Nearly a month before its official release, Nintendo invited the press to a private session for a hands-on session with Nintendo Labo. This exciting opportunity let me experience these innovative interactive playsets that let parents and children Make, Play, and Discover. I had an absolute blast, and from speaking with the children in attendance, they too seemed absolutely thrilled with Labo.
Upon arrival, we settled at tables where we waited for our supplies: pencils, ribbons, stickers and multicolored pipe cleaners. Representatives then distributed perforated cardboard sheets needed to build a remote-control car and fishing rod. While the first one fit on just a couple of sheets, I was surprised to see six boxes for the fishing rod. Clearly Nintendo Labo construction were far more involved than I originally thought!
For about an hour, I folded pieces of cardboard while following step-by-step instructions on the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen. The touch functionality of the console allows you to zoom in on the object you are constructing at every stage of the build. This enables you to see if you’re folding at the right angle, or rotate to ensure your building correctly. What’s also cool is you can fast-forward or rewind to skip or replay any of the instructions!
The concept behind Toy-Con creations is to punch out shapes from a cardboard sheet and shape into interactive toys. All of the constructions are fully compatible with the Nintendo Switch console. By inserting the tablet and Joy-Con Controllers into specific locations, your creation comes to life. Seeing the trailers fueled my curiosity, but building my own Labo Toy-Con proved to me its immense potential.
Cardboard sheets, a smart choice
All Nintendo Labo creations are built primarily using cardboard. At first glance, it seemed like a curious choice given how flimsy my perception of cardboard was. But as I learned during the session, with the right interlocking pieces and smart designs, cardboard is extremely durable.
To make constructing easier, all cardboard shapes have stiff fold lines, which you then bend into their proper shape. Since the shapes are perforated, they pop out of the cardboard sheet super quick too. I was thoroughly impressed with how straight-forward and easy the whole build process was.
Once your Toy-Con is created the fun doesn’t end there. The decorating supplies given to use could be used to colour, add stickers, or otherwise accessorize your toy. Looking around the room I could tell all the children were actively focused on customizing! I also noticed that some toys have extra pieces, some were spare pieces while others were decorative items. For example, the remote-controlled car had an elephant head-shaped piece, intended to add a fun touch if you so desire.
Nintendo Labo has fun games
Of course, after making my toys, I couldn’t wait to play with them! The remote-controlled car can be moved using touchscreen controls on the Nintendo Switch tablet. Amazingly enough, the car moves via minute vibrations from the Joy-Con Controllers. That’s really neat! They also showed us that you can use the Joy-Con’s IR camera to “see” from your car’s perspective. That was also extremely cool to see.
For the fishing rod, it has a complete line, rod, and reel to simulate real-life fishing. You have to physically cast the rod into the water, then reel in when a fish nibbles. The whole experience was very interactive and I was delighted to see smiles on all the children’s faces.
Following our building session we got to try some pre-built creations, include the piano, house, and motorcycle. With the piano, you can create your own musical compositions using cardboard keys. By slotting in cardboard keys you can even change the notes into cat meows, or imitate the sound of being under water.
The game that attracted the most attention though was the full bodysuit robot. It takes several hours to assemble the robot, I was told, and the results looked amazing. A box is worn on your back, which is connected to ropes that attach to your feet and hands. Then by taking steps on the spot or moving your arms, the robot on-screen moves. It certainly seemed much more elaborate than the Toy-Cons I created!
Program your Toy-Cons in the Workshop
The final demonstration at the event was an introduction to the Toy-Con Workshop. This lets you customize the actions of your Toy-Cons, or even combine the actions of two Toy-Cons together. During the presentation, we were shown how the handlebar of the motorbike could be used to control the remote-control car. Instead of using the Nintendo Switch touchscreen for movement, you could move the car by tilting cardboard handlebars. This was where I realized that Nintendo Labo has potential way beyond simply following the instructions set out by Nintendo.
Moreover, the Toy-Con Workshop lets you peak under the hood to see how your Toy-Cons work. With its focus on programming, engineering, and creativity skills, Nintendo Labo seem built for learning. Specifically, it teaches valuable STEM skills, sparking interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Nintendo Labo also encourages DIY projects, letting children explore creative ways to build and interact with their toys.
Nintendo Labo is great for families
It was easy to see during the event that Nintendo Labo is amazing for families with young children. Building, customizing, playing, and programming your Toy-Con creations were all very engaging. While the games I played are definitely targeted towards a younger audience, I still found them fascinating and want to play more. Kids at the event sure seemed to like decorating their Toy-Cons just as much as playing once the toys were finished!
Nintendo Labo will launch on April 20th and with two sets:
Toy-Con Variety Kit: includes the piano, fishing rod, two remote-control cars, motorcycle handlebars and the house.
Thanks to Nintendo of Canada for the invitation to the Nintendo Labo press event held in Toronto!