm you once had for building things. Despite its shortcomings, we recommend that anyone even slightly interested in the concept check it out, especially those looking for something to play with their young ones. We're looking forward to future toy-con sets as well as seeing what else Nintendo has in store for gaming as a whole.
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