Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit ReviewPlatforms: Nintendo Switch
Building something from scratch is an immensely gratifying experience, one that brings many back to the good old days spent making weird structures out of Lego and then getting shouted out when your parents stepped on them. It is incredibly rare to get a chance to capture this feeling as you get older because you just don't get many things too build apart from IKEA furniture.
Labo offers a chance to recapture these feelings, or to offer them to a new generation. While the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit both had a lot of interesting features, they sometimes felt more like experiences than games as such. They offered a chance to see what Labo could do, that it was more than just cardboard. They let you experience a genuinely different way to play games, and to interact.
The Vehicle Kit feels like a game first and a learning experience second. Though as with the other kits, the first thing you get to do is create the controllers you will be using. The game itself takes you through a suggested path that eases you into things, creating the ignition key is a satisfying and fairly quick endeavour. The instructions are given in a charming and easy to understand way, the background music is easy to listen to and the whole package is a genuine joy to work your way through.
Once you have made the Key and the Pedal, you get to really sink your teeth into the creation of something more complex. While the Flight stick isn't too complex it has some incredibly impressive tech within it, building a spring from cardboard is a strange experience, but one that feels great once finished. The Steering Wheel is the most complicated of all. Taking over two hours to complete and involving a plethora of moving parts, it is a marvel to see it come together. The clever combination of reflective stickers, rubber bands, and easy-to-follow folding gives you an end product that is remarkably sturdy.
The Submarine is another suitably titanic task. It requires less pieces but more effort in the crafting of them, hell it even has cogs that fit together in order to move the vessel in game. The satisfaction you will have upon finishing all of the vehicles is wonderful. The kind of pure joy that is hard to replicate in any kind of gaming. It is also incredibly pure, taking a break from the norm of blowing things up to create something instead hits the same areas of the brain as something like Minecraft, but with a tangible result.
You can play many of the modes with just the car, but the adventure mode is best tackled once you have access to the full suite of vehicles. All you need to do to change from one to another is to take the key and put it into a different construct. This results in an instant change in game that allows you to dive from the sky into the sea and instantly adapt, it feels great. The map that you journey around in is pretty sizeable and is made up of several areas. Each area has an array of objectives to meet, things to collect, hidden secrets to find, that allow you to unlock new goodies in game.
The adventure mode map is also featured in the rally mode, which is basically time trials for the different vehicles, some of them even require the use of multiple different ones. There are mutiplayer modes too, in the event you have extra Joy-Con or even extra Toy-Con. The battle mode is particularly fun, trying to use the big wheel and pedal to control from a side on view is tricky, but it adds to the enjoyment of the whole thing greatly.
While the idea of more than one person playing is nice, it is a little cumbersome to have more than one kit lying around. Thankfully you can choose to control many of the modes just using a Joy-Con. This opens up multiplayer as a realistic option for those who don't want to buy an extra kit or design their own controllers. It feels like a good jump for the Labo series and one that will hopefully keep being included.
Despite the gameplay being significantly more fleshed out in this version, perhaps the best part of the whole package is the Discover section. This is the bit that teaches you just how the various components work, why they work, and how you can try and make your own bits and bobs in order to help ignite that spark of creativity that makes Labo so special. The information offered and the way it is presented is fantastic, learning about the various features included in the standard Joy-Con is sure to get some into engineering and design. If you are more into coding, then there is still the workshop, this allows you to mess about with some basic inputs and outputs and could well be the first stepping stone into something more.
The Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit is the best one yet, it invokes so much joy and wonder as you work your way through it that it is hard to keep a grin off of your face. When coupled with all of the charm that Nintendo is known for you have a genuinely special experience that will no doubt be used in other games. After all, the steering wheel and pedal are coming to Mario Kart too. The flight stick and submarine could well end up in projects going forwards too and it just adds to the value that this kit is already bursting with. Labo really is something special.