Hands On: Nintendo Labo VRPlatforms: Nintendo Switch
Nintendo are old hands at the mobile VR game - their Virtual Boy, a 32 bit VR headset was released back in 1995 and was a commercial and critical failure. Jump forward quarter of a decade and the world has finally caught up - Oculus Rift and PSVR, alongside the HTC Vive all proved that the time of VR is upon us. Similarly, Samsung and Google have given us mobile based VR solutions that have been mildly successful but have failed to really break through.
It's clear that Nintendo's VR option takes elements from both ends of the spectrum and gives us a unique and exciting offering that doesn't break the bank.
We've spent the day in London at a behind-closed-doors hands on session with the Nintendo Labo VR - based on the gaming giant's push out and build cardboard kits, you could be forgiven for thinking this might be just another take on Google's Cardboard. But don't be fooled - this is as impressive an offering as Sony's all-singing-all-dancing kit and one that costs a fraction of the price. Even more interestingly, the possibilities that Labo brings for variety and interactivity makes this something we're really excited to see develop.
There are three sets being available at launch - the starter kit comes with the materials to build the headset and the blaster controller. It retails for £34.99 and is a fantastic introduction to the platform. Don't forget that not only does the kit give you access to the Blaster, it also gives you everything you'll need to be the soon-to-be VR enabled Super Mario Odyssey and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; which between them are enough justification to pick up the Labo VR alone!
Then there are two additional expansions that give you access to a variety of other constructions - the bird and wind set, and the camera and 'elephant' set - the latter of which includes our favourite application of the technology so far. There is also the 'Variety Kit' which gives you access to everything released so far.
We didn't get a chance to actually construct the models at the event - they were all there ready for us to try out in their final form; and as with other Labo constructions they were surprisingly solid and likely to withstand a fair amount of use before the cardboard finally gives up the ghost.
The headset comes with the plastic lens assembly that is surprisingly comfortable. There's no strap around your head and no wires to worry about - all of the weight of the unit is in your hand which alleviates a lot of the neck strain more advanced offerings can cause. It's also much easier to pop the Labo VR down to take a break; something that you'll find you'll need to do occasionally.
We've had a play with all of the options available in all of the kits and they all impress in different ways. There's something massively effective about having something other than a controller in your hands to immerse you in VR - there's a tactility that it brings, meaning you easily forget you're just holding cardboard in your hands. Reloading the blaster and firing at your targets feels right and allays some of the detachment that playing with a controller brings. We felt none of the motion sickness that playing on other VR units occasionally caused - but that may well be due to the nature of the Labo games and activities.
The Blaster probably offers the most immediate fun - there's something primal about taking out aliens and monsters who can come at you from any direction, but it's done in the cutest, most Nintendo, way possible. The camera kit is probably better suited to younger children and the underwater option is particularly impressive as fish swim all around you and come in closer as you feed them in order to set up the perfect shot.
Most impressive of all though is the 'Elephant' - so described because of how it looks rather than the games it offers. There are two brilliant applications of this kit - one is a 3D design game that is really impressive and the other is a marble-based puzzler that allows you to manipulate objects remarkably accurately in 3D space. The combination of two joy-cons and their motion support alongside the camera built into one makes for some amazing tracking. It's the first thing that has truly wowed me in terms of enjoyment and possibility, rather than out of spectacle.
We'll be running a full review of the Nintendo Labo VR very soon. Suffice to say, we're impressed, and for Switch owners it truly is worth every penny.
Nintendo Labo VR is available to buy from 12th April