If you’re a long-time reader of the site, you’ll probably know that we’ve spent a decent chunk of time talking about Labo VR already when we got a chance to have a go with it at Nintendo UK’s headquarters. But now we actually own the blooming thing and have spent more time than we’d deem healthy having a good old rummage with it, so what are our thoughts and feelings about all this new cardboard gubbins now?
Building-wise, it’s still Labo. There’s nothing extraordinarily different about it compared to any of the other kits, the instructions are as clear as ever, and all in all, there’s nothing to really say about it that hasn’t already been said numerous times about other kits – so let’s just move on to the games, shall we?
This kit comes with the VR goggles, four main Toy-Con, and a couple of other little twiddly bits to go with them. Unsurprisingly, the VR goggles are the undeniable star of the show, and the gateway you’ll need for all the Toy-Con to be even remotely useable. However, if you like the look of the games but you’re not able to enjoy VR properly for whatever reason, you might have more luck with the included holder designed to replace the goggles. This simply holds the Switch in place and is a really nice touch for anyone who is unable to (or just doesn’t want to) use VR.
For the most part, the games are similar to what we’ve seen with previous kits; they’re fun and entertaining to begin with, but lack longevity or sense of replayability. The Toy-Con Camera, for example, has you simply taking pictures inside the Toy-Con House from the Variety Kit, or the underwater depths also found in the same kit. 90% of the assets are recycled, and whilst it’s fun, it’s a bit underwhelming.
The Elephant comes with both a game and an art studio. The game tasks you with guiding a ball through a simple Rube Goldberg-style mechanism to an end goal, grabbing and holding different rails, tubes, and other shapes in order to do so. It’s good fun, but we found ourselves wanting to analyse the contraption from other angles, and move our bodies physically closer so we could see things more clearly, but as you’re rooted to the spot, this isn’t possible. The same goes twofold for the art studio, which allows you to create objects in 3D space, but again allows no movement of yourself in this world, meaning your artwork may look good from the front, but bizarre from another angle due to your inability to be able to manoeuvre around it. It’s a shame, as there’s a great deal of potential here, but it falls just short of what we’d like.
However the same absolutely cannot be said for the Toy-Con Blaster games. The Blaster is absolutely the best time we’ve had with any of the VR Toy-Con, and even though it was the one we’d spent all our time with at the preview session, it still kept us coming back more than all the others combined. The slow movement of your character in the on-rails shooter game is just enough to keep the pace strong, but without being too unforgiving and giving you motion sickness, and the draw of high scores kept us invested for a long time.
The same goes for the multiplayer Blaster game, Kablasta. This pits you against another player to encourage Hippos into your section of the pond by blasting fruit into their mouths (of course), and employs surprisingly deep tactics that aren’t immediately apparent when you first jump in. As fun as it is, it does, however, raise an issue with the communal focus of the VR Kit.
The game encourages multiple people to get in on the action as much as possible, but due to the closed-off nature of VR in general and the lack of the ability to display what you’re seeing onto the TV, anyone who’s not playing the game feels disappointedly cut off. This is most noticeable when a Toy-Con has been first built, and naturally, you’re going to want to play with it straight away. If you’ve built it with someone else then one of you is going to be sat there twiddling your thumbs not only waiting for your go, but hearing the other person having a blast whilst simultaneously having no idea what they can see. There’s no simple solution to this, but even so, it can feel as though the other person is hogging the game, even though there’s no way for them not to do so.
But all of this is only one half of the software-based coin, and arguably the most potential comes in the VR Garage section of the game. This allows you to create your own games with a staggering amount of flexibility and potential. Indeed, it was completely overwhelming when we first had a look at how one of their example games worked, and even simple things like camera movement proved to be obtuse at first. Thankfully the game helps everyone out with the charming and excellently accessible tutorials that take you through how things work, and whilst they may only provide a foundation of understanding, it’s a chuffing solid one.
We’re keen to get even deeper into the nitty-gritty of what this kit can offer, and whilst some of the Toy-Con feel a little underutilised, the core experience is a good one, and probably the most robust to date. The VR is solid despite the system’s limitations, and the prospect of the VR Garage’s baffling depth and potential is leaving us eager to get even further into making our own Switch games.