While the rest of the industry toils over how to maximise frame rate and expand graphical potential, Nintendo is always sitting in the wing, plotting.
This time, Nintendo has come packing something much different than before: cardboard.
Nintendo Labo is, in a word, unconventional. Merging the worlds of crafting and gaming together, this a labour of love. The team at Nintendo has given us something so novel and purely imaginative. Time and again, Nintendo reminds us that the heart of gaming is built from passion, creativity, and imagination. It has continuously doubled down on its base of providing fun for kids, families, and kids at heart. Nintendo has never chased after others, or even followed the road; since the beginning, it has blazed their own trial. My gaming heart, no matter where it takes me, will always come home to Nintendo. Because it understands that at the bottom of all this, we’re all just trying to have fun.
Fuelling your imagination, one crease at a time
The most enjoyable part of Nintendo Labo, without a doubt, is actually creating these wonderful toys. Whether you’re working alone or piecing through it with your family, it’s a blast. The sheer amount of creativity that went into making this kit cannot be overstated. The tablet guides you through each step with simple, precise instructions. It always reminds you how great of a job you’re doing, which is great for kids and families.
It’s a heartwarming adventure, in a way, as you never feel like you’re going too slow or struggling. There’s so much you do, like rotating the image on screen or fast forwarding or rewinding, to make sure you’re doing everything perfectly. The pacing and attention to detail in terms of walking you through each build is fantastic. I praise Nintendo for how well it has handled the instructional aspect of Labo.
The actual cardboard you build with is very sturdy, and worrying about ripping or ruining it isn’t a problem. Watching as your jumbled mess of coloured board shapes into something tangible is a magical experience. Forming the handlebars for the bike, or testing the tension on your fishing rod once it’s completed is just… rewarding. Even as an adult, you feel a sense of accomplishment while holding these creations. Sure, it’s not overly complicated for someone like me, but no matter your age or skill level, it’s still time-consuming and precise. The carefulness you start taking after a while shows that you do care that the house doesn’t have cracks in it, or that your piano looks as presentable as possible. Nintendo made sure not to give you shabby equipment, and your finished projects prove that to be true.
The small additions that really bring your builds to life are what make Labo extra special to me. The knobs for altering what your piano sounds like, or the varied inserts for the house that changes what happens inside. They’re so simple yet so important to the overall experience. Then there’s the really tiny, really special things: the sound tabs. On the fishing reel or the crank of the house, there are little inserts that ‘click’ as you use them.
What this does to fuel a kid’s imagination is so important, and Nintendo deserves all the credit for thinking of such a thing. It sells the idea this kit is trying to get across; it becomes more than just cardboard and a screen, it becomes that tool that you’ve created. Building your kits with Labo is where this experience truly shines, which makes the fact that rebuilding them not being an option all that much more unfortunate.
Imagination becomes reality
It’s kind of weird saying that playing the games isn’t the best part of Labo, but it’s true. That isn’t to say they’re boring or bad; they’re just, as expected, not very dense. In total, you have the RC car, the fishing pole, the bike, the house, and the piano. Each one offers its own unique fun to be had, and some, like the bike and the piano, have multiple modes. The games are simple and easy to learn, but as you’d expect, they don’t offer much in the way of replayability; what you see is what you get. The fun comes from learning just how much you can do with each individual game. Because, come on, it’s Nintendo. There’s always much more going on than there seems to be.
The RC car and the fishing game are the simplest in terms of play, I’d say. Though, you’ll find lots of extra fun to be had with the IR camera when using the RC car. The bike game is tons of fun. That was the one that really made me think about just how cool Labo really is. Turning the handlebar, grabbing the brake, tilting up to do a wheelie; it felt so interactive, and it made me truly appreciate what this whole kit really had to offer. The piano, undoubtedly, is the most daunting build and the most versatile game to play. It functions so surprisingly well, and the studio you can access to record music, layer sounds and more is such a cool addition. But there’s one that really surprised me with how much enjoyment it offered: the house.
A house of wonder
This was the biggest shock for me with Labo. It’s got so much content. You can mix and match the inserts (key, crank, and button) to change what kind of mini-game you play. Shake the house, tilt the house, fill it with water, shut the lights off. It really blew me away in terms of depth and fun. I had a lot of hesitation with this build, as I thought it wouldn’t offer too much, even for kids. But I was blown away with how detailed the house was. Nintendo didn’t play favourites with Labo, and it shows when you play through each game. There’s something to enjoy in each and every one, there just isn’t a ton of game here. Yet, you can fish, race, drive, create, and write music, and each experience is different and memorable.
A future of (seemingly) limitless potential
You can create tracks for the bike, craft music in the studio, and truly unleash your mind in the Joy-Con garage. The piano studio is exceptionally tricky but offers those keen enough a massive amount of further content to be enjoyed. But the true star of the show is the garage. Here, you can utilise what is basically a series of ‘yes-and’ switchboard-style commands to make things happen how you want them to. Set the left Joy-Con to play a note when you rev the engine of the bike, or have the screen flash when you crank the fishing reel. I can’t wait to see the creative things that come from the community here. It’s a great addition that furthers the life of Labo.
Nintendo will never stop doing crazy things. Even if they aren’t commercially or critically successful (I will always remember you, Wii U), its ideas are undeniably unique and creative. What I am most excited for is the future that the Labo can possibly create. We can easily see additions to its kit, and perhaps even connections to other games on the Switch. I personally think Labo can breathe a bit of life into 1-2 Switch, adding compatibility with and perhaps even utilising Labo’s creation tools to let users basically create their own mini-games. As the tech advances and Nintendo goes back to the lab, I think we will continue to see Labo grow. I am keen to see where this goes. Where Nintendo goes, everyone’s eyes and ears follow. I will never doubt Nintendo in its pure, honest pursuit of making gaming a labour of love, passion, and enjoyment.