On Wednesday, Nintendo announced a new line of peripherals that use, wait for it, cardboard to supplement the Switch experience. Launching in April, Nintendo Labo transforms the Switch into new devices, including a piano, miniature house, and fishing rod. Players order cardboard modules, build, then insert the Switch’s Joy Con controllers. Using sensors, the controllers adapt to what’s been built.
The result is bizarre, joyful and confusing all at once:
Most of the Labo toys in the video are part of the $70 “Variety Kit,” which includes a car, fishing rod, piano, house and motorbike. UK prices have not yet been announced, but expect it to be somewhere between £60-£70.
Here’s Nintendo explaining why each is worth the time it takes to assemble:
- Toy-Con RC Car: Insert the Left and Right Joy-Con into your newly built RC Car and control its movement using touch screen controls on the Nintendo Switch console. The HD Rumble feature in the Joy-Con controllers will cause vibrations that move the car in the direction you choose. Materials to construct two RC Cars are included.
- Toy-Con Fishing Rod: Construct the Fishing Rod with an active, rotating reel that is attached by string to a cradle holding the Nintendo Switch console. Catch one of many exotic fish shown swimming on the Nintendo Switch screen by casting your Fishing Rod and unwinding the reel to lower the hook. Once you feel a vibration from the Joy-Con inserted in the reel, you must tug the Fishing Rod upward and crank the reel quickly to try and complete the catch!
- Toy-Con House: By inserting various assembled blocks into openings in the sides and bottom of the House, you can interact with, play games with and feed a cute creature on the front-facing Nintendo Switch screen. Each differently shaped block is detected by the IR Motion Camera on the Right Joy-Con inserted on top of the House.
- Toy-Con Motorbike: Insert each Joy-Con into an assembled set of handlebars to drive a motorbike on the Nintendo Switch screen. Pressing the ignition button starts the engine, while twisting the right handle activates the throttle. Leaning your body or turning the handlebars left and right controls the motorbike.
- Toy-Con Piano: After assembling a beautifully crafted 13-key piano and inserting the Nintendo Switch console and Joy-Con, you can experiment with your own musical creations by pressing different keys. You can even insert different assembled knobs to create new sound effects and tones!
The robot towards the end of the video is in a separate kit. It retails for $80 (likely around £70-£80).
Toy-Con Robot: Create a wearable Robot suit, and insert the Left and Right Joy-Con into the designated slots on the backpack and visor to assume control of the robot, which is shown on the TV when the Nintendo Switch console is docked. Enjoy a variety of fun game-play experiences, including Robot mode, in which you can destroy in-game buildings and UFOs.
The nostalgic, make-believe angle of the release trailer is immediately jarring. The whole point of playing pretend isn’t just that a child’s imagination is boundless, playing pretend was also free—which these kits definitely are not. How does modular cardboard boxes enhance the experience of playing pretend except to undercut it with HD graphics? Kids today.
For the cynics, the real takeaway is perhaps that the Switch is evolving. This feels like the first real app for the device and a long awaited acknowledgement that it can do more than play games and reassemble itself as a hybrid mobile/console device. To that end, maybe the sky is the limit for Nintendo’s new advances. This first step in that direction manages to look fresh, familiar and majorly gimmicky. Nintendo might just pull it off regardless.