Love it or hate it, the cardboard constructs are sticking around for a while longer. When Labo was first announced, we all scratched our heads. Nonetheless, it was Nintendo being Nintendo thinking outside of the (cardboard) box. Now the house that Mario built decided to use this platform to spearhead virtual reality. VR has been something of a trend. The technology is still in the midst of semi-popularity, but it’s not quite known yet whether it will be a passing fad or gimmick like 3D gaming was or if it will stick around for the long haul. Regardless, Switch owners now have access to VR. But does it delight?
For starters, it’s crucial that you properly set your expectations. Nintendo’s VR offering is a cardboard construct. Do you really think it will have the juice or depth of other VR options on PS4 or PC? The quick answer? No. If you haven’t noticed from the marketing material already, users will have to hold the VR set on their faces. There is no strap keeping the set in place and readying you for a deep-dive experience. That’s because there are no deep-dive experiences. This is about simple, short bursts of VR gaming with a variety of minigame-type experiences.
After sliding the cartridge into your Nintendo Switch, you will be able to follow the instructions in making your Labo VR. The instructions for all of the other VR Toy-Con builds are included. For the purpose of this review, we received the starter set, which came with the VR goggles and the blaster.
Word of warning: If you haven’t engaged in Labo building before (like me), know that just putting together the headset and the blaster will take you a full afternoon. While Labo was largely geared toward a younger audience, I get the sense that some folks more in line with my own age bracket might be inclined to pick it up — especially after that Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild tease Nintendo threw at us a few days ago. So, just know the time commitment you’re in for and plan accordingly. Building the kit is relatively easy. The instructions are very straightforward and easy to follow.
A virtual arcade
Once you have your VR goggles, you can start playing. As expected, the resolution is not great. But it almost doesn’t matter so much since all of the games are bright and simple in design — you know, the standard cartoony Nintendo fare.
The VR Plaza portion of the Labo VR program is where you can play several bite-sized minigames. While that description might seem redundant, it was intentional. These are not only minigames, but they’re very small, basic ones at that. I don’t even know that I can consider some of them games. They are more about taking the VR for a test run. You’ll find things such as taking control of a UFO shooting blocks, shooting a basketball into a hoop, or just running around as a blocky character jumping or smashing things. The minigames in VR Plaza get a little better when you build the blaster and unlock games using that Toy-Con. Regardless, the very basic nature of these games ensures that I’ll likely never go back and play them again. Experiencing them once was enough.
These aren’t the only activities that can be done with Labo VR, however. There are a handful of apps within the “game” that allow for players to explore their artistic creativity and even simply view videos captured in VR. As you dive further into the games and other apps, more activities are unlocked. So, there might be some incentive to keep coming back for a little while.
The Toy-Con Blaster is a fun build, and it blows my mind that Nintendo designed something so cool simply out of cardboard. The tedious and lengthy nature of building the construct, however, weighed on me. I am a man of little patience, but some simply might enjoy this aspect of Labo more than others. Although, I must admire the ingenuity that goes into designing something this intricate out of cardboard — and a few rubber bands and plastic fasteners.
Using the Blaster was … well, a blast. There are a couple games (aside from the Blaster-required minigames in VR Plaza) that players have access to out the gate. One game places you on rails as you’re blasting away little goofy aliens that probably came straight out of an animated DreamWorks movie. Players can cruise down multiple metropolitan areas enjoying the cartoonish mayhem.
The other game can be played with two people. Players are trying to attract as many hippos to the circle of the swimming pool as possible. Use the Blaster as a vacuum in reverse to suck up the fruit you want, and then shoot it in the mouth of a hippo. Whether you miss or succeed, it’s then the second player’s turn and you must pass the Blaster over to them. Once they take their shot, you rinse and repeat.
Is it worth it?
These games are silly and fun. However, before you know it, your arms are getting tired. And then the fun stops. While some may have lamented the idea that Labo VR users would have to hold the goggles to their face, it seems to be what Nintendo intended. While your arms might tire, you’ve probably completed several rounds of games at that point in a short span. And it seems that I wasn’t even getting but a handful of games in before the completely “Nintendo” suggestion of taking a break popped on the screen.
These type of game offerings make sense for what this VR set is. What completely boggles my mind, however, is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — a deep open-world game — will be fully playable in VR later this month. I have to ask — how? That’s the kind of game meant to be played for hours on end. People are going to have to lay on a bed to play, and even then they won’t have the ability to really turn their head to look around and have the free-moving feeling of VR. I just don’t see how this will possibly be an enjoyable experience.
In the end, it’s important to look at Labo VR for what it is. It’s not comparable to the other VR sets on the market. The resolution is lackluster, and it’s made out of cardboard! And if you understand that you’re purchasing this set for the fun of building the goggles and Toy-Con constructs and playing short minigame-type experiences, then it’s much easier to decide if it is worth the price of admission. The base set that includes the goggles and blaster is $39.99 USD. Simply put, if you’re looking for depth and immersion in your VR experiences, it might be best to look elsewhere. But if you simply want to experience VR on a basic level for a relatively low price point, Labo VR would make a great fit.