With the stress of climate change, ‘fake news’ and, worst of all, dissertations, sometimes it’s pretty nice to just escape reality for a lil’ while. Why not do just that with Nintendo Labo with their second debut into virtual reality. Blast aliens, paint in the air, and so much more with Nintendo Labo’s VR Kit… just don’t become too immersed your forget to feed the dog, or yourself!
Is the Nintendo Labo VR Kit Nintendo’s breakout VR experience, or is it nothing more than a soggy reality? Find out in our review after the break!
Nintendo Labo VR Kit
Developed by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Released: 12th April 2019
Review copy provided by Nintendo
In a time when VR is finally starting to gain its footing in the gaming world, it would be odd if Nintendo didn’t have their own entry into trend. Nintendo Labo VR is just that, Nintendo’s unique Virtual Reality DIY kit. Similar to previous Labo kits, you’ll be making a bunch of wacky gadgets, known as ToyCon, out of cardboard, that will uniquely interact with the gaming experiences bundled within the software.
Roughly a year ago, back when I was more punctual with reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of creating the ToyCons from Nintendo’s first Labo kits. It’s perfect for building between adults and their children as it comes with very easy to follow video tutorials that can be played, paused, or rewound, fully interactive models that you can zoom, rotate, and pan, and super witty dialogue that is sure to keep you entertained throughout those long builds. The one thing I feel that is criminally under-rated is the background music of the tutorials, especially when it goes all techno like the them for E-102γ from Sonic Adventure! The ToyCon themselves are all pretty sturdy builds once finished, and rarely feel like they will break easily. It seems like most breakages should have a simple enough fix though.
One of the really cool aspects of Labo is the Discovery section. This provides you will a bunch of bitesized info on how each of the ToyCon works, and how it interacts with the software… from every reflective sticker to gyroscopic sensor. This is perfect for kids as it has the potential to get them to start asking questions and wonder about how other non-Labo related things work, possibly leading them to a STEM career path.
The first ToyCon you will build in this kit, other than the obligatory JoyCon holster, are the VR goggles. I found the goggles fairly lightweight, even with the edition of the Switch console and its JoyCon controllers. Not only do the goggles instantly provide you with a selection of VR experiences, but you’ll also unlock even more with the combination of the other VR ToyCon. The ‘games’ for the goggles on their own are pretty simple and basic, ranging from messing around with a rag doll, to controlling your rag doll through a simple platformer. You can unlock even more of these experiences when you build the other ToyCon. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of depth to these small games, and act more as tech demos… however there is one cool use for them which I’ll go on about later on in the review.
Something I was initially worried about is the fact that that there is not head strap for the goggles and that this would cause arm fatigue relatively quickly. In my experience, this happened far less frequently than I originally thought, and when my arms did start to feel tired, I just took that as a sign that I should probably take a short break… these experiences are made to be played in short bursts. If it is something that does bother you more than me, it doesn’t look too difficult to append your own improvised head strap; some have even gone as far to 3D print their own goggles with a custom head strap.
The actual experience of the VR with the goggles on is actually really cool. It is true that the resolution isn’t the best with VR, though with the art style of all the games, you barely even notice this. One thing I am extremely happy about is the fact that even my big, bulky glasses fit into the goggles. Back when I used to own PSVR, I would have to dig out my old pair of glasses I used to wear in high school. Additionally, I found that my goggles never become foggy when they were cold from not being used after a while. One thing to note however, is that you will have to make sure that your Nintendo Switch screen is clear of any crumbs or other particles before slotting them into the goggles, otherwise you may start wondering if someone’s been using your Switch as a dinner plate. I’m looking at you Nintendo UK social media people!
As far as the VR Kits are concerned, other than the goggles, there are five additional ToyCons to create, as well as three mini ToyCon accessories. Let’s start with the camera. Similar to the fishing rod, the camera also clicks in real life thanks to a flappy bit of cardboard, which is pretty cool. You also get two different experiences, you can either explore the depths of the sea, or spend some time with your little, furry buddy from the Variety Kit’s house ToyCon. On either experience, you can take a total of three photos per visit, and you will get little achievements for taking photos of specific scenarios, such as taking a photo of the secret mermaid or of your buddy eating a candy. In the ocean scene, you can tilt your head up or down to raise or lower your depth, and in the house, you can look at specific action points to change the scenery a bit.
Next up, the elephant. Probably one of the more bizarre ToyCons imagined, yet also one of my favourite ones too. There are two completely different experiences for the elephant: 3D painting, and marble run. 3D painting is pretty cool as you have a handful of tools to make some marvellous, or not-so-marvellous, paintings floating in mid-air. My mum, an artist, definitely loved this experience, it was almost hypnotic watching her smoothly dance around with a cardboard elephant stuck to her face! There are several different tools and effects to choose from, such as different brushes and lighting effects. You can also play a game with a friend where one person draws something within a certain amount of time, then the other has to try and guess what it is. It’s actually quite a lot of fun.
My favourite part of the elephant, other than its trunk, is the marble run game. Marble run is a physics based game where the goal is to use the platforms and gadgets provided to get marbles through floating rings. The first few levels start off relatively easy with an array of slides and spirals, but things start to get tricky when gadgets like trampolines, fans, and gravity switches come into play. The underwater levels are pretty cool though as the marbles move almost in slow motion. That’s not all, you can also create your very own marble runs to challenge your friends.
My only issue with the elephant is how arm fatigue is definitely more prominent. Unlike most of the other ToyCons, the elephant is made in a way you are not able to rest both of your elbows on your chest, so your arms can get tired pretty quickly. Luckily, thanks to the strapless goggles, it’s super easy to put the ToyCon down for a rest… literally just move it away from your face!
Time for the big flappy boy, the wind pedal! This cumbersome fellow is one of the only main builds that does not slot onto the goggles, instead it stays by your foot to blow air into your face, the good kind of course. The ToyCon comes with a very bizarre game where you become a frog, who has to climb to the stars by jumping over balls, or head butting them. Once you have reached your destination, you unlock an endless mode where you’ll need to climb as high as possible with only one heart instead of three. It’s actually a hilariously fun little game, I cannot help myself from giggling whenever I play it. These are the reasons I love Nintendo so much! My only issue with the pedal is just how big it is… I have no idea where to store my ToyCon creations!
Next up is a relaxing one, the bird ToyCon. Look right into the bird’s butt and soar around this huge island to hatch eggs to create an army of baby birds… well more of a gathering. Pair the bird with the wind pedal, not only will you get a burst of speed, but also a gust of wind to blow right into your face to add a little more immersion. It’s a pretty cool experience, and a lot of fun swooping around like a bird, though I can’t help but feel the world is a little empty from time to time, still pretty relaxing however. One thing which I found a bit annoying is how it can be fairly easy for gyroscope to become slightly misaligned if you are making sharp or quick turns, and having to keep reseting the view removes that immersion. This is especially prominent in the game’s race mode.
Finally, it’s time to go pew pew pew, with the ToyCon blaster. The blaster comes with two games, the first being an on-rails shooter. There are a range of levels where you are tasked with taking down all those alien invaders scourging the city. Though the game is as tough as nails, it’s still a lot of fun, and oh so very satisfying reloading and shooting your blaster in real life. Unfortunately, I found that the flow of play kept stopping and starting as the calibration kept going off. There was definitely a lot of escaping to the pause menu to reset the view.
The game also comes with a fun little multiplayer game, slightly inspired by Hungry, Hungry Hippos. You’ll take it in turns sucking up fruit, and shooting them at hippos. If the fruit lands in a hippo’s mouth, it’ll come swimming towards your pen… try getting the tough guy to push additional hippos towards you. It’s a fun, silly little game which is actually perfect for the ToyCon blaster.
Now that you’ve had your fun, it’s time to get creative. Indeed you can customise your ToyCon to your heart’s content, but did you also know you can build your own games? With the VR kit, you can either create games like you could in previous kits in regular old 3D, or you can create your own games built for VR. Things do look a little complicated at first, but there are loads of cool tutorials to help you on your way. You can also load in any game from the VR Plaza, and tweak them to your heart’s content. Bring recycling to the digital age! What will you create next? A platformer? A shooter? Maybe an escape room game?
I believe Nintendo have outdone themselves in their second foray into VR territory. Know this, Nintendo Labo VR is not a graphical masterpiece, or nor does it come with state of the art hardware. Know this however, all the fun is to be had with making, the playing, the discovering, and… most importantly, the playing! Sure, there are a few issues regarding arm fatigue and calibration, but these are no more than a niggle in this cardboard reality. There is a lot of content crammed into this kit, even more when your imagination is concerned. If you aren’t sold, start out with the starter kit for half the price, and if you enjoy it, then you can dive into the two expansions to make up the rest of the cost.
If you are looking for a VR kit with hyper-realistic graphics with advanced tracking technology and a price tag more than a smartphone, then obviously this isn’t for you. If however, you are wanting to experience VR for the first time, looking for quirky gameplay, and you have a lot of imagination, then I would fully recommend the Nintendo Labo VR Kit!
Nintendo Labo VR Kit is out now, exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
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!