When Nintendo had prepared to reveal “a new interactive experience for Nintendo Switch that’s specially crafted for kids and those who are kids at heart,” I don’t think anyone could have ever expected Nintendo Labo. These build-and-play cardboard kits came as a complete surprise, not least for the fact that they have shown even more ingenious ways in which Nintendo is putting their technology-packed Joy-Con to use.
At launch, the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit (£69.99 / $79.99) is the more expensive option to choose. Crammed full of the cardboard that’s needed to build your Toy-Con Robot and the software to help you build and play with it, it’s understandable that it is a harder sell when compared to the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit (£59.99 / $69.99) and the six Toy-Con contraptions that it contains. But, taken at face value, that difference can be deceptive, as the single Toy-Con focus has allowed the Robot Kit to deliver a more comprehensive gameplay experience.
What’s Inside The Box?
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit Contents:
- 1 Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit Software
- 19 Cardboard sheets
- 4 Cardstock sheets
- 1 Reflective sheet
- 2 Strings (blue)
- 2 Strings (orange)
- 10 Eyelet sets (grey)
- 2 Eyelet sets (orange)
- 1 Fabric strap (grey), long
- 1 Fabric strap (grey), medium
- 2 Fabric straps (grey), short
It can feel daunting when starting to construct the Robot Kit, not least for the fact that you are confronted with cardboard sheets labelled from A to R. Your first challenge is to make a Joy-Con Holder, a simple cardboard creation that, more than anything, presents the chance to practise and understand how you will follow the step-by-step instructions.
The Robot Kit has a slightly staggering 180-240 minute build time, but it helps that Nintendo Labo is the friendliest piece of software that you will ever have the chance to interact with. Sure, early on it teaches you to fold firmly along the lines, to crease your folds, the difference between an eyelet, grommet and washer, and about how important it is to use tabs to double lock your creation. But the language that it uses is lighthearted and jokes are soon thrown in to motivate you and make sure a smile never leaves your face as you steadily build your wearable robot suit from cardboard sheets, reflective marker stickers, string, and canvas straps.
There are eight steps to complete the Toy-Con Robot, and, after you first see the finished contraption rapidly deconstructed, your challenge is to remake it. This can become complicated in places but, with sporadic supervision for younger players, it won’t be that difficult to see through from start to finish. The separate steps are designed in a way that you can complete one and then take a break, which the game heartily encourages to help you maintain your concentration.
You start with the visor, before moving on to the power boxes, backpack, slider box, robot arms, robot shoes, backpack cover, and then lastly slotting your Joy-Con into place. It’s always clear which cardboard pieces you will need and when. These have been recreated in-game, and every interaction that you need to make has been animated. You have the power to fast forward and rewind the instructions, which not only helps to move things along when needed but will let you backtrack to make sure that things haven’t gone awry at any point.
After all the boops, fwips, dum diddly dum dees, and zoopazoopazoops that the instructions will throw in your direction, it’s hard to ever come to terms with the spellbinding magic that enchants the whole building experience. From the heartening encouragement that the game constantly gives you to the way that the cardboard pieces are folded and creased in the most ingenious ways.
Toy-Con Robot made, it’s time to suit up and there are even steps for this. Place the visor on your head, the Nintendo Switch in TV Mode, put the backpack on your back, unspool the strings on the robot shoes to adjust their length to fit your legs, put on the shoes, grab the robot hand bits, and you’re ready to unleash destruction.
It’s surprisingly easy to control the hulking robot in-game, raising and lowering each leg, in turn, making it walk forwards, leaning left or right changing its direction, and swinging forward with your left and right hands seeing it punch with each metallic fist. And then, lowering your visor will also let you enter the first-person mode.
There’s far more to it, though, as stretching out both arms will see it enter Flight Mode, you can enter Car Mode by kneeling down on the floor, and doing both at the same time will let you take to the skies in Plane Mode. Standing still will let a gauge fill that can be seen on the robot’s backpack in-game, and, once full, you can unleash a Charge Punch. You can lift one leg while falling to perform a Corkscrew Kick, lowering your visor and extending both arms when the gauge is full will let you unleash a Special Beam, and raising your right arm and leg at the same time and you will enter Giant Mode.
There are several gameplay experiences, but Robot is the main attraction. This will see you stomping around a city to crush buildings, bash cars and thump UFOs out of the sky. It’s a score attack mode, so, within a five-minute time limit, you must destroy as much as you can and rely on a combo multiplier to boost your points further. The points that you earn will help you to increase your Robot Level, and, at specific milestones, you will upgrade certain moves – such as extending how long you can stay giant for. You can also unlock a Free Play mode that lets you play for longer 30-minute sessions.
The Challenge mode is up next with multiple stages to tackle that will test your skills with each move that you can perform, and, by clearing them, you will unlock the moves that you learn to achieve even higher scores in Robot mode. Whereas Versus mode is a little more optimistic in that it requires two Robot Kits for opposing players to swing their heavy robotic fists at each other in an arena. But, if you click in the Left Stick you can activate Autopilot mode to fight against the computer. Whether battling against a human or AI opponent, whoever destroys their opponent more times will win and if you fall out of the ring your robot will self-destruct. And, that’s really it for gameplay experiences.
In the Hangar mode, you can insert cardboard screws into your Toy-Con Robot to change its colour scheme, whereas the Robo-Studio will let you place your Nintendo Switch console inside the backpack and it will play different sounds – like beatboxing, monster, and futuristic robot – as you move around. The last choice is Calories, which, if you want it to, will estimate what calories you have burned off as you play in the Robot, Challenge, Robo-Studio, and Challenge modes.
Collectively, these modes for the Toy-Con Robot are far more substantial than those seen in the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit. But, concerns over longevity still linger. There’s perhaps more fun to be found in Challenge mode compared to Robot, but I worry that the gameplay experience is a shallow one, and, while always a perfect fit for quick play bursts, even youngsters will want to move on to whatever’s next before long.
Nintendo’s humour is back in Discover, as Professor Gerry Riggs asks you to become the fourth member in his semi-secret organisation, the Toy-Con Development Lab. Working with the Professor, Lerna Lotte and Plaise Allatyme, you can spend time decorating your Toy-Con in Arts and Crafts, learn more about how the Joy-Con, IR Motion Camera and reflective marker stickers work, and then, more specifically, in how they bring your Toy-Con Robot to life.
If you weren’t already fascinated by how everything works when making the whole thing, it won’t be long before the Discover section will leave you believing that cardboard witchcraft is behind it all. These are all playful conversations with the three characters, that even go as far as to tell you how to tidily store your Toy-Con Robot – a chief tenet in the Toy-Con Development Lab’s Code of Conduct.
The writing is brilliant and easily some of Nintendo’s best. It is not only accompanied by short explanatory videos, but you are often asked to interact with what’s being talked about to steer the discussion in surprising ways. That helps to keep this part of the game as engaging as it can possibly be, which is important seeing as it’s where you will learn the most about how smart Nintendo Labo really is. There’s even some troubleshooting advice to check the strings, weights, and reflective marker stickers whenever you have any problems. And, after reading all the topics and passing a test, you will be handed the title, Robot Master.
It is the Secret Lab where Nintendo hope that you will spend more of your time. This is where the Toy-Con Garage is, the core control system of the entire Toy-Con Development Lab. It’s a creative but more advanced feature, where you are taught how to use input, middle and output nodes to come to understand the basic principles of technology in, Nintendo hopes, a fun and accessible way. We have already seen some jaw-dropping creations emerge online, and, with Nintendo throwing more than enough examples at you, it will be exciting to see what else can come from it.
Who knew that cardboard could be so incredible? The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit may have been created with a more singular vision than its Variety Kit counterpart, but it clearly demonstrates how Nintendo has found a new direction in which to continue to rekindle its innovative spirit. This interactive build-and-play experience will astound in construction and entertain in letting you live out your dream as a giant robot. But, it needed more content to make sure that it isn’t long before the magic wanes and you move on to whatever comes next.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo