Nintendo's ingenious Labo kits - flatpack cardboard models (known as Toy-cons) that you put together at home before sliding parts of your Switch (or sometimes the whole thing) into them in order to play the included game - have been around for a year or so now. The latest addition - the rather efficiently-named VR Kit - aims to introduce Switch owners to the wonders of virtual reality.
Two versions of the kit are available - the full-priced edition bundles all five Toy-cons (plus two smaller ones) together with the game cartridge and VR goggles, while a basic “Starter Set” contains the cartridge, goggles, and Blaster gun (the largest of the Toy-cons). The additional models - elephant, bird, wind pump and camera - are available separately, if you decide you want them later.
Easy to follow instructions to help you put each kit together can be found on the game cartridge, but some are much more tricky and time-consuming than others. The VR goggles and camera Toy-con took us around 30 minutes to assemble, but the other (larger and more fiddly) models will take at least a couple of hours. It's an incredibly fun process though - the instructional videos are quirky and entertaining, pressing each part out of its cardboard frame is way more satisfying than you'd expect, and it's an absolute treat to see the pieces fold into place as your model takes shape.
Entering the virtual reality world is as simple as sliding your Switch console into the goggles, attaching the Joy-cons wherever necessary, then holding the entire thing up to your eyes. It kind of feels like it shouldn't work, but it absolutely does - the first few mini-games will let you acclimatise to your new surroundings, and you very much feel as if you're really “there”.
Beyond these introductory moments, the game cartridge contains a ton of content that makes clever use of the individual Toy-cons. There's far too much to list here (60+ games, before we even get to any additional features), but we can say for certain that there's some impressively inventive stuff going on. Combining the already-existing wizardry of the Switch's built-in gyroscopes and sensors with VR technology results in one of the most unique experiences we've ever come across. There are plenty of times when you'll be thinking “how is this even possible?” but it's a thought that never really gets chance to linger as there's always something weird and wonderful just around the corner to bring you back into the game.
On the downside, constantly holding the Toy-cons up to your face can get a bit tiring after a while (some sort of strap to hold it in place would be appreciated), but none of the included games here were really designed for playing for long periods of time. Those with high expectations on the graphics front might want to note that the video quality through the goggles is rather lo-fi, especially in comparison to some of the more expensive VR units on the market. But then this isn't supposed to be a high-end product. Nintendo has created an affordable entry point to entice people to try the pleasures of VR for the first time, and incorporating Labo into the equation - with all of the creative, innovative and, most importantly, fun ideas involved in that side of things - is quite simply a master stroke.
Many were sceptical when Labo VR was announced, but it seems Nintendo's first foray into virtual reality has worked out pretty well. Looking forward, Super Mario Odyssey owners will receive a free update on April 27th which adds a handful of VR mini-games, and Breath of the Wild will become playable from beginning to end in VR on the very same day. Who knows where Nintendo might go from here? We're totally on board for the ride and can't wait to see what the future brings. VR might still be seen as a bit of a gimmick by those who are yet to give it a try, but we'd seriously urge anyone with even a passing interest to pick this kit up by way of an introduction.
NINTENDO LABO TOY-CON 04: VR KIT / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: NINTENDO / PLATFORM: SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: 12TH APRIL