Parents need to know that “Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit” combines real world crafting with video games and digital activities for the Nintendo Switch. Kids work with cardboard cutouts to create complex models and insert the Switch screen and Joy-Con controllers to turn their constructs into interactive objects. There’s a constant sense of creativity and discovery associated with the making and programming modules. The games and activities associated with each cardboard model are simple and innocuous, containing nothing more mature than some cartoonish exploding bombs.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
“Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit” is a collection of mini-games and digital activities with a real world cardboard crafting component. The game comes with dozens of large cardboard sheets containing punch-out pieces that must be carefully folded and assembled to create complex mechanical creations ranging from a fishing rod to a working piano. Players follow video instructions that provide detailed instructions illustrating how to build each model, then insert the Switch Joy-Cons and screen into special slots embedded within their models to transform them into interactive objects. In addition to the piano and fishing rod, kids get to build a toy house with cardboard switches and buttons used to initiate various mini-games, a skittering Hexbug-like remote control robot, and even a motorbike handlebar that allows them to play a little racing game. Another Nintendo Labo kit — “Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Robot Kit” — sold separately, allows players to build a wearable robot suit and play a game that lets them go rampaging through a city.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
If there’s another product that combines complex cardboard crafting, video games, and basic programming, we haven’t seen it. What makes it really special is the effort that’s gone into creating something so sophisticated yet easy to enjoy. The ingenious model building is the highlight of the experience. You’ll hardly be able to believe just how complex and functional these working mechanical cardboard objects are. The 13-key piano, which uses cardboard springs and infrared reflective stickers, is particularly impressive, as is the retractable fishing rod, which has a working reel. And ambitious kids who really take to “Labo” will no doubt have a great time fiddling around in the Toy-Con Garage, using a simple and intuitive visual programming language to program their own creations to behave in fun new ways.
The games and activities are pretty basic. It’s fun to bang out simple songs on the piano, tinkering with sounds and pitch, and the motorcycle game is akin to a simple “Mario Kart” racer, but kids will remember the building long after they’ve forgotten what they did with the software. That’s also true for the “Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Robot Kit,” which is sold separately from the “Variety Kit” and is slightly more expensive. It has kids build a working robot suit — which is pretty fun — but provides companion software that grows stale rather quickly. “Nintendo Labo” is like an expensive but very high quality crafting project for kids that happens to come with a digital component. It probably won’t keep their attention as long as other games, but the time they spend with it will be creative, educational, and memorable.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 8 and older
Quality: 4 out of 5
Educational value: 4 out of 5
Positive messages: 4 out of 5
Positive role models: 3 out of 5
Ease of play: 4 out of 5
Violence and scariness: 1 out of 5
Language: 0 out of 5
Consumerism: 0 out of 5
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Price: $69.99, Robot Kit is $79.99
Developer: Nintendo of America
Release date: April 20, 2018
ESRB rating: E for mild cartoon violence