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Review: Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit (Nintendo Switch)By Jorge Ba-oh At 02.05.2018 22:58

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Nintendo has often been associated with sprinkling a dollop of innovation within the industry. Over the years, inventors deep within the Nintendo offices in Kyoto have brewed numerous concoctions to tinker with how games are interacted with. The vast majority of these accessories and peripherals come ready to devour, straight out of the box. The ever-popular Wii Wheel is just a plastic shell for a Wii Remote, as is the Wii Zapper. Even the Nintendo Switch comes bundled with its own chunk of plastic.

The difference with the Nintendo Labo sets is that the building of these shells is part of the experience itself. The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit is the best place to start: a set of five kits to work through, which Nintendo has christened "Toy-Con." Each of these interactive toys is distinctively different from one another. There's an adorable RC car, model house, fishing rod, motorbike, and even a portable piano. For each, a set of printed cardboard sheets with removable bits to crease, fold, and gently slot into place. As the difficulty increases, more mechanisms come into play - through small reflective sticker strips, and even bits of string that become makeshift pulleys.

The end result for each Toy-Con comes with that satisfying interactive element - going from a Labo of crafting love to something that, quite literally, uses every part of the Switch's Swiss Army Knife hardware. The simplest of the five is the teeny RC car - a ten-minute fold-and-slot job that creates a small bug-like cardboard shell. There are no wheels, however, so just how does it work? Slide in Joy-Con controllers to either side. By sending pulses of vibration to each, the RC scuttles about in effortless style. It might be the smallest, but there are plenty of potential real-world uses for the RC Labo cars - racing, dangerous stunt driving, and more.

The difficulty level jumps with the other Toy-Con in the kit. You will be crafting a rotating crank that deposits candies for a pet in the House Toy-Con, forging motorbike handles for motion racing, and even useable cardboard piano keys! The intriguing aspect about Nintendo Labo has to be how these different elements come together. Many would assume that it's reliant on masses or wires or intricate circuit strips, but it's far more ingenious. Whilst there are card-driven button presses / rotations, the main hook-up comes from the use of that right Joy-Con. There haven't been too many uses for the Switch's IR sensor to date, but Nintendo Labo puts the tech at the forefront of these Toy-Con. It can track a wide variety of variables - from simple motion, to distance, and light patterns. Without spoiling too much, a single Joy-Con and a sheet of reflective stickers is what makes the magic happen.

It's this curiosity that comes into play, driving players to complete their Joy-Con, explore within the corrugated walls, and learn. The software complements the practical element well, with each and every fold (literally, every fold) animated on-screen. Rather than dropping in a pre-recorded, static video, Nintendo has opted for a more hands-on feel. The sequence can be rewound, rotated, and zoomed to make sure these Toy-Con won't topple over. Being able to take each small part at a relaxed pace, without having to stop and start like a VHS on a rainy day, is a breath of fresh air. Crafting each of the toys is generally a straightforward process - a fair bit of folding, creasing, and stickering for the most part - all that's needed is a chunk of time; it feels more like a challenge than a chore. If Labo leans towards the latter, then it may not be the ideal way to churn through a Sunday afternoon.

What's equally impressive is just how tough and durable the material is. Even this pair of rough hands couldn't tear through some of the more intricate tabs. The finished result is a surprisingly tough cardboard toy - light but remarkably solid, mainly due to certain pieces doubling up and clever ways of slotting together parts.

The cardboard shells may look impressive once all put together, but the fun doesn't stop at folding! Bundled in the Variety Kit is a handful of mini-games that highlight just how the mechanisms all link up. Compose and record layered melodies on the surprisingly versatile music studio app, or use the Nintendo Switch screen to go for a spot of fishing wherever you are. Hopping on a cardboard motorbike is more of an awkward experience, simply because propping the Toy-Con between your legs for support is just a little…well…'odd.'

The final, and perhaps most interesting, aspect of Nintendo Labo has to be the Toy-Con Garage. Included as part of the Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit, the software acts as a build-your-own mini-game studio. By using input triggers, like button presses, IR sensor, or motion, players can brew all sorts of unique experiences. Want to forge a working cardboard guitar? It's possible. The middle aspect is where it can become complicated; by manipulating the input to deliver some interesting outputs - flashes, controller vibration, or an array of odd sounds.

It's a surprising part of what makes Nintendo Labo so intriguing - where home-made Toy-Con can be made out of literally anything. By highlighting how most of the mechanics work with build-your-own kits, the Garage feature opens up a lot of intriguing options for those who want to dive into simple programming. The UI itself may be a touch fiddly, and not quite up to Nintendo's usual aesthetic, but there are plenty of options to stitch together.

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Final Score
The [i]Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit[/i] is just what it says on the tin - one that serves up a variety of unique and interactive toys to build. Through a brilliant interface and robust card shapes, the kit offers hours of DIY building fun - with an interactive pay-off. The mini-games are somewhat short, leaning more towards concept pieces, but with the Labo Garage included, it creates limitless possibilities to explore and invoke a little mischief, too!

8

/10

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