The Nintendo Switch now supports VR, with the latest cardboard constructions from the Labo range bringing affordable immersive experiences onto the handheld/household hybrid console. As is always the case with the Labo series of products, this new virtual reality hardware requires a fair amount of self-assembly. Before you can play the games, you’ll need to piece the cardboard gear together like LEGO.
There are numerous ways to buy the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04 (that’s the official name of this new VR kit), and every one of them involves some pre-play building: the basic starter pack version (about $45) comes with the headset itself and a hefty blaster, while the fully-fledged version (about $80) packs in the headset, the blaster, a camera, a bird, a foot pedal and an elephant. That may sound like a rather barmy collection of things, but, trust us, every piece of this kit has a purpose when you delve into the relevant gaming experiences.
Den Of Geek had the chance to do just that at a Nintendo event in London, where we had our first hands-on experience with Nintendo Switch VR. There are 64 games in the ‘VR Plaza’ associated with this new Labo range, all of which you can play with or without VR, and there is the potential to create your own interactive experiences as well. We tried as many games as we could in our time slot at Nintendo’s event, and this is how it went…
First up, Nintendo introduced us to an on-rails shooter game that required placing your Switch into the headset and then slotting the headset into the blaster. One of your hands will hold the blaster up to your eyes while thumbing the trigger, and your other hand will grab the reload function on the underside of the blaster’s shaft. The game we played with this set-up was simple and fun, swooping the player through numerous environments that are stuffed with colorful and splat-able aliens. You’ve got to remember to reload, and it’s also possible to pause time and line up your next few blasts. There are some big, eye-catching boss battles, too, where you’ve got to follow sizeable cartoonish beasts around the environment and shoot their weak bits when you can.
A lot of the other games in the VR Plaza are noticeably lacking in violence: one underwater photography game, where you attach your headset to the Labo camera and snap photos of fish, divers, and mermaids, looks like a peaceful little time-sink; another game involves the bird attachment and the foot pedal, asking players to multitask and use multiple limbs to control a winged character as it flies around a map, offering help to other creatures; there was also a multiplayer blaster game that involved competitive hippo feeding (you have to suck up fruit and then shoot it at the hippos), which enabled some lighthearted pass-and-play competitiveness. All of these games were easy to pick up, and despite clearly being aimed at kids, it’s easy to imagine gamers of all ages finding some fun here if they try it out.
The standout game was a seemingly simple puzzler, which presents a series of short challenges in which the player must guide a marble into a ring-shaped target area. With your Switch inside the headset and the headset inside the bizarre-looking elephant attachment, you’ll use one hand to hold the screen up to your face while your other hand maneuvers the elephant’s trunk to move items in the virtual world. Of course, the marble-moving puzzles get increasingly more difficult, as new items like swirly slides and impossible-feeling distances are added to the fold. Sometimes, looking at the shadows will provide a clue, or you’ll find a vital piece of extra kit hidden in a previously unseen area of the virtual world. Deceptively difficult and definitely addictive, this puzzle game is well worth checking out.
Although trusting your valuable console to stay put in a cardboard holster still feels a bit scary, especially the first time you venture into the virtual reality, it’s clear that all these buildable add-ons have been designed with the utmost care. Your Switch is always safely secure, providing you’ve done your assembly correctly, and the controls are very user-friendly once you get used to them. Storing the sizeable things may provide a bit of a challenge, but, all in all, this feels like a worthwhile addition to the Switch family.
None of Nintendo Switch VR games are particularly convention-smashing, but they’re all enjoyable ways to spend some time. And it should be interesting to see what people come up with using the game-making section of this new Labo range. Additionally, although the latest Zelda and Mario games have already added VR support, it’s nice to imagine which other fan-favorite franchises could hook up with this new tech: a Star Wars shooter the uses the VR blaster could be a lot of fun, for instance, as could a Pokémon Snap remake that uses the camera. Fingers remain crossed that companies will start developing games to make the most of this kit.
As it stands, this Labo offering is a nice little intro to VR that won’t break the bank. It’d be a fun kit to introduce to a family with children, too, as a lot of these games skew to a younger audience. That’s not to say that grownups can’t enjoy moving marbles, snapping sharks and blasting aliens, though, as we absolutely can and will. How much replay value these games will have remains to be seen, but we’re looking forward to diving back into them.