Nintendo continues to surprise the gaming world with its dive into low-tech gadgetry. The recently revealed Nintendo Labo is a custom designed piece of cardboard that can be assembled in various ways and interact with the Switch console.
In Japanese, the word “Labo” (more commonly represented as “ラボ” in katakana script) is an abbreviation for laboratory. And indeed, the Labo is being marketed as a DIY creation kit. It encourages users to experiment and invent works of art called ‘Toy-Cons creations”, which can be customised with colour, paint and stickers. The intended audience is obviously young children, but that’s not to say there aren’t any adults who won’t enjoy building a masterpiece of their own. Older lego enthusiasts are a case in point.
Like Google Cardboard, which is essentially a cheap cardboard theatre for virtual reality, the Labo does come with its own software, including user-friendly, animated instruction videos that help you press and fold your toy to perfection. Where Cardboard let users indulge in passive cinematic experiences, Labo turns viewers into players by giving them agency. There’s interactivity with the Joy-Cons, but the playstyle is more akin to mixed or augmented reality rather than pure VR. A bit like Pokémon Go. I like how gentle hints of origami express themselves in the cardboard assembly too, but oh boy is this thing going to cost you.
Nintendo will release two Toy-Con starter kits simultaneously on April 20. The Variety Kit will retail for $69.99 USD MSRP while the Robot Kit comes in at a slightly more expensive $79.99 USD MSRP.