I’m going to have to admit it: I was pretty sceptical about Nintendo Labo when it first launched in April.
Putting bits of cardboard together and pratting about with them in some minigames afterwards? Nah, thanks. I’d rather stick to building LEGO and then playing a proper game afterwards.
But I’m sorry for ever thinking that. Please forgive me, Nintendo. Because after spending a fair amount of time putting together to the latest Labo addition, Toy-Con 03: Vehicle Kit, and “pratting about with it”, I’ve realised just how marvellous it is. Marvellous, in a way that only Nintendo could ever get away with.
The main event of Toy-Con 3 is a steering wheel, complete with a foot pedal. The box also includes materials to make a flight stick and a submarine controller, but it was the steering wheel that’s completely won me over.
For something entirely made out of cardboard (and a few stickers and a bit of string), the finished product is surprisingly sturdy, and amazingly functional. And putting it together in the first place was a hell of a lot of fun. Each Toy-Con kit comes with a Switch game cartridge that contains all the instructions you need, along with plenty of games and fun activities to do with your creations. The instructions to build the wheel were very detailed and presented in a fun, straightforward way. Every step was meticulously laid out, with very little room for error or confusion. Playing like a video that you can pause, fast forward or slow down to allow you to work at your own pace, the instructions are bright and bold, and full of amusing little quips and one-liners. There’s not a dull moment in sight.
Overall, putting the steering wheel and foot pedal together took me about two and a half hours. And although the instructions reminded me frequently to take a break, I was too engrossed in building to stop before I was finished. Seeing everything come together as you go along is very rewarding, and how it all works is truly impressive. Everything you need is in the box, with big sheets of card having each piece pre-cut that you just need to push out. With few clever folds and slots, the pieces of cardboard join together and interact in incredible ways.
For me, the real joy of the Vehicle Kit was actually making it, but the gameplay element was rewarding, too. One Joy-Con sits in the foot pedal to register when you put your foot down, and the other Joy-Con goes in the centre of the steering wheel, acting like a ‘key’. This is the one doing most of the heavy lifting, detecting when you steer, pull up a menu, or tug on one of the steering wheel’s levers that activate a special function. It all works surprisingly well; the power of those little Joy-Cons is remarkable, and the steering wheel really showcases that.
Toy-Con 3’s main game mode, Adventure, is a lot of fun. Essentially a big open world, you’re free to drive around, coming across different areas and various tasks to complete. Be careful though; you need to refuel often, so make sure you scout out where those petrol stations are! Merely driving around and making use of the wheel you created is fun enough, so having a fully-fledged adventure to take part in is a big bonus.
Let’s not forget that Labo is a product aimed at children – 30-year old me is not its target market – but the whole product comes together in a way that’s just joyous for everyone. Proud of the steering wheel I created, I’ve been showing it off to every visitor we’ve had. My 60-year old in-laws enjoyed it just as much as my two-year old nephew. Labo is Nintendo doing what it does best: games that are fun, inventive, and completely inclusive, no matter who you are.