Nintendo Labo VR Kit Review
Nintendo surprised everyone this year, not only with more Labo but that it was going to be a VR set. It raised the question of how well could VR run with the Switch’s power, especially with the handheld screen’s resolution. Now we’re able to build the Labo goggles and all the other Toy Con builds, we can find out for ourselves.
To get it all started we need the VR Goggles. Besides the lens and faceplate, the rest is all cardboard. Initially, I was a little concerned that there wasn’t more of a barrier from the forehead and cardboard given how much VR, and headsets in general, can get sweaty and/or steamy. After a while with the headset, I can say I never found it a problem (unlike my PSVR to my frustration). Putting together the goggles and the safety cap is the quickest build. They’re made to be able to easily slot or dock into the other Toy Cons. But even at this early stage, you’ll quickly feel the discomfort there can be withholding these up to your head for too long.
In the VR Plaza, there are just over 60 mini-games to play outside of the more involved Toy Con games. Mini-games sums it up well too, they are small games or even just novelties to muck around with. Some are barely tech demos, whereas some have a bit more to it, but in the end, there’s little to keep you here long outside of the volume of mini-games. I imagine kids might have more fun mucking around with these games. There is also fun to be had for everyone else, even if it’s the one-off novelty of throwing stuff around in VR
The Elephant Toy Con is one of the parts of the set that looked like it had some great potential in regards to what it could do for Labo VR.
After some interesting use of rubber bands to hold this contraption together, to the point where I’m never entirely sure if the Toy Con will stay together if I move it too quickly. But as with all the other Labo builds, despite appearances, it’s sturdy short of intentional damage. Once you have the goggles attached and the Joy Cons placed in the trunk, a world of Marble running and Doodling lies before you. Both games work by holding the Switch by the handle in the Elephant face, moving around the Joy Con places in the trunk which can be moved around in 3D space.
In Marble Run the trunk is used as a grabber in an open space, needing to move pieces around to help guide a marble into a goal. It starts off simple, with one ring to meet your goal, then builds up to guiding the marble through several rings. There are enough levels to keep you entertained for some time, and you can even make your own levels.
Doodle gives you the tools to paint in a 3D space. This feature really sold me on the Labo VR, but it’s a shame that it isn’t that great to control. While you can move the cursor around in 3D space, it isn’t always the clearest to keep track of where it is when your art-ing gets more detailed. Overall, it’s a neat little 3D art app I never expected to show up on the Switch. If you have another person around there is also a 3D drawing guessing game you can spend some time with too.
The Camera Toy Con should be a perfect fit for the Labo VR experience. Without a head strap, the Camera is a great shape to hold the headset and move your view around. The games based around this build are the Ocean Camera and the House Camera. Of course, it is criminally missing a Pokémon Snap mode.
Ocean Camera has you underwater, taking snaps of the underwater denizens and trying to meet the objectives the mini-game gives you. An ocean dive exploring the depths through VR could be amazing. Through the lower-powered Labo VR it does alright, but with the right gear, it could be so much more.
The House Camera takes you back to the original Labo set the House Toy Con, only without having to build it. You’re also given objectives here for pictures to take. This usually involves the creature that lives in the house changing colours or doing a different action you’ve triggered through zooming the camera on points of interest. This replaces the exploration of the Ocean Camera with more of a puzzle feel. It’s a neat idea, but actually making things happen in the house is clunky and it feels like achieving the objectives is up to chance. The Ocean Camera still manages to show off the Camera Toy Con best.
The bird minigame places you on an island where you’re a robot bird responsible for feeding birds to add them to your flock, exploring and discovering more of the island. The gameplay is straightforward, it’s quite fun to guide your bird through the skies, free as a bird. There’s also the option to do races on the island. These are just checkpoint races which can be quite fun too.
However, the Bird Toy Con highlights the biggest issue the Labo VR has. It isn’t what’s in the kit or the software, it’s the one vital thing it’s missing once again, a head strap. Some Toy Cons mitigate this by having a handle, or everything is contained within the Toy Con itself like the camera. The Bird build manages to have the weight of the Switch/VR goggles and the actions required to make the Toy Con work to make it a mini game for short bursts. The motions to make the bird flap whilst holding the VR goggles is quite unwieldy, but then the flapping wings are meant to be part of the novelty if you can tolerate it long enough.
The Wind pedal can be combined with the Bird Build. When playing the bird mini-games it gives your bird propeller wings to give them an extra boost. This works great for the races around the bird island when you’re done exploring and feeding other birds.
There is also a separate mini-game called Hop Dodge that’s just for the wind pedal. In this game, you’re a frog who stands on the spot while enemies throw balls at you. Your goal is to jump over or on top of them by timing jumps with the wind pedal. The balls can be thrown from several directions that quickly wind up in you having to look around the area with the goggles so you know exactly what you’re dodging. It’s a pretty simple game like many in the collection, but it still has several levels to keep people busy.
The Blaster is the biggest VR Labo build, taking the longest to build. It also happens to have one of the more traditional minigames attached to it, and one of the silliest two player games. While every Toy Con has some kind of feedback, the blaster’s load and fire mechanisms had the most solid feedback. This helps to get a little more immersed in the the Blaster mini game. Blaster is a multi-stage shooter where each block of short stages takes you through city and construction site environments. After two stages you’ll have a boss battle against a giant mech.
Running about the place are aliens for you to shoot as you’re taking around on rails like a light gun shooter.
Pressing the trigger will put a target where you’re aiming. To have a shot to fire, you need to prime the pump on the blaster then press the trigger. When you have a target set then the shot will home in, otherwise you’re just firing where you’re aiming. Move the aiming laser (with joycon inserted) and you go into slow motion, where you can fire multiple shots at targets before you run out of time.
Kablasta is a two player pass and play mode. You’re trying to win over the most hippos in a game that has you firing fruit at them. It’s a neat little game to play with a friend and to get the most out of the blaster.
In short it’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild in a more uncomfortable format. You can play the whole game through the VR goggles, if you want to play this in the most hardcore of modes.
I’d call it a fun novelty, but with the limited view, it’s mostly unpleasant, especially when you have to play with the Joy-Con attached to the goggles and moving your head doesn’t improve the limited view..
Instead of just letting you play the exact same game you’ve already played, Mario VR gives you a brief experience that is a better novelty than the Zelda offering. You are grounded to the spot, looking around as you control Mario to pick up music notes around the area you can see. Once you collect all the notes, Mario is given an instrument to give to the musicians around the level. Find them all and you’re treated to Jump Up Superstar as Mario dances around. You can also view the opening and closing movies of the game through the goggles.
It will be interesting to see if they implement the Labo VR with other games outside of the Labo software. With the lack of support for the goggles, I just can’t see any of them being more than a brief novelty.
I could go into so much more. There’s the Toy Con Garage, the small extra Labo builds, and the Labo Plaza, but we’d be here all day. While I’ve gone over the different Toy Cons and games, I haven’t said much about how it all looks once you’re looking through those goggles. This is definitely low-end quality VR, but Nintendo still manages to make it workable. The visuals are fairly basic, whether this was to make it all work or to draw attention away from the low resolution and jagged edges. There’s still plenty of ol’ Nintendo charm even with some of the ‘VR demonstration’ mini-games still bringing a smile to your face. To be fair to the Labo VR kit, it was never meant to be some big graphical powerhouse VR showcase. For an entry-level introduction to this tech, it’s pretty great and gives several opportunities through the different builds to experience it in unique ways.
The Labo VR kit is a decent bit of hardware and software, but it is in no way comparable to the more pricey VR headsets. Labo VR provides a cheap(er) option ideal for younger audiences, while also being a neat entry point for everyone else to experience a virtual space. If I haven’t made it clear already, the lack of support with no head strap for the goggles is a real let down. The games don’t usually last long, but a game session shouldn’t end from feeling too uncomfortable. Although you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying it out, it still has the Labo charm that Nintendo has put in each collection.
- Great entry level VR introduction.
- Creative use of VR combined with the Toy Con builds.
- Still fun enough to build (if you still enjoy it).
- No form of head support/strap limits controls and gets tiring fast.
- Low resolution can be jarring at times.
- Not all the mini games are fun or even games.