Nintendo Labo kits are fantastic inventions. Every kit created by the company has offered wonder and joy in a way that no other developer has ever managed before. "Did I do that? Is this really just cardboard?", players find themselves wondering and, after the last addition, it seems as though the best kit was still to come. Now you can build your very own virtual reality headset using nothing more than pieces of cardboard.
The VR Kit has the same base idea as the previous kits. The set includes a multitude of ready-cut cardboard sleeves. After the pieces have been bent and twisted into their final form, the Joy-Cons and the Switch console make the magic happen. The biggest difference from the previous sets is the VR goggles, and that's the build that you need to complete first. The headset is a simple gadget, as the idea is simply to split the image on the Switch screen into two, which is then viewed through arced lenses from a minimal distance.
But this is the magic that Nintendo pulls off so well. The ridiculous idea works astonishingly well, thanks to an ingenious concept. Looking through the VR glasses is like staring into a magic box. Each time you put your face into the cardboard contraptions, the shift to another world is immediate. The experience is really hard to explain; you have to try it out for yourself.
So what do you do in this particular virtual reality? Well, you swim through the oceans taking pictures of fish, soar through the skies, and shoot cute monsters in the face with a bazooka. This can be done by building all of the different contraptions and putting the VR goggles into them. The building phase takes a lot of time and patience but is definitely worth it. For example, assembling the bazooka takes up to three hours of building time, but the end result is just amazing.
So why it that? It's just a shell built out of cardboard, after all. Well, Nintendo went the extra mile for its design. For example, the camera is operated like a real one, and you zoom physically, snapping pictures with a press of a button on the right-hand side. Thanks to the weight of the Switch itself, the camera feels just as heavy and sturdy as a real camera. The best thing, though, is that each of the shells adds a physical dimension to the virtual reality. The camera lens snaps like a real one, the flight contraption comes with a wind pedal that blows air onto the player's face each time they soar upwards and, yes, the bazooka has noticeable recoil.
Because of this, the immersion with the VR kit is something else. We haven't experienced anything like this with other VR sets. And even though there is nothing visible on the television screen, watching someone play is fun, because, for example, shooting the bazooka is an actual workout and it's a noisy one as well. There are also quite a lot of games included, with different ones for each shell included. Aside from colourful warfare with the bazooka, there is also a fun party-version of "Hungry, Hungry Hippos", where two players take turns shooting different types of fruit into a pond, with the aim of luring cute hippos into the scoring area. There is a lot to do and the complete package offers many hours of fun.
But that's not all - the VR Kit offers a chance to code your own virtual reality games. In fact, the coding software is surprisingly deep and varied, so in essence, the Labo VR Kit could offer endless hours of VR. It's just too bad that you can't share your own games with the world, at least for now.
It's not all that great, however. Because the resolution of the Switch is only 720p, the image is quite blurry, although you do get used to it after a while. The competition easily takes the cake in terms of visual the quality, but then again, the basic VR Starter Kit costs around 40 quid, which makes the package more desirable. For the future, the biggest disadvantage is the absence of a head strap. The goggles are meant to be held with your hands, but with VR patches for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, the head strap should have been included in the box. Of course, there are different tips on how to build your own straps around on the internet, but an official head strap would still have been nice.
All in all, Labo VR is a really fun experience, one that each and every Switch player should try at least once. In fact, we think this might be our favourite Labo kit. More importantly, Labo VR brings potential. If, for example, Nintendo should release Pokemon Snap with the option to play with the camera shell, we can imagine these VR Kits flying off of store shelves. Hopefully, Nintendo is onto this, because this VR Kit is a great product just waiting for its breakthrough.