“VR, Nintendo Labo style!” It’s the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit box that says it best. Nintendo’s interactive build-and-play experiences have gone from mere quirky, cardboard curiosities to become a BAFTA Games Award-winning sensation. Now, less than a year on, this fourth kit has landed to deliver accessible and shareable virtual reality for the whole family to enjoy.
I am filled with childlike fascination whenever I open up a Nintendo Labo kit, and, understandably, this time was no different. Whether you are looking to pick up the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit – Starter Set + Blaster (£34.99 / $39.99) or the complete Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (£69.99 / $79.99), this is both an irresistible and affordable introduction into the world of virtual reality. Nintendo’s undeniable wizardry continues to bewitch with the Blue Peter-like satisfaction of constructing otherwise unassuming colored cardboard sheets into what become remarkable Toy-Con contraptions.
It’s worth quickly mentioning that, right from the start, the experience comes with the warning that using the Toy-Con VR Goggles to view 3D visuals is only suitable for players aged 7 and above. If you have any youngsters yet to hit that age, there are parentals controls that will let you restrict access to the VR mode. As well as that, we’re warned not to stare at the sun with the VR Goggles or leave them in direct sunlight. Which, I hope, is for obvious reasons. And, there are frequent reminders that encourage you to take breaks at regular intervals.
What’s In The Box?
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit Contents:
- 1 Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit Software
- 32 Cardboard sheets
- 1 VR lens piece
- 1 Reflective sheet
- 2 Sponge sheets
- 1 Smooth sheet
- 6 Eyelet sets (grey)
- 2 Washers (grey)
- 11 Eyelet sets (yellow)
- 1 Rubber band (large) x1 + spares
- 8 Rubber band (small) x8 + spares
Taught to crease firmly along the fold lines, show tabs some respect, and snugly slide the cardboard pieces into place, you experience with Nintendo Labo continues to beat to the Make, Play, and Discover rhythm. There are six Toy-Con creations to make, in the Toy-Con VR Goggles (30-60 minutes), Toy-Con Camera (30-60 minutes), Toy-Con Elephant (60-120 minutes), Toy-Con Bird (90-150 minutes), Toy-Con Wind Pedal (90-150 minutes), and Toy-Con Blaster (120-180 minutes).
These estimates for the build times could see it take around 10 hours to assemble everything that comes in the complete Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit. That Nintendo Labo is an unwaveringly cheerful piece of software to interact with makes the experience all the more charming. The constant encouragement is as helpful for children as it is for big kids, and the humor that has been sprinkled into the directions never fails to raise a smile even when faced with the more awkward step-by-step instructions.
Of course, Nintendo recommends regular breaks. You even create the Toy-Con in separate parts and can stop whenever you like, as well as fast forward and rewind the animated instructions if you need to doublecheck something. I ended up building the six Toy-Con over three days, which not only seemed like a sensible approach but meant that I could play around with them before my curiosity ultimately pushed me on to the next. The Toy-Con Bird, Toy-Con Blaster, and Toy-Con Camera were easily my favorites to make, and the Toy-Con Elephant something that I’m still not completely convinced by. Now, I just need to work out where to safely keep everything now that it’s not flat packed…
It’s up to you whether you have the energy to make every Toy-Con one after another or would rather check their activities out once each is finished. But, know that your first interaction with the VR Goggles is pure and magical. The difference here is that they work much more like a periscope, in that you can freely lift them to your eyes and can remove them at any point. Compared to the weighty, wire-ridden virtual reality headsets on the market, it allows for a more social experience on Nintendo Switch. Spot something you’re excited to share, and you can quickly hand it to someone else to peer in. It’s simple and accessible to all.
Your Nintendo Switch console slides into the VR Goggles, that, safely held in place with the Safety Cap, then slots into the other Toy-Con you have made before you can dive into their experiences. And, for what it’s worth, most of these experiences are hits rather than misses.
I made the Toy-Con Camera first, which you can use in two modes. You’re underwater in Ocean Camera, where, with sea life swimming all around you, you are encouraged to take photos to complete missions. Only three photos can be taken in each dive, meaning that you must make each snap count. You turn the Toy-Con Camera’s lens to zoom in and out and then hit the L Button to take your photo. Pointing upwards will see you swim towards the surface, while you descend to a dark, underwater cavern if you look downward. There’s even a Toy-Con Snorkel that another player can wear that, if they move in front of you, will see a slightly creepy fish appear with human-looking eyes to lend some social interaction.
The House Camera mode has a similar goal. Here, you observe the peculiar Fluffball who, as some will recognize, lives in the Toy-Con House from the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit. The game ends after you have taken three photos, the player challenged to interact with Fluffball’s house in different ways – resulting in the chance to take snaps of the fluffy creature in different poses, colors, and other playful situations. It’s undeniably charming, and the Toy-Con Camera’s potential for a Pokémon Snap-like experience is clear.
Next up, for me at least, was the Toy-Con Blaster. This is clearly the showpiece, throwing players into Blaster mode where they must defend the planet from pink squishy enemies. You must crank a slider to load the Blaster before you can pull the trigger, which, without a doubt, makes this one of the most satisfying experiences that’s packed in with the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit. Players are encouraged to defeat as many enemies as they can with a single shot to earn more points, and you can lock on to enemies by pressing the button before readying a shot. You can also flip down your visor in the virtual world to temporarily slow down time – helpful when you’re confronted with the mode’s gargantuan bosses.
And then there’s Kablasta. This is playfully described as “a high-octane fruit-firing hippo-feeding competitive sport,” which I find hard to beat. Being competitive it’s for two players, but you share the single Toy-Con Blaster between you. It’s like Hungry Hippos, but, rather than one hippo gulping up all the food, you suck up fruit and then fire it at the hippos to lure them to your zone. Not every hippo is hungry though, meaning you’ll need to look for the ones with their mouths open. You take turns until you run out of fruit, and the winner is whoever has the most hippos in their zone. You can whistle to get the hippo’s attention, tempt them away from your rival’s zone, and fire grapes as rapid-fire fruit. It’s absolutely mad, and I love it.
I have to admit that as much as the Toy-Con Bird is a marvel to create, I didn’t click with the slower-paced Bird game at first. Constantly having to squeeze the Toy-Con’s grips to flap my newfound virtual wings proved to be more annoying than using the Wii Remote Plus to fly on a Loftwing in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. That is until I later learned about how slotting another Joy-Con into the Toy-Con Wind Pedal lends a welcome speed boost and the chance to run on water. You can even attach the Toy-Con Pinwheel, which, when blowing air to make it turn, will see the birds following you fly ahead to retrieve anything they can see. There are maps to collect, eggs to hatch, and baby birds to gather food for, and while Bird won’t be for everyone, it offers a world to get lost in.
Bird Dash is the other game for the Toy-Con Bird, that, once again used with the Toy-Con Wind Pedal, challenges you to race through checkpoints in as fast a time as possible. Hitting an obstacle will send you back to the last checkpoint, and there’s a chance that the timer will run out. The Toy-Con Wind Pedal lends some surprising 4D magic to the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit, in that it wafts you with a gust of air every time that you push it down. It’s a perfect match for these aerial games as well as in its own game, Hop Dodge. This sees you play as a frog with a feather hat and must time your jumps to leap on balls that toy bears hurl in your direction. It gets faster over time, and sometimes you have to head a football.
And then, the Toy-Con Elephant has Marble Run and Doodle. Doodle lets you unleash your creativity to draw your own 3D masterpieces, turning the Joy-Con into a wide selection of tools that you can use. Shapes, special pens, and custom ink, I can see this being a wonderful playground for kids to create in without making a mess. There’s also a Guess The Doodle game for two players, where the game tells one player what to draw for the other to guess – choosing to answer from four options. In Marble Run, you need to twist and turn metallic pieces to guide a marble to a goal. These puzzles become increasingly complex as you progress, and there’s even the chance to create your own – complete challenges, and you will unlock more parts to use. It’s a fun puzzler, but I would keep reaching forward into the 3D space – something that isn’t picked up – rather than simply move my hands.
If you’re still looking for more content, then, last but not least, there’s the VR Plaza. This has four, color-packed pages that become filled with 64 bite-sized games and experiences that unlock as you construct each Toy-Con and, eventually, check out Toy-Con Garage VR. It’s a pick-and-mix assortment, covering lots of genres with experiences that have been designed for short burst play. There’s a brick-breaker, the brilliant Bomb Hockey, and another where you muck around in a kitchen. Big Old Book remains a favorite, but you’ll have to check that one out for yourselves to know why.
In Discover, Professor Gerry Riggs once again recruits you into the Toy-Con Development Lab. The Professor works with resident programmer Lerna Lotte and the excitable Plaise Allatyme, and, in lighthearted conversations with them, you have the chance to learn about different topics. That can be how the VR Goggles work, why we can sense depth, or how the different Toy-Con work, and this remains to be somewhere that I enjoy spending time within the software. It’s a smart place where Nintendo reveals what’s happening behind the curtain.
Toy-Con Garage returns as a programming tool that covers how to use input, middle, and output nodes to create new ways to play with Nintendo Labo using Toy-Con that you have built. This is expanded with Toy-Con Garage VR, which, as Lerna Lotte explains, was used by the development team to create all the games that you can play in VR Plaza. There are new VR Plaza nodes and a 3D editing mode to use, with tutorial topics in place to teach the basics. There’s even the chance to import VR Plaza games into Toy-Con Garage VR to discover how they work, customize the experiences, or rework them into a new game.
Looking to the future, Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will each receive a free software update later this month that will make them compatible with the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit. With the Toy-Con VR Goggles, as the mustachioed plumber, you can collect musical notes, coins, and instruments hidden in three stages based in Bonneton (Cap Kingdom), Bubblaine (Seaside Kingdom), and Mount Volbono (Luncheon Kingdom). While you will have the chance to explore the world of Hyrule from a new perspective using virtual reality in Link’s open-world adventure. There’s undeniable potential for more bonus experiences like this, even if it’s clear what other plans Nintendo has.
The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit is nothing less than a cardboard marvel through which Nintendo has delivered an affordable and content-rich introduction to the world of virtual reality. We’re four Nintendo Labo kits in now, and, after the equally brilliant Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 03: Vehicle Kit, the build-and-play concept – which wonderfully blends physical and digital activities – continues to maintain its rubber band-strung stride. That only leaves me wondering about what cardboard contraptions will come next.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo