Being skeptical is a natural thing that we humans do. The feeling comes from being unsure of what we’re getting into and whether investing our time into something is worth the investment. Case in point: Virtual Boy – one of the blemishes on Nintendo’s otherwise wonderful series of consoles available throughout the years. As it were, Nintendo is now once again ready to dive back into the world of VR and at the right time. Is this the next step we all thought Nintendo would take? No, but then again, Nintendo is known for defying expectations.
Let’s Dive In
We received the Starter Kit + Blaster for review. Like the other Nintendo Labo Kits, we’ve received in the past, each comes in a colourful box. Upon opening the box, you’re greeted with this image below. From the start, you never have to worry whether you’re creating each piece incorrectly because once you insert the game card in the Switch, creating your VR headset is impeccably easy! Most of all, the entire process is extremely satisfying from start to finish for two or more people.
Granted, this is also a fun way to spend the afternoon if you’re buying this for yourself but with a friend or family member, building your set is as much fun! Unlike the much large Labo Vehicle Kit, which took the longest to assemble, we finished the goggles within an hour.
To use the VR Goggles, the Switch console is inserted into the cardboard sleeve you’ve previously built and contains two wide lenses. This is the main VR unit that all the other games use as a base, and other games simply use the goggles as is for their games. What excites me about Labo is how these kits intuitively use the console’s built-in sensors in interesting ways. A double-tap while looking into the lenses serves as a calibration, for example, and the way the blaster uses the cardboard to reload.
Hold Your Head High
Another thing to note is that the goggles do not come with a head strap. This is done presumably so that young children aren’t tied to the goggles and if they get nauseous, can simply move the headset away from their eyes. Curiously, I wonder how the inclusion of VR modes for both Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild work. Not having a head strap for a game like Breath of the Wild may end up being a nuisance but we won’t know until the end of the month.
The Toy-Con Blaster is a blast. Essentially this is a bazooka and you hold the grip like a gun, and a pump-action barrel held by a sturdy rubber band. Games associated with this Toy-Con included several on-rails games including one where aliens invade Earth – leaving you and your blaster on a mission. It’s a neat little game offering a modicum of enjoyment. My other favourite game involved using the blaster to shoot fruit at hungry hippos. Most games cater to children so don’t go expecting anything deep, but that’s okay because this is an entry point into VR.
Thankfully, the Starter Kit offers more than a few games to start your first adventure into VR. There are 64 minigames available from the start and more interestingly, is the inclusion of the Toy-Con Garage VR. The games themselves are simple but fun and serve well enough as an entry point into the VR landscape for young children. However, once you’ve played them once, the magic wears off. Nintendo went a step above and included a programming tool so you can make your own bite-sized VR games and experiences. Labo developed included blueprints in the Garage on how each game was made so you can use those as starting points for your own experiences.
My biggest concerns were whether the screen on the Switch was too low a resolution for VR and whether Labo is the right pilot for the technology. I’m happy that after spending a week with the VR headset and a handful of games left me impressed and my concerns unfounded. Nintendo Labo VR left me impressed. I can’t wait for the future implementations into existing first-party titles on the Nintendo Switch. This is an affordable stepping stone into the world of VR for your child and offers a fair amount of content for starters.
Hands down, this is the best Labo kit available. The designs are fun and engaging, full of creativity and the technology powering Labo sparks a ton of debate on what the Nintendo Switch is capable of. Granted, we won’t see anything like on the level of the of Oculus or the Vive or PSVR. My skepticism turned into optimism for the future of Labo VR and VR in general on the Switch.
Nintendo Labo is available on April 12 as both a Starter Kit + Blaster for $49.99 or the complete VR Kit for $99.99 in Canada.
[A review unit was provided by the publisher for review purposes]