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I was a lively, energetic child. It was hard for me to sit still for anything, but if you gave me a box of Lego and a good set of instructions, I could sit for hours. Late into my childhood but before teens, we did get our first gaming system and we would have spent hours on it had we been allowed, but we were happy to be outside and let our parents complete levels at night whilst we were asleep! As fun as all my arts and crafts and lego projects were, nothing from my childhood was as crazily weird and inventive as the new Nintendo Labo. Nintendo’s latest idea is a trio of Switch games that each come with more than two dozen sheets of corrugated cardboard. To play the included games, you must first spend at least an hour snapping and folding together what Nintendo calls Toy-Cons: cardboard controllers. They sent us the variety pack and the robot pack to have a play with…

 

The Toy-Con Variety Pack comes with smaller Toy-Cons you can use on a table, like a piano and fishing rod. All the step-by-step instructions are on your Switch, and when you finish a Toy-Con, a mini game is unlocked. You slide the Switch touchscreen into its designated slot in the cardboard, then slip in the Switch’s two motion control Joy-Con controllers into, say, the handle of the fishing rod you just assembled, and off you go. Before you know it you’re reeling in digital fish.

This kit includes five main projects (a pair of RC Cars, a fishing rod, a house, a motorbike, and a piano) to build and decorate, along with a few standalone odds and ends for personal experimenting. Five projects may not seem like much, but when you first open the box you may be legitimately surprised by the amount of cardboard sheets and other materials it takes to build every toy.

Starting with the build, the Nintendo Labo Robot Kit was a joy to make from start to finish of its 3-hour long build time. The instructions themselves are simple enough to follow along with and the builder can use the touch screen on the Switch to look at different angles of the subject to ensure what they’re doing is correct before they snap everything together in real life. There’s a real sense of wonder as you’re putting stuff together, which mainly stems from wondering “How the hell does this become that?!” Understanding what the elements are likely to do though, and the ingenuity that it must have taken to put the whole thing together, is a constant source of delight. 

The Robot Kit, much like the Variety Pack, is constantly surprising, and the solidity and functionality of the finished article is deeply impressive. From the thick strong shoulder guards through to the hefty internal weights – which are still just cardboard – it’s hard to believe that it began life as twenty thin cardboard sheets and a plastic bag of bits. That thinness does dictate that you need to be fairly gentle during the build, which is probably the toughest thing to communicate to a child, but once you’ve got a few pieces together it really starts to look and feel like a genuine contraption, cardboard or not. As a building project, Labo displays a sense of ingenuity that few things do, and as an introduction to design and engineering it’s clear, fun, and solid. It’s a shame then that the game itself is a little too simplistic.

As funny as it may sound, the quality of the cardboard Nintendo decided to ship with the Labo sets is excellent. It has just the right thickness and flexibility to stand up to hours of play and some rough treatment from younger fans. One downside to all these cardboard creations is that, unlike a LEGO set, they’re not made to come apart. Once you’ve built a Labo toy it’s supposed to stay in one piece. That’s a bit inconvenient if you don’t have a lot of living space.
Even having built all the Toy-Cons and played with them, however, you’ve still only enjoyed part of what Nintendo Labo has to offer. I’d personally choose the Variety pack over the Robot but think both kits are awesome!
*We were sent the products for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.

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