Nintendo Labo: the perfect toy for children who think outside the (cardboard) box

The latest Switch game offers almost unlimited content to anyone with a creative head on their shoulders

A great many people have scoffed and turned their noses up at Nintendo Labo, the upcoming creative cardboard game for Nintendo Switch.

“Why would I spend £60 on cardboard? What if it breaks? What if it gets wet? Why don’t they concentrate on Smash Bros and Metroid Prime and Pokemon and Mario Kart?”

To be frank, if you are asking those questions, Labo probably is not for you. Why? Because the latest quirky plaything from everyone’s favourite gaming company comes ready-made for excitable children wanting to paint and decorate anything and everything – not for adults asking nit-picky questions.

That’s not to disparage people over the age of ten, of course (I had huge amounts of fun building these cardboard creations, though whether I’m an adult is debatable), but Labo will no doubt be enjoyed most by those with the grandest imaginations – and no-one has a bigger imagination than an eight-year-old with colouring pens and googly eyes.

Labo first tasks you with building the cardboard creations (named Toy-Cons) that come flat packed in the box – the variety kit contains a piano, house, fishing rod, motorbike, and small car – which can take anywhere from 10 minutes (the simple cars) to hours (the complex piano). Building the Toy-Cons is very much like building LEGO sets – you follow along basic instructions that are shown on the Switch screen.

From here, there’s the option (which is highly encouraged) to colour and customise each creation; to make them yours and yours alone. Again, it’s something that perhaps appeals to children more than adults, and any such inclined child will no doubt have a blast.

Once your Toy-Cons are built and customised, then come the games. The variety pack (as the name entails) gives you the most options. There are mini-games to go through, including feeding a strange creature in a house, racing motorbikes, and fishing in the ocean (probably the most addictive). Remember Wii Play? Well, the mini-games here have a similar vibe, although with much more depth and less multiplayer options.

To play, you simply slot the Switch controllers onto the Toy-Cons where the game tells you and bam, you’re playing Labo. The key to enjoying these games is creativity, once again. The simplest game is probably the small RC cars – you set up small cardboard pins and knock them down. The piano has the most depth; players can change the noises each key makes, record them, loop the recordings, and eventually create small songs.

The other three Toy-Cons are somewhere in-between. Adults will probably enjoy the fishing game more, trying to catch the biggest fish and beat the last high score. Boy racers will love the motorbike, while everyone who had a Tamagotchi will love the house (where you feed and play games with a small creature).

All that, of course, is relatively basic stuff. Where the real creative side of Labo comes into play is when you enter the Toy-Con Garage. Basically, the game allows you to link up your controllers and Toy-Cons any way you want. For instance, you can link the fishing rod with the RC car to control the car with the fishing rod. It’s difficult to quite explain the scope of Toy-Con Garage, but Nintendo have this lovely video below to demonstrate how it works.

It is heaps of fun to mess around with and the phenomenal amount of options is incredible. Really, it’s Labo’s key feature, showing the potential for things to come and offering almost unlimited content for those who can think outside the box.

So, if you are worried about a linear game with set goals, avoid Labo, you will not have a good time. If you are a kid who climbs into a cardboard box and pretends they are in a spaceship, or runaway train, or F1 car, or the Millennium Falcon, there’s nothing more perfect.

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