So when Nintendo announced that the company would be entering the VR industry I won’t lie, I was a little sceptical. The hardware is fantastic but how far could you stretch that little screen with a box to cater for a whole new genre of gaming? Well, Nintendo pulled it off. By implementing the VR experience with its create-your-own-object merchandise, Nintendo Labo, the company has successfully released VR and it is hella fun.
Creating the VR headset was like any other Nintendo Labo object. You purchase a starter kit which includes the Labo Blaster Toy-Con and the Nintendo Switch VR goggles. You can also purchase the Nintendo Labo VR Variety kit that has a range of Toy-Cons and the VR goggles. You then insert the software cartridge into the Switch and the instruction-based experience begins. The Labo creation mode has one of the best visual guides I have ever seen and the VR kit followed in line with past creations. The guide explains in detail everything you need to do and every step you need to take to create the perfect Labo Toy-Con.
As it was the VR kit, the first thing you do is create the goggles. You pop the cardboard out, fold along some lines and slide the included lens goggles into the slots. After about 45 minutes, I had a Nintendo Switch VR headset with a console slot for me to slide the display behind the lens to create the VR experience. The kit also included the VR blaster, a first-person shooting game that could be played after creating the Blaster Labo Toy-Con, more on that later.
My issue with past Labo games was the lack of variety. You spend an hour or so building your creation and within an hour of playing the game tailored for the object, you are over it. The Nintendo Labo VR Kit is a little different. Instead of packing a load of VR creations into one box, you build one main Toy-Con and the VR goggles which are the main push for the Nintendo Switch VR. Once the goggles are done you don’t even need to build the Toy-Con as the Labo VR software, included in the box, comes with games which you can test out and the variety is anything but lacking.
The software has well over 60 mini-games in the VR Plaza to experience and they are all quite entertaining. They sort of feel like “technical tests” in the way the 1-2 Switch! game was designed to show off the power and smaller intricate details of the Nintendo Switch. One thing you will notice is the games lack the shine that you would have experienced on the PS VR or VR on PC. The Nintendo Switch is simply not as powerful of a console to output two camera angles and handles all the operations at the same time. Regardless, the games still have that magical Nintendo touch to them.
The VR Plaza games are cute mini-games. Tossing a basketball into a hoop, playing golf or just throwing objects around a makeshift kitchen. There are a few jewels here and while they all kind of blend together after a while, they could also keep the kids entertained for a good few hours.
The kit I got also included the Labo Blaster Toy-Con which is a more hardcore object. It takes around two hours to make and once done you will have your very own blaster gun that locks, gives kickback when you shoot and reloads. It is technical marvel in cardboard creation and truly one of the most entertaining Toy-Cons I have experienced yet. The creation process follows the traditional Labo tutorial of you popping cardboard out, folding it, looping elastic bands around things and combining it all together.
Once done, I got to play the game and this is where the fun is had. The VR Labo headset slides into the blaster and you hold the entire gun to your face. You slide the Joy-Cons into the slots around the blaster, one into the front and one into the visor and you are good to go. The game contains a range of rail-like missions where you travel from one point of the map to the end while shooting and reloading this blaster. You have one hand on the trigger and the other on the reloader and as your fire, you pull back the barrel and it delivers a click telling you it is ready to shoot. Firing the gun then gives you a satisfying kickback feeling and a loud bang as if you were shooting clay pigeons.
In the game, the gun will then fire round ammunition that you need to use to clear the mission of aliens. There is then a boss fight or two and the entire experience is quite a joyride. It was giving me 90s arcade “House of the Dead” vibes and the build time it took to create the Toy-Con was well worth it.
The accuracy was a little off as clearly the Joy-Cons cannot provide the precision that say the PlayStation Move controllers can but it works considering that we are making use of everything we already have and cardboard to bring this VR experience to life. The lack of polish was seen in some of the VR Plaza games where the games just felt buggy and unresponsive.
Then again, everything surrounding the Labo VR experience is meant to be done in short bursts. The VR Plaza games and even the Blaster Toy-Con is clearly there as something you play every now and then. Even the fact that the VR headset, and all the Toy-Cons you slide the headset into, do not strap to your head means that you have to hold them up all the time so it gets tiring after a while. So experiencing them is better done in a pick-up-and-play manner.
In terms of motion sickness, I suffer quite badly from it and I have yet to feel ill from using Labo VR. This is a great sign as it means kids could also enjoy more of this without worrying about feeling dizzy or sick.
I loved the fact that the entire experience was so approachable and everyone will find some joy in the VR side of the accessories – especially kids. The Toy-Cons are fun and creative and the games are simple enough to give a gameplay session enough spark that the youngsters will keep coming back for more. Sure, it is not anything close to the PlayStation VR but then again, this is an entirely new experience built for something so different that it sets its out goals and successfully achieves them.
The Nintendo Labo VR kits are now available in SA starting at R699 for the Blaster Toy-Con and VR Headset bundle. You can also purchase the Variety Pack for R1399 which includes other Toy-Cons like a camera, a bird and more. Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend Zelda: Breath of the Wild will also be getting Labo VR support on 25 April. I will be sure to share more then.