After Six Hours With Labo, Here’s What We Think
Labo, Nintendo's strange hybrid that merges complicated cardboard creations with the Switch is in our office. It's equal parts Lego-style toy and video game you have to build yourself. I spent most of yesterday and this morning building Labo creations, and while I am not ready to offer up my final impressions, I can offer you my thoughts so far considering both of the Labo kits are available for purchase today.
First up, you can watch me build all the pieces in the Variety Kit and hear some of my impressions. The video is just under three minutes long, but it has time-lapse footage in it that accounts for about six hours of building (and clean-up) over two days.
I have not dug into the Robot Kit yet. The Variety Kit is the less-intimidating of the two kits, and also seemed liked the better introduction to Labo. The building process is long, especially for the more detailed kits, like the piano and the house. The RC car only takes a few minutes, and the fishing pole took less time than I thought it would, even with the addition of string and rubber bands, but there is no denying that regardless of what you plan on creating, it is going to take some time. The instructions even take a moment to ask you if you're sure you have the time to complete the build before starting the larger ones.
With the caveat that building takes time, I did enjoy the building process. I didn't have to build for five hours straight yesterday, but the time really did fly. It just sort of happened. The instructions walking you through the process puts Lego to shame. It works like a video where you can fast-forward and rewind at variable speeds, and rotate and zoom in and out on the scene at any time. This was particularly helpful when it comes down to tiny little details like, between the two tabs available to me, which one do I lay down first? You can zoom in and see exactly which tab should be pushed first and I was never confused.
Along with folding and connecting tabs, you also have to place an assortment of reflective pieces of tape in specific places so that the right Joy-Con's camera can recognize it. This part of the build was the element I found most tedious, but I appreciate it as a way to show me exactly how each piece of the total build works. Every build is an impressive engineering feat, and after I finished each piece I understood exactly how it worked, and how it communicated with the Switch.
After completing each build, I dabbled with each piece of connected software. This is the part of the Labo experience I want to play with more, but spending an hour building the piano, for example, and then watching it come to life with the addition of the Switch was a satisfying experience. The piano in particular is not a video game, but it does offer lots of fun tools and options for making music.
I was also blown away by one of the optional builds, the gun-like IR scanner, not because of the cardboard creation (it was basically a matter of connecting two pieces of folded cardboard), but because of its application within the motorcycle video game. You can use the right Joy-Con's camera to scan an environment in order to create a course, and then you can drive around in it. I pointed the controller at my pile of Labo creations, and it returned a course on-screen full of peaks and valleys. It wasn't a perfect recreation of the landscape, but I was impressed. Labo's long-term video game applications are still up in the air, but moments like this really make Labo feel magical to me in a way a video game hasn't been able to in some time.
After making all the creations, it is worth noting that you are left with a lot of trash. The directions are careful to call out the pieces you should keep and throw away and which are extra replacement pieces, which is helpful, but be prepared to toss a lot of cardboard when you're done. Here's my pile from the end of day one.
Productive day. pic.twitter.com/UkbDwtWLzQ— Kyle Hilliard (@KyleMHilliard) April 19, 2018
We will have more impressions soon after we play more with the traditional video game side of Labo and the Robot Kit, but for now I can speak highly of the building process. Folding cardboard, regardless of how time-consuming it is, and ending up with a functioning piano is a strange but undeniably rewarding experience. I am proud of my creations, and impressed both with how it all works, and that I understand how it all works. I am eager to keep exploring what Labo has to offer, and can't wait to see what creative kids are able to come up with using the tools Nintendo has created.