Nintendo Labo is a completely insane idea from Nintendo, blending cardboard folding with programmable gaming accessories. It comes in two versions: a $70 Variety Kit, and a $80 Robot Kit.
Inside, Labo is almost all cardboard sheets, with a few extras and a physical game card in a box.
There's also some string, plastic grommets, reflective stickers, rubber bands and foam-backed stickers. They'll all be used.
When Labo is assembled, it can become crazy things like a robot backpack (the only thing you'll make in the Robot Kit), a cardboard piano or a weird toy cardboard house (part of the Variety Kit).
Curious about the Robot Kit? This is me in the backpack.
It barely fit on my big grown-up shoulders, but there are adjustable straps.
The Robot Kit turns your body into a game controller for a bunch of little game modes, like a home version of Pacific Rim.
My punches become robot punches. My stomps becomes robot stomps.
Everything is controlled by cords connecting to the backpack. Oddly, it really works.
And it's tiring. There's even a calorie estimator based on weight.
There aren't a ton of game modes in the Robot Kit, but there's a timed destroy-everything mode that tallies points, and a series of individual challenges that can be unlocked. Plus, a two-player vs. mode if you have a friend who also bought one of these eighty-dollar things.
The head visor isn't just absurd: It actually does something.
Flipping the visor up puts the game in third-person mode. Flipped down, it's a first-person view. An inserted Joy-Con controller recognizes head movement and visor motion.
You'll need to adjust the straps and pulleys for your arm length.
Same goes for the cardboard foot straps.
It's not always flattering to be a middle-aged cardboard robot.
But I loved it.
Taking off the gear was sometimes challenging. Don't bend anything!
This kit took me over five hours to make.
Robot Kit is best when the Switch is connected to a TV. To control things like menus, use the Joy-Con on your head.
The hand grips are just rolled-up tubes of cardboard. Actually, everything is cardboard.
The cords can be wrapped up to shorten how far they extend, or unraveled.
The backpack's straps are a little tight for me. Pretty amazing it's all cardboard, except for some fabric straps and plastic grommets.
What's inside? It's mostly hollow, with a few weighted blocks that rise and fall as you pull your hands and feet.
The blocks have reflective stickers that the IR camera on the Joy-Con can read and turn into game motion.
The Joy-Con sticks out of the backpack's back.
You'll need to find a place to store all this stuff (good luck).
The Variety Kit has five things you can make, plus a handful of other surprises. One project is House, a weird little house-thing toy.
In it, a little cute digital creature lives.
You can insert various buttons and blocks to make things happen in the house.
There's a left hole, a right hole and a bottom hole. Each spot changes what happens, and objects can be combined.
I'm using an oven for some reason!
A mine cart mini-game, my son's favorite. Punching the springy button makes it jump.
You can collect things to feed your creature.
Turn the crank, make the critter run in a wheel.
It would be fun if Nintendo released more buttons in an update pack.
"Play" is the Labo mode where all the games and experiences are kept.
As you can see, there are more things to do than Toy-Con creations, so some cardboard things get more than one (the piano gets an aquarium and a recording studio, plus the piano app).
Make, Play, Discover are the three areas of Labo, and each has things to do.
Discover mode is set up like a series of manuals for each creation. It's full of insights, play tips, repair troubleshooting and little Easter eggs.
In the House part of Discover, there are parts to read up on.
The info is presented as a chat by cartoon avatars in Labo who explain how everything is made, and suggest ideas to explore. Keep reading, and more tips and parts unlock.
Deeper in Discover is Toy-Con Garage (under a manhole cover), where there are a set of pretty open programming tools. It's like IFTTT for gaming, and has other projects to explore... but it's a little hard to see on the small screen.
Make is where the building instructions are kept. They're like animated versions of Lego instructions married with Ikea.
Projects are broken down into stages (the piano took me nearly three hours).
Cardboard sheets are clearly identified...
...and folding instructions are animated and clear. You can rewind and fast forward, or spin the models around and zoom in, which is really helpful.
It made me confident enough to handle all the projects, but some parts are too complicated for young kids (I think, but I may be wrong: I built with my 9-year-old and it was great).
Just keep in mind, building will take you hours (and hours).
Speaking of the piano, it's one of the coolest parts of the Labo Variety Kit. The keys all work nicely, but that's not all.
Side buttons play popular songs to learn, and a lever changes octaves.
There are also removable plugs that change the instruments and add effects. An extra Studio mode customizes the sounds even more and can record songs.
Inside, the piano is somewhat simple. Like the robot and house, it has reflective stickers that move and can be read by the Joy-Con's IR camera.
The Joy-Con sticks into the back.
The keys move...
...and the IR camera registers them.
Here's the side lever, which uses a rubber band to add springiness (some parts use a few rubber bands). Stay tuned for more as we build and try more things!