A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nintendo Labo Toy-Con VR Kit is the fourth installment in the cardboard/toy franchise that’s exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. Players will use pre-made sheets of cardboard and digital instructions to build a range of controllers, such as a camera, pedal, and a blaster pistol. All of these are used with the included VR(virtual reality) goggles that are constructed, which allows the Switch console to project movies and games in a VR mode. This is the first Labo Kit that has been broken up into separate experiences, so players that aren’t too sure about the VR play can purchase a starter kit and add on extra controllers as they want, or purchase the full kit and get everything in one pack. The controllers are responsive and the games are somewhat easy to play, although some coordination can be slightly complicated with some projects, like the Elephant device. Also, because there’s no headstrap for the visor, holding the cardboard and Switch tablet can start to feel a bit heavy and awkward after a while, especially for younger players. There’s no inappropriate content in the game, and while you can smash cars with mallets, shoot UFOs or aliens, and other combat in mini-games, there’s no blood or gore, and targets blow up in puffs of smoke.
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What's it about?
The NINTENDO LABO TOY-CON VR KIT is the latest installment of Nintendo’s toy/mini-game collection/programming studio for the Nintendo Switch. While the previous kits in the franchise explored a set of vehicles, as well as well as toys and robots, this kit takes players farther into the virtual world than before. The base of the kit is a VR (virtual reality) Goggle headset with lenses which are then inserted into a variety of cardboard peripherals along with the Joy-Con controllers; in the full kit, there’s a camera, an elephant, a wind pedal, bird, and blaster waiting to be created, as well as a snorkel and pinwheel add-on items. Each one lets you play with two separate game experiences, such as photographing fish, flying around an island as a bird, or blasting aliens with a powerful gun. Players can also head into what’s called the VR Plaza, which is a collection of more than 60 mini-games that show off how flexible the kit and Labo hardware is. Of course, like the previous Labo games, you can program your own games or enhance the experiences of the games in the VR Plaza thanks to its suite of programming commands.
Is it any good?
The newest VR kit for young gamers proves that you don’t need to have a super-powered PC or headset to have an engaging virtual experience. Like the other Labo kits, the strength of the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con VR Kit is grounded in the peripherals that you construct from sheets of cardboard. The key one is the VR goggle headset, which is quick to fold together and has a surprisingly good set of lenses to reproduce VR effects. This is vital, because unlike the other Labo kits, you can’t dock the Switch and experience the VR on a TV; you have to use the goggles in the headset to explore this environment. Compared to other low powered VR headsets (like the swarm of Google Cardboard knockoffs that hit the market a few years ago), these lenses powerfully amplify the content from the Switch well. There are moments where the depth can feel a bit off when you’re trying to focus on objects on the edges of your vision, especially if you’re sitting down, but for the most part, it’s impressive. This is reinforced by the peripherals, which maintain Labo’s legacy of solidly built controllers that can withstand a lot of play for multiple hours without feeling like they’re going to fall apart. The blaster is a particular standout because cocking the gun and firing it with one button press feels better than some devices that are more expensive on other systems.
Like the other Labo kits, the main play experience tries to highlight the strengths of each controller. Most of the games are quite good, such as the camera "games" where you photograph fish or aliens -- the zooming in and out has a great tactile feel thanks to a click wheel embedded in the device. What’s also great about the VR Kit is that when you get tired of these games, you can check out the VR Plaza that has more than 60 mini-games that show off what the peripherals can do as well. Players that have a creative side can dive into the included VR Garage and either edit these games or make your own. That helps to really extend the life of this VR pack farther than the first two Labo packs. If there's a negative, it’s that there’s no strap to help players, particularly younger ones, hold the device. If you have a young kid with small hands, trying to hold the goggles or a peripheral with the Switch inserted for a long time can be tiring for them. While it might be possible to modify your Labo to include straps, this is one of those things that Nintendo really missed on. Fortunately, the game does try to remind you to take breaks frequently so you don’t get too tired, but it’s something to pay attention to for little gamers. This issue aside, if you’ve been on the fence about VR gaming, you may want to give the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con VR Kit a try -- it may turn you into both a Labo and a VR fan.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Cardboard models in the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con VR 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? Do you think it’s wise for the software to recommend taking breaks when playing the games or viewing content in VR?
After playing with the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con VR Kit, are you more interested in building devices or programming? Did the game make these processes seem more accessible and easy to get into?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions, reading, reading comprehension
Hobbies: building, sports
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, problem solving, solving puzzles, spatial reasoning
Creativity: brainstorming, combining knowledge, imagination, innovation, making new creations, producing new content
Tech Skills: coding, using and applying technology
- Price: $79.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Full kit is $79.99. Parents can also purchase a starter kit for $39.99 and get expansion kits for $19.99.)
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: April 12, 2019
- Genre: Mini-games
- Topics: STEM, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: E for Comic Mischief
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