Parent’s Thoughts on Nintendo Labo

As an adult gamer that leans towards more hardcore games, I understand that I’m not the target for the Nintendo Labo.  As a parent of a gamer, though.  I think it’s brilliant.  Nintendo has a history of looking to expand how we play games and interact with them.  They’ve been on the forefront of this since the very first GameBoy.  And they’ve carried that focus all the way up to their latest product – the Nintendo Switch.  With Labo, they’re trying something very different, and it’s something parents should pay close attention to.

Labo – Nintendo

What is The Nintendo Labo?

Make. Play. Discover — If you’re unfamiliar with the recently announced Nintendo Labo,  it’s best described as cardboard toys you assemble yourself, custom designed to work with the Nintendo Switch.  The toys pair with the hardware and interact with a set of apps and small games.  So, you and your kiddos can assemble a remote-controlled car, and control it with the rumble feature of the switch’s joy-con controllers.  Or, you can put together a fishing rod and use it with the paired game for a fun fishing-like experience in your living room.

Make Play Discover – Nintendo

It’s a solid combination of toy, game, and educational experience.  And it’s perfect for parents and kids to interact together.  For parents of kiddos interested in STEM, the Nintendo Labo looks utterly amazing.  They’re even setting up the platform so that kiddos can create and program their own toys and robots.

What Can You Build With Nintendo Labo?

So far, Nintendo’s released information showing a variety of toys you can build, and they span a pretty wide spectrum of complexity and interactivity.  At present, Nintendo has announced two kits.  The Variety Kit and the Robot Kit.

Variety Kit Assemblies

Piano – Has a full octave’s worth of keys (including sharps & flats), the ability to change the sounds the piano makes, and it has a slot for the switch screen to sit in to provide controls and music.

Labo Piano - Nintendo
Labo Piano – Nintendo

Toy House – A small house with slots for the Joycons and the Screen that features different interactive components for your cardboard domicile.

Remote Controlled Vehicle – the Joycons sit inside the car and the touch-screen functionality of the Switch screen allows the Players to use the rumble/vibration feature of the Joycons to give direction and speed to the toy

Labo Car
Labo Remote Controlled Car – Nintendo

Motorcycle Simulator – A full simulated set of handlebars with slots for the Joycons.  This “toycon” uses the motion controls to control steering and speed in the game displayed on the Switch Screen.

Fishing Rod – In this Nintendo Labo Toycon, the Joycons sit in the handle and reel.  This allows the Player to use the rod in tandem with a fishing game played on the Switch Screen.

Labo Fishing Rod - Nintendo
Labo Fishing Rod – Nintendo

Robot Kit Assembly

In addition to the Variety Kit, there’s a specialized Robot Kit.  This kit comes with a number of subcomponents that all come together to create a pretty awesome wearable robot outfit.

The Robot Kit includes the pieces needed for a visor, a backpack, and more. Each of the pieces works with the motion-sensing features of the Switch.  Once assembled, it allows your kiddo to control a robot in the virtual world.  It’s the closest they can get to being “in the game.” This pairing of actual and virtual reality could prove to be an amazing experience.

More Than Just Toys

It’s important to stress that Labo offers more than just toys.  The kits (there’s 2) come with plans and perforated cardboard that requires folding and assembly.  Some of the devices are very complicated with many moving parts.  It’s similar in some ways to Lego or other physical building based toys, but the end product is designed around the Nintendo Switch hardware.  So, there are specific slots to slide in the Joycons and the screen itself, making the entire apparatus an interactive experience that combines games, physicality, creativity, and a little engineering.

Should I Get it for my Kiddos?

At the Parents Guide To Games, we try and give parents a ton of great information about games and game systems.  In this case, though, the answer to this question is:  It depends.  Nintendo Labo requires a Nintendo Switch. So, if you don’t already have one, you’ll want to factor that into your purchasing decision.

If your kiddos already have a Nintendo Switch, the next factor to consider is age.  These toys are made of cardboard, and won’t hold up well with extremely young kiddos.  Secondarily, the building component, while designed with children in mind, does have some complexity that might be challenging for very young fingers.

Conversely, if your kiddos are on the far upper end of things – late teens, they may not get as much from the experience either, as generally their taste in games will differ from what’s provided in the Labo experience, and if they’re already STEM-oriented, they’ll likely find even the more challenging and complex assemblies a little mundane.  That said, Nintendo excels at building fun experiences for all ages, so regardless of age, you’ll have fun.  Also, as Nintendo continues to evolve the platform, these older kiddos might more enjoy the challenge of designing and programming their own “toy-cons” (as the toys are called)

From what I’ve seen, the ideal target seems to be later elementary school to very early high-school.  These kiddos will likely see the biggest benefits and joy out of the entire Labo experience (from building to playing) and this group will also benefit from parental involvement and oversight in the construction process – making it a great family activity.

Wait. Hold on.  Are these things made of Cardboard?

Yes.  The kits come with marked and perforated cardboard featuring all the patterns needed to build and assemble the toy-cons.  Given that we’re talking about toys and kids, there’s a great chance that after a short time of extensive use, these assemblies will… fall apart.  Thankfully, Nintendo has already thought about that – they’re providing the patterns for the toys for free, so parents can easily build replacements.

When Does Nintendo Labo Come Out?

Well, if you’ve been a parent of a gamer for any length of time, you know dates are always subject to change.  But, at present.  Nintendo has announced that Labo is launching on April 20th.  From everything I’ve seen, they seem well positioned to hit that date, and – in fact – are already taking pre-orders.

Where Can I Learn More?

The Nintendo Labo is big news.  There’s lots of info all over the web – but here are some key resources you should check out for more information.

Well, there you have it.  I have no doubt the Nintendo Labo will be a big hit, and I’m so excited to see something that couples the physicality of building and engineering with the fun of games.

The Future of Gaming?
The Future of Gaming?

Are you or your kiddos interested in Labo?  Are there other similar toys, experiences, or activities you’d recommend?  Share in the comments below.

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