From The Editors Technology

Nintendo Labo Review: Cardboard Can Be So Much Fun! Really!

The new Nintendo Labo kits, launching today (April 20), are a couple of DIY activity packs that work in tandem with the Nintendo Switch console.

So, if you’re not already a proud Switch owner, you’ll have to first invest in the Nintendo gaming console, before you or your kids can enjoy the Nintendo Labo.

The Labo, basically, allows you to hand-make a number of interesting cardboard toys by piecing together cardboard sheets that are part of the two Labo kits – the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 1 aka the Variety Pack and the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 2 – the Robot backpack.

The cardboard accessories you create using the kits interact with the Switch which serves as a virtual instruction manual.

The objects you physically create are digitally represented on your Switch screen in amazing detail, allowing you to view your creation from different angles and tap through the different activities of the objects you create.

As unassuming as the concept sounds, it is easily the most creative gaming product yet from Nintendo that has attracted some great reviews from gaming critics.

Reviewing the product for TIME, Lisa Eadicicco said that it didn’t take her long to realize that a lot of “careful attention” had been paid to creating those interactive digital instructions that are easy enough to understand by young and old alike.

“Even after just a few minutes using Labo, it became evident that Nintendo paid careful attention to detail when creating these instructional videos,” wrote Eadicicco.

“They’re written and illustrated so clearly that any player — young or old, crafty or not— can assemble even the most complex Toy-Cons with ease. If you’re following the instructions carefully, it’s very difficult to mess up a Toy-Con to a point at which it can’t be salvaged.”

Andrew Webster, who reviewed the Nintendo Labo for The Verge, was particularly impressed with the repair tutorials that not only provide you with a solution to a problem you might encounter but also educate you on the concept, thereby, preparing you to effectively address future issues unaided.

Here’s what he said: “The ingenuity on display is impressive, and so is the way that Labo encourages you to understand it. The repair tutorials are a great example of this. They show you how to fix common issues, but also help you pinpoint what the problems are in the first place. A tutorial might start with an unclear issue — nothing happens when I push this button — before giving you ways to figure out what exactly is wrong. Instead of just giving you specific fixes for specific problems, this system instead gives you an understanding of how things work so you can fix other problems by yourself.”

Webster did note a couple of minor irritants, though.

“So far, the only issues I’ve run into are a button on the piano that gets squashed when pressed too hard (I reinforced it with tape, and it works perfectly now) and a string popping out of the fishing rod after some intense sessions,” he wrote.

Like Eadicicco,  Yahootech technology editor Daniel Howley was also awed by the ingenuity of the digital manual, not to mention the instructional video hosted by a narrator with a sense of humor.

“Not only does the app tell you which pieces to use for each step of the building process, ensuring you don’t end up with have a floor covered in cardboard, it also includes a video detailing how to properly assemble each segment complete with a wisecracking narrator,” he observed.

“What’s more, the videos are fully interactive, so you can rotate each scene to see it from every possible angle. Not quite sure if you folded a piece the right way? Just rewind the video, and swipe to get a better look,” he explained.

Howley is, however, of the opinion that the game is more suited to young gamers who are naturally inclined toward the build-as-you-play concept of the Nintendo Labo.

As far as older or grown-up gamers are concerned, he feels that the Labo will likely lose its appeal sooner, rather than later.

“I enjoyed building and using the Toy-Con Variety Kit, but it might not hold adult gamers’ attention for too long. It’s more for the younger Minecraft obsessed gamer who wants to build and play at the same time,” he said.

So, as aforementioned, the Nintendo Labo offers two individual gaming kit options designed for Switch users.

The Labo Toy-Con 01, or the Variety Pack is priced at $70, while the Labo Toy-Con 02, aka the Robot Pack, is $10 dearer at $80 per kit.

Labo Toy-Con 01 (Variety Pack) – $70

The Variety Pack, which comes in a pretty sizeable box, includes the tools and material required to build 5 different Toy-Cons, including a Toy-Con RC Car, a Toy-Con Fishing Rod, a Toy-Con Motorcycle, a Toy-Con Piano, and a little Toy-Con House for your Switch.

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo

Inside the Variety Pack box, you have:

  • A little game card, loaded with the necessary software that works with the kit, which effectively means there’s nothing to download here
  • Rubber bands in two sizes
  • An orange and a blue string
  • 4 plastic grommets
  • Yellow reflective stickers for marking your creations
  • Two small pieces of sandpaper
  • 28 pieces of decorated and perforated foldable cardboard sheets that you will be using to make different Toy Cons

To get started, all you need to do is remove the game card, insert it into your Switch console and select ‘make and start building’ and you are on your way.

The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01 video below is a must-watch.

Labo Toy-Con 02 (Robot Backpack) – $80

The Robot Backpack, as the name suggests, is all about creating a giant robot backpack and working with it to unlock additional game modes.

Without a doubt, it is a much more complex project than any of the Variety Pack activities, be it the piano or the motorcycle, or any of the others, for that matter.

This comes in a slightly thicker box than the Toy Con 01 and boats some pretty awesome box-art, too.

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo

Here’s what you get inside the Toy-Con 02 box:

  • A dedicated game card
  • Infrared stickers that are supposed to interact with your Switch JoyCon camera for that interactive gaming experience
  • Lots of sturdy fabric straps – not surprising because you are building a life-size backpack
  • The usual strings and grommets
  • Several white reflective cards
  • And, of course, the ubiquitous cardboard sheets – lots of them.

The great thing about the Robot Pack is that having two of them – at the cost of an additional $80, of course – will allow you to use the Versus Mode for some gameplay between two robots, using 4 Joycons on a single Switch.

Who knew cardboard could be so much fun!

Check out the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02 video here.

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