A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
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. The VR version also provides tools to make your own VR game experiences, which could raise a player's interest in programming, engineering, or other STEM pursuits.
The Make feature promotes creativity and imagination as players build controllers. The Game mode promotes exploration of virtual games and exploring the entire game to unlock additional items in the game and the Design mode. The Design mode promotes understanding more about each each Labo device, as well as how VR works with your hardware.
Positive Role Models
The game constantly encourages breaks during building of each kit, to make sure that players and their eyes get a rest from the VR goggles. The game also provides positive reinforcement by in-game comments on a regular basis. A few characters included in the game also cheer players on in learning 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. Games are relatively easy to play, although some of the coordination with some of the controllers, particularly the Elephant controller, can be a bit complicated. The weight of the visor, controllers, and Switch can get a bit heavy with prolonged use, especially since there’s no head strap here.
Violence & Scariness
Players can smash cars with hammers, shoot balls at targets, or blast aliens in various mini-games. Targets blow up in puffs of smoke without blood or gore.
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Products & Purchases
This is the fourth kit in the Labo series, although you don’t need to have any experience with the other kits to try this one. Interestingly, this is the first Labo kit where users can purchase a basic starter kit with the visor and one project, or the full kit with six projects and two extra buildable items. Some of Nintendo’s first party games will be updated with new VR compatible content to take advantage of the VR headset.
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.
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.
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