When new technologies are developed most tech companies will tkae a look to see how and if they can blend it in their current products. Virtual Reality has grown exponentially the last few years, but it has yet to receive it’s commercial breakthrough in the living room as regular consoles have. Nintendo wants to change this up a bit with Nintendo Labo VR. This easy to use cardboard VR glasses need to help families receive their first foray in the world of VR, and it seems Nintendo may have succeeded in their design philosophy.
First thing out of the gate, you have to know that Nintendo can’t compete with companies like Sony, Facebook or HTC when it comes to technology. The Switch lacks the horsepower and screen resolutions needed to make fast paced or lifelike VR games and you are still making your VR headset out of cardboard without even a headstrap to keep it on your head. Instead you have to hold your Labo VR to your face while you play, all the more reason why Nintendo chose to include smaller games in the bundle that do not need hours of play to feel immersed in the world of VR.
After you boot up the game the first ything you have to do is start making your cardboard glasses. For those who are new to Labo, you have to make each toy-con yourself with the help of the interactive onscreen guide. This works really well and for those who enjoy being creative or want to play with your siblings or other family members it’s really one of the stronger aspects of the game. The glasses will take roughly half an hour to make, but some others like the blaster can take up a whopping two or three hours to build. Luckily you can take a break whenever you wish and continue on where you left off.
After you made the VR glasses you can immediately jump in to Virtual Reality in the VR Plaza, a new mode containing over 60 bit sized mini-games to try out your new pair of glasses. Each mini-game has you standing still in an open field or a room whilst you interact with everything around you. Weither it is a room with no gravity, RC cars racing after each other or playing basketbal without making the ball fall out of the field. They are all really varied and they were all made with the Garage mode, an editor that returns from previous Labo kits where you can make your own bit sized VR experiences. It also goes to show how far you can go with a basic editor like this. With the glasses alone you can play a few of the VR experiences and if you want you can just stop here and wait for free VR updates to arrive for Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda Breath of the Wild on the 25th, but for the review, lets continue!
During play testing in the VR Plaza it immediately became apparent that the VR delivered by Nintendo is just as special as from the higher priced alternatives. Weither it’s because a giant monster truck is jumping over you or RC cars are driving around you and between your legs, it really feels as if you are in the game. On the other hand it can be quite annoying as wel because you lack a headstrap, meaning you either have both hands on controllers at your face or you hold the VR with one hand, only to get cramps after using it for more then 15 minutes. It really goes to show that Nintendo made this game with small VR moments in mind and no hour-long gaming sessions.
The more you create, the more game modes become available to play, like making of video’s how the toy-con work and an easter egg about a certain Nintendo product. Everything is always viewable in VR, but the largest game modes are unlocked when you make the other toy-con.
The blaster is probably the most innovative of the bunch. It is a bigger toy-con where you can pull back a lever to make the internals snap together and you have a trigger to make it pop back. It is also the largest in building time, because you can easily lose more then two hours building it. After you made it you can play two extra modes. In one you play an on-rail shooter where you shoot aliens who could come ripped straight out of an animated movie. You feel yourself moving forward and there are multiple roads to play through, making it easy to replay it and get new high scores.
The second game can be played with two with each player taking turns. First you use the gun to suck up fruit, then you aim it at hungry hippo’s and you try to feed as many as you can within the time limit. After that it’s the next player turn. It sounds silly but it can be frantic, especially because you don’t want to lose against your opponent. Now all of this is included in the starter kit of Nintendo Labo 4.0, the next segment focuses on the complete experience. Read on or skip it if you feel like it!
The complete kit
If you buy the complete kit you get four additional toy-cons to create and play with. All the extra toy-cons take around an hour to create and each of them have different ways of play. With the elephant you can either play in an artistic mode where you can paint in 3D or you can play a mode where you try to get a marble all the way down a marble track. It al plays well enough, although a little limited compared to what the Vive can do with Tilt Brush. The second toy-con is the camera, where you either try to make the best snaps in an underwater world or you are in a weird house with a funny character named Fuzbal.
The wind pedal is the odd one out of the bunch because you do not have to hold in to your face, instead you use it as a drum pedal and you play a frogger-like game where you jump with the frog at the right time to try and reach the end of the level. The last one is the bird and probably the most immersive one. Here you can fly freely in an open world, trying to help your babies with small tasks like bringing them food until they are strong enough to leave the nest and fly next to you. The flying is actually really fun and makes you feel completely free, another perfect example of how well Nintendo made the VR experiences.
The thought behind all of the games in Labo VR is always simplistic, but the feeling and sense of immersion in a VR world is there and that is exactly what Nintendo had in mind with launching this product. All of the kits bring something new to the table and the starter kit alone is great for newcomers or families who want some VR experiences.
The big question is if Nintendo will be able to get enough people interested to sell these kits to enough homes. Free updates of Mario and Zelda are great and all, but if in a year everyone has gone and put their cardboard glasses in boxes in the attic it’s all over. So seeing what nintendo will do next to keep the concept alive is the most important thing to follow.
In the end we have to look at Nintendo Labo VR how it is right now. It is a fun experience for families and bite sized gaming sessions. The hardware is a bit limited but that is no problem at all for what Labo offers. The biggest hurdle is the lack of a head strap, because playing for longer then half an hour can give you serious cramps in your hands. For the price however, you have a unique box in hands that can give a creative vibe and multiple sessions of fun VR moments with friends and family and that alone can warrant the 39.99$/€ or even 79.99$/€ price tag. If Nintendo can hold the momentum of VR interest after the Mario and Zelda updates, then we may have a new era of Nintendo games coming up!
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 4: VR Kit offers the perfect first step in to VR for younglings and families. The cardboard glasses may not be perfect in durability or made for long play sessions, but the immersion and fun ways to play with the toy-con definitely warrant a purchase.