Wednesday 23 May 2018

Nintendo Labo ★★★☆☆

Labo? More like Lab-yooooooo! 

You can always trust Nintendo to go where no one else dares to, to traverse uncharted waters when other creators are just dipping their little toe in, but with the release of the Nintendo Labo, Nintendo might have just out-Nintendo-ed themselves. Have I said Nintendo enough yet?


The Labo looks to combine video games with cardboard, of all things, in the most ambitious fusion of old and new tech arguably ever attempted in the medium. In the two available kits, the Robot Kit and the Variety Kit, you’re given flat pack perforated cardboard sheets, used to build ‘Toy-Cons’ that work alongside games on the console. In this regard, both kits are fairly similar, meaning I don’t have to write two reviews (result!).

Will the Nintendo Labo be a pioneer in gaming, or prove to be as useless as a cardboard surfboard? Let’s unpack the details and find out.


The Good

Firstly, the biggest accolade I can give the Labo is that it just works. Now, while this might sound a tad trite, with something as flat out bonkers as the Labo, it’s definitely worth a mention. Pretty much every ‘Toy-Con’ performs as if it were made of a more robust material, with intuitive controls and satisfying mechanics. The piano and fishing games are prime examples of this in action; I defy anyone to try either without developing a broadening grin.

What’s more, as fun as picking the Labo up is for an adult, it’s tenfold for children - the game’s target audience. Combining the real world, tangible creativity found in Lego (or Mega Bloxx if your parents didn’t love you) with the modern appeal of video games has never been done on such a scale before and consequently offers something you can’t find in digital sandboxes such as Minecraft.

And while you might not be able to lovingly recreate the ‘Steamed Hams’ sketch from The Simpsons like you can in Minecraft, the Labo does allow the more creative types to design their own homemade creations using its software. With little more than a month elapsing since its release, some clever sausage has already designed their own Game & Watch game and is a strong indicator that these ‘IRL mods’ will breathe life into the Labo for years to come.

The Bad

With that being said, like Caesar himself, Nintendo Labo’s ambition is also its downfall. This is most evident in its very limited replayability throughout both kits. The Variety Kit is essentially 5 tech demos, all of which play well, but after an hour or so you’ll be more than happy to put them down. Being the slightly more expensive of the two offerings, The Robot Kit does offer slightly more depth and interesting gameplay, yet even this would struggle to fill the gap between Christmas and New Year’s.

And rather cynically, it’s a good job the games don’t last for very long, as the Toy-Cons sure don’t. Even the most delicate of hands will struggle to get more than a month’s worth of excessive use out of each, and with the cheapest kit setting you back £60, the Labo can quickly become an expensive hobby.

The Verdict

Nintendo have remained relevant in the gaming industry through brute force innovation, and their hits vastly outweigh their misses. Yet the Nintendo Labo is unique in that it currently sits in a state of critical limbo, in which its pros and cons are finely balanced. As a first iteration, it’s mightily impressive, if a little shallow, and with the potential of homemade creations keeping it relevant, there could be a bright future for the Labo brand.

Sir Thomas Baker

Nintendo Labo at CeX

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