Who knew that a company like Nintendo could get away with selling cardboard. Heres the thing though, it isn’t just any kind of cardboard, it’s Nintendo Labo. These kits allow you to make a range of different toys called ToyCons, you can then play with said ToyCons, then you can discover how they work and even create your own ToyCons.

Does Nintendo Labo provide more fun than cardboard should, or has it got less depth than flatpacked furniture? Find out in our review after the break!

Nintendo Labo – Variety and Robot Kits
Nintendo Switch
Developed/Manufactured by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Released: 27th April 2018
Review kits provided by Nintendo

Just what is Nintendo Labo? For those who haven’t been following Nintendo’s latest innovation, Labo is essentially a range of toys, ToyCons, that you can create yourself by using the cardboard cutouts provided. You can then use these ToyCons to play a range of different fun games, such as fishing, or even playing a piano. Think of Labo as a very eco-friendly version of game accessories.

A big part of Nintendo Labo comes down to creating your wonderful ToyCons. As of now, there are two kits currently released. The Variety Kit allows you to create insect-like RC Cars to race around the living room, a piano which you can actually play. a house to manipulate the world of your brand new friend, a fishing rod to do a touch of couch fishing, and a motorbike which you can use for… well, riding a motorbike. With the Robot Kit however, there is only one ToyCon to create, and that’s a Robot ‘Suit’.

At first, it may seem a bit daunting to build your ToyCons, I definitely had the sense of that when I saw how many sheets there were. Luckily, the Nintendo Labo software hosts very useful tutorials for each ToyCon included. The tutorials animate step by step every fold and slot you have to do, step by step, and even plays some funky music while you are working, as well as some motivational text-based commentary. As long as you follow the steps correctly, you’ll be a ToyCon pro in no time. One tip I will give you, it’s important to only pop out the pieces the tutorials tell you to, otherwise you may easily confuse yourself which piece you need.

Most of the ToyCons do take a bit of time to create. The quickest would probably be the RC Cars, which doesn’t take any more than 10 minutes, however from there on out, expect you spend a few hours on creation. The fishing rod, for example took me two hours, and the robot suit took me five. This isn’t because of difficulty though, a lot of time is taken up by popping the cardboard out of the stencils or folding along the fold lines… be prepared to become a master of folding. The tutorials do have recommended points to take breaks though, you can even take a rest and continue from where you left off the next day.

This is a perfect activity for parents and their children. Do any of you adults remember Airfix kits? I remember have a good ol’ time making those with my dad. Nintendo Labo is a fairly similar concept, but with better instructions. That’s one thing I love about Labo and how it finds a new way for families to spend time with each other. It is also good as it can help teach younger children how to follow instructions, which is always a useful skill to know when growing up.

Unfortunately, due to how long some of the ToyCons take to make, the more impatient youngster probably will not enjoy making them too much, but it’s always worth a try. It is also worth mentioning that the parent should probably do most of the cardboard popping, as before the ToyCons are made, some of the cardboard pieces can get a bit fragile and it’s easy to bend at the wrong place.

Finishing the ToyCon build can really give you a great sense of achievement, it’s something that really does make yourself proud, especially if you’ve spent several hours on it. The integrity of the ToyCons, once built, actually seem pretty sturdy and can probably take a good bit of play time before needing serious repairs.

Due to the fact that ToyCons are 98% cardboard (there are a few plastic washers or rubber bands in a couple of them), repairs should be pretty simple to do. Usually all it requires is a bit of tape or glue. There are even a few tutorials in the discover section which will tell you the best way to do repairs, along with some things you should do… like putting tape on IR markers.

Another benefit of the ToyCons being made of cardboard is the fact that they are so easy to customise, something that Nintendo encourages you to do. Customising your ToyCon, not only sparks a bit of creativity, but really makes the ToyCon your own. You can use pens, felt tips, paint, stickers, stencils, coloured tape, googly eyes, and more. As long as your customisations do not hinder the functionality of the ToyCon (which is explained in more depth in Discover mode) then you can colour and stick to your own content.

The real magic comes into play when you get you play with your own ToyCon. Each ToyCon communicates with the games in the Labo software wonderfully. With the RC cars, your Switch turns into the controller to send vibrations to the JoyCon that move the cars. You can enable the cars to follow an IR marker automatically, or even drive in the dark with help from the IR Camera. There are plenty of different games you could make up for the RC cars such as obstacle courses, sumo fighting, and more.

Then you have fishing, use your brand new fishing rod, which actually clicks, to do a bit of couch fishing and haul up some rare fish. It sounds simple, but it really is quite addicting, maybe you could even hold fishing tournaments! With the piano, release the musician inside with a piano which actually plays. The special IR markers tell your Switch which notes are being played. You can even use the piano to make your own fish in the aquarium.

Take playing house to the next level with the house ToyCon. Use the different buttons to manipulate your new friend’s environment, combine some together and you may even be able to play some little games, including a Donkey Kong-esque mine cart game. The last ToyCon in the Variety Kit is the motorbike. Lean it against your stomach and you’ll start to believe you are riding a motorbike. You can even create your own courses and stadiums.

With the Robot Kit, once you’ve suited up, go on an all out rampage and destroy buildings and UFOs as a giant robot. You can even partake in a range of different challenges to hone your robotic skills, go head to head against another Labo Robot user locally, check a rough estimate on how many calories you’re burning, changes the mechanical sounds your robot makes, and even customise the look of your in-game robot. It is truly a robot lovers paradise.

There are definitely a few ToyCon which you will likely only play around with for an hour or two, such as the house, but most of them do seem like you would be able to enjoy for a decent amount of time multiple times, such as the piano and the robot suit. If you really want to stretch out your play time further, then I would recommend giving Discover mode a visit.

Discover mode is where you want to go if you want to really find out how your ToyCons and JoyCons work. How does the piano know what note I played? What’s making my RC car move? What does the IR camera do? You can find the answer to all those questions and more with some very fun characters in Discovery mode. This is also the place you will want to check out for tips on customisation and repairs. Discover mode hosts one other ‘little’ feature… the ToyCon Garage.

Once you have become a master of the ToyCon you have already built, it may be worth visiting the ToyCon garage to make your own ToyCon and other contraptions. The garage is essentially a very basic programming tool which lets you create and program your own creations. Already people have created some amazing things with ToyCon garage, even I have started to make some interesting games! Even though it can be a bit tricky, and are are some limitations, your creativity is the limit. As long as you understand the basics of ToyCons and have plenty of ideas, then you’ll definitely end up in the ToyCon Garage for a while. I do wish there were a few more ToyCon Garage tutorials however.

I could easily see Nintendo Labo being that spark to get kids interested into following a pathway into STEM career (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). The entire build process and figuring out how ToyCons work could easily get someone interested into the world of engineering, or playing around in ToyCon Garage could uncover the wonderful (but complicated) world of programming.

The only real issue I find with Nintendo Labo is the price, something I rarely talk about in my reviews. Personally, I find the price just about right (would prefer it to be a tiny bit cheaper, say £5 to £10 cheaper), but other people I have talked to about Labo find the asking price a bit steep, even after I have explained everything you can do with it. It is worth bearing in mind however that most people I talk to are pretty serious gamers, a demographic which probably isn’t Labo’s main target.

If you are a parent and consider how expensive some toys are now in stores now, then maybe you will be in a different mindset. Nintendo Labo is more than just any other toy. First you can create five different toys with your children, the ToyCon can be played with as well as customised, and then you can learn about how they work and event attempt to create your own. When considering Labo from this view point, it does seem worth its value.

Nintendo Labo is definitely a fantastic new innovation from Nintendo. It’s the perfect excuse to build some cool stuff with your family (or in my case, on your own), and it comes with pretty easy to follow instructions (IKEA should really take a leaf from Nintendo here). The way the ToyCons communicate with the software is also quite magical, with a lot of variety with what you can do, there are only one or two games which you will tire from quickly. Finally, the fact that you can easily find out how the ToyCons work, and even make your own will definitely improve your experience.

If you are a parent looking for something which you could play with with your child, or if you just really like creating things, then I would definitely recommend Nintendo Labo. I would start off with the Variety Kit, and then progress to the Robot Kit afterwards.

Final Rating – 4 out of 5

Leon Fletcher

I am a huge Nintendo fan, hence why NintyBuzz exists. I especially love all things Zelda and Metroid. NintyBuzz was started by me back in the Summer of 2014, it started out mainly as a hobby, though the site has gradually grown, and I hope it grows for many years to come!