Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Vehicle Kit

Game review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Vehicle Kit Game Poster Image
Creative vehicle kit adds large new world to explore.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids learn about making simple or complex devices by following instructions, discovering how to use their imagination to create tools out of everyday objects. While main component of Labo relies on building controllers out of cardboard models, the Garage and Discovery mode lets players learn how to use infrared technology from the Nintendo Switch controllers. Thanks to the programming building blocks, players can take cardboard, sponges, or other objects and turn them into interactive controllers as well, which could raise a player's interest in programming, engineering, or other STEM pursuits.

Positive Messages

Make feature and gameplay promote creativity and imagination as players build controllers. Game promotes customization of tools in Design mode for physical cardboard devices, along with inclusion of "spray can" attachment to modify look of in-game vehicles.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Game constantly encourages breaks during building of each kit, while giving positive reinforcement in comments on a regular basis. Few characters included in game also cheer players on to learn how to program devices, how to use each controller, how to customize them.

Ease of Play

Thanks to easy-to-follow instructions, creating cardboard models from pre-made sheets is simple. Slot cars and driving games are easy to play; Adventure mode will take some hand-eye coordination, as well as practice with the three control modes (car, jet, submarine) to successfully accomplish tasks.

Violence & Scariness

Players can bump into each other or computer racers while driving their cars in racing mini-games, but no damage is done; cars reset themselves on the track if they drive off the road. Adventure mode gives players bombs, missiles that can be fired at balloons or objects, but no blood's shown and objects disappear in a puff of smoke.

Language
Consumerism

Third kit in the Labo series, which has similar cardboard devices and mini-games. With exception of being able to import tracks created from Variety Kit, kits don't interact with each other. But players may be interested in seeing what the other packs are like after playing with this one.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Vehicle Kit is the third installment in the hybrid game/cardboard toy franchise exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. With pre-made sheets of cardboard, players will build a steering wheel, flight joystick, and submarine controls by following step-by-step instructions provided by in-game videos. Players are encouraged to customize their in-game vehicles with the addition of a cardboard "spray can," which allows players to produce paint jobs and decals on their machines. Thanks to the suite of programming commands, players can also learn to make simple or complex devices and toys, which could also foster an interest in computers and engineering. Cars in the Slot Car and Circuit mode can run each other off tracks by colliding together, but no damage is shown and cars quickly reappear on the road. In the Adventure mode, players can fire missiles and launch bombs, but only smoke and flashes of light are shown when these connect with targets. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content to be found.

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What's it about?

The NINTENDO LABO TOY-CON VEHICLE KIT is the third collection of mini-games and buildable activities featuring Nintendo's customized set of cardboard and digital games. You don't need to own the previous two kits to use this one, but this time around, Labo's leaving the robots and variety items in the dust in favor of transportation. After carefully following a series of step-by-step instructions, players will make a steering wheel, flight joystick, and submarine tower. These are unified by a cardboard "key" that holds the right Joy-Con controller (this tells the system which "machine" it's controlling at any time) and a gas pedal holding the left Joy-Con controller to make them go. Players can access a few mini-games this time around: the Circuit racing and Slot Car mini-games share racing tracks, and can pull designed tracks from the Labo Variety Kit if you have them saved on your Switch. There's even a battle arena where your cars can fight it out bumper car style against each other, and a Rally mode where you drive through colored gates to get the best time. There's also an Adventure mode, where players are tasked with accomplishing more than 80 tasks across 10 separate, distinct regions. Here, players will need to dive, drive, and fly across the various environments to complete the goals scattered across the land. Outside of this, the Toy-Con Garage mode returns to help players learn to build and design additional toy devices thanks to its set of programming commands.

Is it any good?

The third installment of Nintendo's cardboard toy/mini-game collection puts players firmly in the driver's seat and gives them a large digital world to explore. The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Vehicle Kit builds on the strengths of the Variety and Robot Kits with their excellent step-by-step tutorials to help you construct controllers. It also brings along the great Toy-Con Garage, which gives hints on everything from how to play some games to decorating their controllers to programming new cardboard toys. But the previous kits were easily dinged for having mini-games that quickly became stale, along with controllers that didn't really interact with each other once built. This time around, the true standout is the Adventure mode, which uses every controller to fully explore a virtual world. You're dropped into one of 10 separate regions, each with a set of goals to accomplish, like escorting escaped cows back to their corral, blasting UFOs or balloons out of the sky, or freeing trapped creatures underwater. But you won't be able to complete each task in one machine; fortunately, by pulling the cardboard "key" out of one controller and slapping it into another, your vehicle seamlessly transforms from an off-road vehicle to a jet to a submarine. 

This quick transition makes exploration very appealing, and you'll go hunting through each region looking for reasons to swap between each controller. On the other hand, the transitions between controllers highlight some issues for the kit. For one thing, the controllers are more complex, and test the hand-eye coordination of gamers more. That's especially true when it comes to balancing the easier controls of the off-road car and the more complex underwater turbines of the sub. What's more, the constant swapping really means that you need to play this game with the Switch comfortably docked and connected to a TV. There's only one screen stand attached to the top of the steering wheel, but it's very awkward to watch that small screen, especially if you need to switch over to the sub. It's worse if you have the controllers in your lap -- just spare yourself the frustration and dock the system. But these minor issues aside, the Vehicle Kit manages to bring a new, expansive world to Nintendo's cardboard creation franchise. Players interested in programming, creativity, or machines won't go wrong with this one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Some cardboard models in the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Vehicle Kit can take a while to complete, so should you take breaks between steps, as the software recommends? Is there a reason that you would ignore breaks when building the kits?

  • After playing with the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Vehicle Kit, are you more interested in building devices or programming? Did the game make these processes seem more accessible and easy to get into?

Game details

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