Nintendo Labo Hands-On Impressions: More Than Meets The Eye

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You can customize your Nintendo Labo however you want. Player.One

When Nintendo Labo was first announced, I was skeptical. The company was pushing a new way to create and play games using what seems to be just cardboard. Nintendo recently invited me to build and play with many of the Labo sets, and the experience really impressed me.

I’m still a bit skeptical (mostly regarding the price and its usage), but spending time with the sets definitely helped me see the appeal of the upcoming Nintendo Switch peripherals, especially after the reveal of the Toy Con Garage, allowing more options to create using the Labo.

Each set was different with its own good and bad points, so I’m going to run down what I liked and disliked about each one.

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS

The first aspect of the Nintendo Labo that I was immediately impressed by was the material itself. We all know what cardboard feels like, but the material used in the Labo is something much more durable and resilient.

Creating the sets tends to involve a lot of folding, and the material can handle even the strongest of folds along the creases. I was nervous at first to poke the pieces out of the sheets that come in the set, and to fold some of the more fine areas of the cardboard, but you quickly realize the material can withstand a lot.

The instructions with each kit are also executed extremely well. The interactive instructions make it easy to follow and it really holds your hand through each step. It really helps to use the Switch’s touchscreen to move the 3D models in all directions to see how it’s supposed to look and the way the models fold and connect with other pieces. You can also rewind the steps as many times as you need.

It’s also very clear that these sets need adult supervision. Outside of the RC Car, I find it hard to imagine any kid under the age of 15 could build some of the more elaborate sets.

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The Nintendo Labo RC Car set Photo: Nintendo

RC CAR

The RC Car is the smallest (and easiest) to build from what was available. Out of all the sets present, the RC Car is the most kid-friendly to build and will only take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Bit it’s great in its simplicity.

The demonstrators showed how the Joy Cons can track heat, and the RC Car can even move towards various objects on its own with the help of special stickers.

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The Labo fishing rod can withstand a beating Photo: Player.One

FISHING ROD

The Fishing Rod had a lot more steps (and pieces) but, again, I was impressed by its durability. There were a lot of small components to the fishing rod and they snapped into place perfectly, holding everything together even after some reckless waving.

A perfect example of needing adult supervision to build a Labo set is the fishing rod, as there are four sheets of cardboard with five different parts that need to be built. It’s not difficult, but there are a lot of moving parts that a child can’t do on their own.

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The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Garage lets you build and program your own cardboard creations Photo: Nintendo

ROBOT

This set was the most fun out of the ones we tried. The robot set is really intricate (just look at the completed image) but the Joy Con is perfectly in-sync with the game. I continually stomped around like a Tyrannosaurus with large steps and the game tracked it precisely. The demonstrator informed me that I didn’t have to take such large steps and when I adjusted to small and normal steps, the game tracked it perfectly with notable differences.

I was even more impressed with how I was able to change between Robot and Car mode by just crouching and standing up. The maneuver to access flight could be easier to perform, but it’s something that players will get used to. First-person mode was awesome, especially when flying around. I really hope you can do more in the game, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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The Labo motorbike game picks up on all of your movements Photo: Player.One

MOTORBIKE

The Motorbike is more compact than I expected. Nintendo had it set up on a child’s wooden bike but you can use it anywhere by pinning it against your abdomen. The game is simple enough, as you control a bike through a racetrack against AI opponents.

You twist the right Joy Con handle to accelerate and move your bike. The Labo can take even the hardest twists and the rest is the player being able to move their upper body to turn corners and speed around opponents.

The Motorbike game is a lot of fun and a bit challenging, especially if you approach the 600cc mark.

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The Piano model for Nintendo Labo Photo: Nintendo

PIANO

The Piano set was the one Labo I was really looking forward to. I love playing instruments and I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano. I’m not saying the Piano Labo can teach you how to play, but it can be a great teaching tool for kids.

It works really well, with every key easy to press, without your finger slipping onto an adjacent note. I did feel the keys were a bit flimsy, moreso than the other sets. My concerns were partially rectified as I was trying out the various keys, notes began to play on their own.

The demonstrator told me that one of the child guests was hitting the keys too hard earlier in the day but that just confirms that, like real pianos, this Labo may need a careful touch.

Overall, the Nintendo Labo can be a wonderful teaching tool for younger audiences while still giving adults something to do with them. However, the game options are limited and the real appeal of the sets us the building process and the way users will utilize the new Toy Con Garage feature. It’s a little too soon to tell, but I’m more optimistic about the Labo now than when it was first announced.

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