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For the past few days, my living room has resembled a mid-1990s arcade. There’s a fishing game in a corner with a physical rod so you can reel in a digital catch. Beside it is a motorcycle racer where players can use their bodies and hands to navigate a twisting race track. There’s also a piano where you can record your own tracks and manipulate sounds with a series of strange knobs. Smack dab in the middle is a massive, angular backpack that you can strap on to control a lumbering on-screen robot, swinging your arms in the real world to smash buildings in the game. The big difference between these games and the arcades of my youth is that each and every one is made of cardboard — and I built them all myself.

At the beginning of the year, Nintendo revealed a strange new initiative called Labo, a series of accessories for the Nintendo Switch with a decidedly DIY bent. They’re building sets coupled with games: you put the accessory together yourself, and then you use it to play the accompanying game. Labo was intriguing for a few reasons. First, there’s the playful nature of Nintendo merging the worlds of digital and physical play, encouraging kids to use their hands to build things.

But there’s also an educational element. Labo not only allows you to build things like a cardboard piano, but it also gives you a peek behind the curtain into how these strange accessories actually work. This is coupled with a more freeform “garage” mode, where you can use a rudimentary programming language to create your own interactions and design your own Labo kits from scratch. The whole thing is wrapped up with the distinctive Nintendo charm, which makes repeatedly rolling tiny pieces of cardboard somehow feel fun.

The tagline for Labo is “make, play, and discover.” Each of these elements is an equally important part of the experience, but the most impressive aspect of Labo is how the lines between the three blur. You play as you build, you discover as you play, and it’s a blast no matter what you’re doing.

At launch, Labo comes in two forms: a “variety kit” and a “robot kit.” The variety kit is cheaper and more expansive, with five different projects to build, compared to the robot’s one. (Nintendo calls these projects Toy-Con, a play on the Joy-Con controllers that work with the Switch.) They range quite a bit in terms of complexity, starting with a simple RC car, before moving on to a fishing rod, toy house, piano, and motorcycle. The first thing you have to do, of course, is actually build something.

The process of creating a Toy-Con is both intuitive and entertaining. The Switch serves as an interactive instruction manual where you can tap through step-by-step instructions. The real object in your hands is represented on the screen in astonishing detail, and you can pan around and zoom in on the digital version to check it out from every angle. This attention to minutiae is important because most of the Toy-Con kits are very precise creations that need to be put together in a very particular way. But the interactive nature of the Switch manual means that it’s easy to track what you need to be doing and how you need to do it. You can always see the position a piece of cardboard should be in, and how it needs to fold or connect to something else. I’m the kind of person who struggles to build an Ikea bookshelf, but I never found myself struggling or confused with any of the Toy-Con.

A note on durability

After five days with Labo, it’s impossible to say whether cardboard accessories will hold up in the long term. But I have been surprised with how durable the Toy-Con have been so far — especially with two not-especially-gentle kids having their way with them. So far, the only issues I’ve run into are a button on the piano that gets squashed when pressed too hard (I reinforced it with tape, and it works perfectly now) and a string popping out of the fishing rod after some intense sessions. These issues were both simple to fix, but I’ve been really impressed by Labo’s tutorials, which really go in-depth on how to repair your cardboard creations should something break. I’m definitely going to make sure to keep a healthy supply of tape and glue on hand.

Source : https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/18/17253574/nintendo-labo-review-switch-learning-diy

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