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Test of the Nintendo Labo VR Kit: The Switch does virtual magic


VR Nintendo Labo.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Nintendo's later entry into the VR world is finally here. Yes, it is made of cardboard. Yes, that's funny. But the ideas are probably different than anything you've tried before.

It's impossible to think about Google Cardboard (1

9459005) when you put together the Nintendo Labo VR Kit kit I made my 10- and 6-year-old kids last week. Nintendo Labo is a series of ingenious, crisp, foldable Nintendo Switch game art programming experiences made entirely of cardboard, rubber bands and plastic sleeves.

The Nintendo Labo VR Kit has mixed Google Cardboard with the switch to create a whole cardboard universe.


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Sure, Nintendo has been on the sidelines for the last three years, while Sony, Oculus, Google, Samsung, HTC, and other VR VRs have been big and small. But the company has always engaged in immersive ideas . The Nintendo Wii from 2006 was the pioneer of a wild motion controller. His Nintendo 3DS offers glasses-free 3D – and even AR. And hey, Do you remember the Virtual Boy ?

Because the Nintendo Switch is a convertible tablet that can be transformed into various forms, it can make Labo a kind of low-stakes testing ground for how the switch could look like in new ways. Labo VR is the most practical experiment of all: What if the switch powers a VR headset? Of course Labo VR has its limits . But the concept makes sense, and the best part is that it works so well because Nintendo has understood the boundaries for designing around them.

Nintendo has had some real magic in the past, including a magic set of playing cards for the Nintendo DS years ago. Strangely, I now realize that Labo VR Kit is just that: a box full of magic tricks full of strange wonders.

The 80-inch Labo VR kit from Nintendo costs much more than the almost-free Google Cardboard, but it's all about making six things: glasses, a camera, an elephant, a bird, a blaster, and a foot pedal that generates wind. A $ 40 step-down kit includes only the glasses and blaster. This is a good starting point if you are not ready to complete the entire dive. The other parts can later be purchased in $ 20 micropackages, resulting in the same total cost.

So what is it like to compile VR in Nintendo style? After spending days with my children and myself and playing with them, I can say that it's really awesome most of the time. But it's also flawed, and yes, it involves a ton of carton folds, which really got boring. That happened.


The camera (lots of zooming and clicking).

Scott Stone / CNET

We made a camera

After assembling the glasses, which took about 30 minutes to an hour, we made the camera (another hour) with a zoom lens. In an underwater game, I can look around, zoom and fish photograph. My kids freaked out and started shouting about sunfish, sharks and football. For my 6-year-old, it was not as scary as some more realistic underwater VR experiences on the Oculus Go he had seen before. There's a second game in which pictures of a strange creature in a house are taken (an indication of something that was housed in a cardboard house in the first Labo kit), but we have not come to that yet.

  labo-bl blaster

This is a big blaster.

Scott Stone / CNET

We made a blaster pistol

The blaster is a big cardboard bazooka where you put off your glasses and you can look around and shoot cute blob aliens in a series of rail-bound levels. "It's like the Metroid game in NintendoLand," says my 10-year-old. It loads a lot and is shot (the cardboard chamber loaded and the rear button dissolves). It feels like an arcade game and tracking sometimes makes me dizzy. I'm not crazy when my kids shoot things in games, but there's the kids' test, to say the least.

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It's Vogel-O-Vision.

Scott Stone / CNET

We made a duck and a strange elephant.

Other Labo VR accessories range from Gimmicky to Brilliant. For example, the bird (which looks like a duck that makes you look in the buttocks) is cute, but it only beats its wings. The game you use it with is like a flying scene for birds: they fly around an island feeding chicks and collecting things. In conjunction with the foot pedal, it is better if the wind is blown over its huge cardboard fan and a breeze is generated while gliding.

The elephant, who has a curvy, rubbery suitcase, is ingenious. Reflective stickers on the "face" as well as an infrared camera on a Joy-Con-Controller. Add the positioning control so you can grab something. This is similar to the pieces of a kinetic ball role play or doodling in 3D using an art app. Overall, the game feels like a slimmed down version of the VR app Tiltbrush by Google. Fortunately, the games know the limits of the controller and are arranged to best use the short range of the elephant's arm.


The elephant is weird, but the reflective stickers and the IR camera make the controller a functional grabber too VR.

Sarah Tew / CNET

What happens to all these cardboard things now?

One of the first things you have to come to terms with is that you make a lot of fragile cardboard novelties with Labo. Their children can break them and if not, they need a lot of storage space or a large box to store them. And if they are stowed, will your children forget them and do you really need more crap in your home? Labo does not ask you to make sense of it. Either you are mature or not.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

If you had the patience, you could hack and create more.

Many little Easter eggs are buried in the Labo VR Kit. Learn about how VR and optics work in the Discover section. A Toy-Con garage allows encoding like other Labo kits (which theoretically is almost unlimited, if you can understand the confusing layout of Garage's menus). Another game crafting tool (Toy-Con Garage VR) allows you to customize or create new mini-arcade games to try out. So there is much to do. Nintendo offers 64 quick mini-games to try out, all of which can be reformatted and redesigned. This could be the first introduction of a child into the basic VR game design.

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Creating Labo with step-by-step instructions requires a lot of time, but at least it's clearly explained.

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restrictions? Of course

The switch has a low resolution screen of 720p. So when used for VR, the pixels of the display are really big and slightly blurry. The battery life is quite short (less than 3 hours) and the controllers are not necessarily designed for VR. If they are wireless and have great haptics, they are sometimes awkward.

All the Labo VR creations can be used without head straps. Therefore, you have to keep the bulky, heavy glasses and the plus switch on your face, which is really exhausting for more than 5 minutes, and the display sometimes shows some delay, too. The Labo VR software encourages players to take a break every few minutes, and I agree. On the other hand, my children both played long and wanted to continue.

The switch uses its own gyro and motion sensor to allow the head to rotate (called 3DoF in VR circles), which means it does not have to turn around. This is good news as it limits the possibility of injury and makes sitting or standing easier. However, sometimes the motion controls need to be recalibrated. To do this, place the switch on a flat surface to re-center it. This is not ideal, and it's just another example of how the switch is not optimized for VR.

Some VR controls can also be confusing. The glasses have a top-tap zone where you can double-tap the box to select things, much like Google Cardboard with a single button. If you tap on a little exposed part of the screen near the nosepiece, you can quit apps, but it's not immediately obvious. The Joy-Con controllers must be plugged into the elaborate cardboard accessories of the Labo VR. If you sync and remove them, it gets fiddly. Patient parents and older kids who like to tinker are the best bets.

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Google Cardboard (left), Nintendo Labo VR Kit (right): Cardboard led to Google Daydream. What will Labo VR do …?

Sarah Tew / CNET

Could this be Nintendo's first step into the VR, more will follow?

I asked my eldest son, who worked with Labo a year ago, to rate the experience with Labo VR. He said he loved it, but he noticed that the pixels were "a little too big". Maybe a new switch with smaller pixels and a new controller would benefit better from a full VR headset?

Ironically, I thought the same thing. The Nintendo Switch is 2 years old. A new version with a better display, processor and controllers could handle VR in a more convincing way. Finally, the upcoming Oculus Quest does just that in a stand-alone mobile gaming system.


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Would Nintendo pursue this idea? Perhaps. Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda Legend: Breath of the Wild received additional updates that work with Labo VR. I have not played these features yet, but I would expect them to be pretty limited (you have to hold Labo VR to your face during the game, which is exhausting).

But the real question remains whether Labo VR is a sign that Nintendo is preparing for the next VR hardware wave. The switch does not fit perfectly with VR. It's a kind of experience where you keep an eye on your face and feel more like a 3D glasses set for novelty than a completely realistic VR experience. But it works well enough to pass. It shows that Nintendo's wild ideas could apply to VR games.

Then maybe VR is best thought of as an experiment, that's Labo VR. Yes, it is a novelty, a weekend of folding and crafting with a few surprises. But we had a really great time doing everything, and my kids loved it and loved every second of it (arguing about the VR glasses, fascinated) about the games and worlds, and curious to know more). Nintendo does it best: be funny and have fun. Labo VR is not perfect and no, it's not the next VR headset. But it gave me a weekend that I can always remember. And I think my kids feel the same way.


$ 48


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