Less than a month ago, Nintendo once again proved themselves to be a company determined to innovate. Rather than follow the path of competing with Sony and Microsoft on the virtual reality or 4K front, Nintendo did something so wonderfully weird, so ‘out there’, and so, well Nintendo, that none of us saw it coming. They announced Nintendo Labo, and with 3 words: ‘Make. Play. Discover.’ and a few pieces of cardboard they showed the world that there’s “A new way to play’.
The basic concept is this: buy a Nintendo Labo Kit – in it find a bunch of cardboard pieces with pre-perforated designs and a Nintendo Switch Game Card; slide the game card into your Switch, and get a step-by-step guide on how to build various creations – Toy-Cons – using only the provided cardboard and a few other bits and bobs. Once built, slide your Joy-cons and Switch into your creation, and now you have a new, completely interactive game to play on your Switch. Sounds pretty fantastic, right? Well, despite initial positive reactions, soon the joy-killer that is the internet began to question the whole Labo concept:
“Nintendo is asking us to pay how much for cardboard?! Plus, why would I pay so much to play what will essentially be bad Mario Party mini-game ports…” Sad face emoticon, angry face emoticon, angry fire face emoticon…” You get the idea.
Firstly, it was clear that most commenters failed to see that this new Nintendo venture was aimed not at hardcore gamers, but at kids and those “young at heart”. Yet, worries about pricing and quality of games had some substance. Thankfully, today Nintendo put at least one of those concerns, quite honestly, to bed. Three videos revealing an in-depth look at Labo as a whole, as well as providing new information about the Toy-Con Garage and details about the two Toy-Con Kits that will be available at launch, were released. We included these videos below, but basically the great news is this:
Building the Toy-cons looks like it is going to be a lot of fun. Plus, no-glue, or tape needed, means moms and dads are going to love doing these projects with their small kids. The addition of the step-by-step instructions available on your Switch screen seems like a great and intuitive way to build.
Great news here – the games that are shown in the videos, seem much more fully-fledged than many were fearing. The game with the Toy-Con house, seems to be some kind of pet simulator (Tamagotchi, anyone?). The fishing game seems to be multi-layered and includes the ability for young (read young-at-heart) ones to design and catch their own fish. The bike game seems to be something out of Mario Kart. The Piano game includes the ability to record your own music, and the Robot Kit seems like the closest thing to a real-life Transformer game than any kid will have played before.
Probably one of the most exciting features is that kids will be able to look ‘inside’ their creations. Learn how the ‘technology’ works. Ignite the programming and engineering flames that many small kids seem to have snuffed out these days. Relatedly, the videos also introduce Toy-Con Garage. Here, kids will be able to come up with their own ideas for Toy-Cons. Not only the ‘cutting out cardboard into their unique creations and painting them accordingly’, but also using the basic programming skills they have learned, they will be able make these creations come to life!
After seeing all the videos, and learning about the fantastic creativity Nintendo has thrown behind this new concept, and then being pleasantly surprised and the level of depth some these games will offer, most of my concerns are out the window. In South Africa Labo will launch on the 27th of April with two kits: the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit. Yes, it may be a bit pricey (Nintendo Labo Variety Kit R929, Nintendo Labo Robot Kit R1099 and Nintendo Labo Customisation Set R189), but consider that you are getting software, a whole bunch of cardboard (hardware?) and… well… apparently, a magical little push into the world of imagination and technological innovation. And for that, I think it’s worth it. This is Nintendo’s version of a Lego set in the digital age. It’ll be fun, but more importantly, it will teach kids to be creative, and who knows maybe mould some future engineers and programmers. In the past, if a mom or dad had to ask me what console they should be getting their kids, I would have probably told them to get a Switch. And that’s when the Switch just had games like Odyssey and Mario Kart which are great for more hardcore gamers and for newbies alike. But, now that Labo has come along, I don’t know why parents would get their kids anything else. Heck, I’m not a kid and I want Labo. And you know what? It’s kind of great that something can just be fun and creative again. We could all do with a little more fun and creativity these days; we could all be a little more young at heart.
What do you think, will Labo be worth the money? Will you be getting it for your kids? Watch the videos, then let us know in the comments section below.