Now that Nintendo has achieved a runaway success with their Switch console, there’s a little more flexibility to do what Nintendo do best: experiment.
Earlier in the year, Nintendo revealed its new brand of cardboard peripherals: Nintendo Labo.
Nintendo Labo are a series of construction toys aimed at a younger demographic. Players must build the peripherals (dubbed Toy-Cons) themselves from sheets of cardboard. The Switch’s two ‘joy-con’ controllers then slide inside the cardboard creations to make them react in various different ways.
There’s a lot of complex mechanics behind how each construction kit works, but early reviews have been exceedingly positive about the technical wizardry.
While the technology and construction aspects of Nintendo Labo have been shown in great detail, little has been revealed about the software itself until now. This focus on the physical toys has led some to believe that the game they support might be a lite experience.
However, all that changed last night when Nintendo revealed the games behind the toys. By the looks of things, there are some fairly deep gaming experiences to be enjoyed with the cardboard construction kits.
As the previous video explains, there will be two Labo kits at launch. These are dubbed ‘Toy-Con 01 Variety Kit’ and ‘Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit’. Both will go on sale on 20th April 2018. Each one includes the cardboard construction kits and the game itself.
Toy-Con 01 Variety Kit
The cheaper of the two kits actually looks like it has more on offer judging by the reveal video. This kit comes with five different cardboard kits to build, and five games to accompany them. It will cost $69.99 at launch.
The games included in this kit are RC Car, Fishing Rod, House, Motorbike, and Piano. We’ll go through each below.
Probably the simplest of the games in this collection. The RC car has players slide the joy-con controllers into the cardboard ‘car’. The rumble functionality of the controllers means they vibrate the ‘car’s legs allowing the player to drive the car left and right. The Switch’s touchscreen is how players control the car. There’s also a very low-resolution camera so players can see through the eyes of their vehicle.
In the video, Nintendo suggest players could customise this Toy-Con to take part in sumo-style battles.
With this game Nintendo revealed a deeper experience than many anticipated. The Toy-Con takes the form of a fishing rod (complete with a non-cardboard fishing line) and a box. The Switch screen is placed into the box vertically. The fishing line connects the fishing rod and the box. The screen displays a fishing line sinking into the ocean. When a fish bites the line, the player must turn the cardboard reel to catch the fish and bring it to the surface.
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Nintendo also revealed an aquarium mode where players can display the fish they’ve caught. There was also a sketchily detailed ability to create and customise one’s own fish.
Safe to say, this one looks like it could consume countless hours.
A kind of virtual pet simulator. Players build the Toy-Con house model and slide the Switch screen inside. The game sees a mysterious creature appearing in the house. Players can interact with the creature by plugging various different cardboard objects into the sides of the house. These include buttons, switches, connectors and more.
But there’s slightly more to it than that. The trailer also hinted that the House will form a kind of mini-game collection within a mini-game collection. Bowling, mine-carts, and other mini-games were featured in the trailer with the possibility of many more that haven’t been shown off.
Players create a set of cardboard motorcycle handlebars, plugging a joy-con into each side. Players can rev their engine, and lean the toy-con left and right to turn the motorbike on the screen. They can then take part in races against CPU characters through various tracks. So far, so Mario Kart Wii.
However, where it gets interesting is the customisation options. The game allows players use the joy-con’s IR cameras to scan physical objects and turn them into racetracks. They can also turn plug a joy-con into a miniature motorcycle model and drive it around an imaginary track to create that track in the game. Players can customise their tracks and recreate them with various weather conditions and power-ups placed along the way.
All this is particularly significant, because it’s easy to see how Nintendo could build this customisation tool into an upcoming Mario Kart game. It’s a feature that fans of the series have been clamouring for for many years and applied to one of Nintendo’s most successful series, it seems like a guaranteed money-maker.
The final toy-con in the variety pack works through some insane technical things which we won’t bother to explain here. However, it is, in essence, a cardboard piano. Players can plug in various buttons to change the type of sounds that the piano makes. These include rhythmically wailing grandpas, cats, and choirs.
There’s also the recording studio mode. Here, players customise the sounds their pianos make. They can also cut their own waveforms out of any pieces of cardboard to create custom sounds. Finally, the toy-con comes with various ‘rhythm card’ which can be slotted into the top of the piano, allowing it to play itself while gamers conduct the song with a baton attached to the joy-con.
The trailer for the Variety Kit is below:
Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit
Unlike the Variety Kit, the Robot Kit only comes with one game. However, it is much more involved than any of the experiences in the Variety Kit. There are also a lot more non-cardboard parts in this kit.
So, firstly, the construction kit itself. The main part of it all is a kind of cardboard backpack that houses various reels. These reels connect to the player’s hands and feet via pieces of cardboard attached to elastic bands.
There is also a visor which the player wears around their head. Once again, this is held in place with a soft elasticated band.
One joy-con fits into the backpack, the other fits into the visor.
Now onto the game itself. Robot Kit sees players in the shoes of a giant robot whose only real mission is to beat stuff up and destroy a city. By stomping their feet, players can make the robot walk, leaning left and right to turn. The player can swing their arms to punch whatever is in front of them.
Putting the visor over the player’s face makes the robot enter first-person mode.
There are also various actions which can yield unexpected results. Crouching transforms the robot into a tank which can fire laser beams, holding one’s hands by one’s sides makes the robot fly.
The full trailer is below:
Safe to say, Nintendo has clearly put a lot more care into these games than some of their detractors had anticipated. If they keep sharing these kinds of top quality experiences, Nintendo Labo could definitely spark the next phase of the toys-to-life craze.