Nintendo Labo resurrects old-fashioned play

Courtesy of Nintendo
Nintendo is bringing back playing with toys with its Nintendo Labo project. The current kits for preorder are the Variety Kit at $69.99 and the Robot Kit at $79.99.

By Zach Landau | Editor-in-Chief

01/25/2018

Nintendo has proposed some weird stuff before. Once upon a time, for example, the company announced a sensor that would measure gamers’ heartbeats and their level of relaxation (this was never released). More recently, the Nintendo 3DS was shipped with cards that the system would read and produce 3D, augmented-reality photos.

And who could forget the never-seen knitting machine that would have linked with your Nintendo Entertainment System?

Strange, to be sure, but Nintendo’s latest concoction of the absurd has gotten yours truly very excited — more excited for any gaming peripheral in a long time.

Nintendo Labo, packs of cardboard punch outs that can be folded into toys, has delighted me to my core. The toys (or “Toy-Cons,” as Nintendo is calling these creations) incorporate the Nintendo Switch and all the gadgets and gizmos embedded in the console. For example, the right controller can be slotted into the back of a mini piano and, using an infrared (IR) sensor, can read strips of reflective tape on the keys to make the console play corresponding notes.

If this all sounds bizarre, that’s because it is. And that is why I am so in love with this thing.

Everything about Nintendo Labo — from its premise, to its ease-of-use, to its aesthetics — excites me to no end. The idea of making smart toys out of cardboard and video game consoles is genius, simply put. The price point is also great, just being $10 or $20 more than the normal amount for most games.

Not only that, the creative aspect is fantastic as well. The comparison to LEGO sets has been made across the internet, and that feels incredibly apt. The construction of each Toy-Con is its own 2-6 hour endeavor, depending on the project. But the making of these things is only half the joy in them; playing with toys is fun as well, right?

But two things about the conception of Nintendo Labo really speak to me, the first being its educational value. “Discover” is part of the marketing for this project, and the ability to watch how the mechanisms in the Switch work is a major selling point. I cannot wait to hear, 20 years from now, about a kid who was inspired to go into computer science or engineering because their parents or whoever bought them a Nintendo Labo kit.

Second, I am personally fascinated by the technology in the Switch and how Nintendo is taking that tech to its limits. Whenever I first got my Switch, I held the controllers for two hours straight, feeling them and tossing them over and over again in my hands. They are fascinating little devices, being three-and-a-half inch long powerhouses of technology. Packed with gyroscopes, IR sensors, HD rumble and other gadgets and gizmos, the Switch is brimming with opportunities for developers to explore for new ways to play.

Nintendo Labo is the ultimate expression of that curiosity I first felt when I got my console. Even though I know the kits are marketed for kids, I might pick up my own when Labo releases on April 20. I just don’t care; I am thoroughly impressed and delighted that there will exist a product that checks every box for me. Hopefully, most people will feel the same.

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