The core idea – using cardboard to create unique controllers and devices – was utter genius, and rightly captured the imagination of millions of players all over the globe.
- Read our original Nintendo Labo review here
After those two initial kits, Nintendo is now following up with what is perhaps its most accomplished Labo offering yet – the Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit – although it will do little to assuage the fears of those who still can't find anywhere to store the previous Variety and Robot kits.
Fly, dive and drive
The Vehicle Kit largely does what it says in the tin. You get to construct three controllers based on different modes of transportation: car, submarine, and aeroplane. Using these vehicles you can explore a surprisingly large game world at will, unlocking new areas and challenges while stopping periodically to refuel.
These challenges are unique to each sub-area of the map, and range from ferrying around NPCs to performing tricks and even sinking golf balls into massive holes. This is an interactive playground which begs to be discovered, and it effortlessly trumps the other two Labo kits as a gaming experience beyond the sum of its cardboard parts.
The Toy-Cons themselves – cardboard creations built around the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers – are stunning feats of design work, especially the car module. The motion of light-reflective tape inside the unit is picked up by the right-hand Joy-Con's IR camera, translating subtle movements into in-game action.
Using the foot pedal – the only Toy-Con that is used in all three vehicle modes – you can apply gradual acceleration. To change vehicles, all you need do is remove the Toy-Con key (which contains the aforementioned Joy-Con) and insert into the relevant module; your craft transforms on the spot and you can take to the skies or explore the depths of a lake.
The mainline Adventure Mode is a meaty experience but won't keep you occupied forever, so Nintendo has included several other modes in order to extend longevity.
You’ll likely spend more time in the Battle Mode, which pits two players against one another on a deformable landscape. Punches are thrown using the levers on the side of the car Toy-Con, and you can even use the Joy-Con's IR camera to scan real objects and translate them into undulating areas.
Elsewhere, a special spray-can Toy-Con is used to customise your vehicles, while a brand-new mode for this kit allows you to create new Toy-Con of your very own, or simply use the Joy-Con's stick and buttons to control the action.
Slot Car racing is the most basic mode, and only uses the pedal. In this game, you and three other friends can race your tiny car around a track, Scalextric-style, only needing to worry about the amount of gas you're applying.
It's also worth noting that the Adventure Mode can be played in co-op, with a second person using the plane Toy-Con to aim a cannon. In terms of content, this kit really is a virtual toybox – although it should be noted that you'll need more than one copy of the kit to enjoy all of its cooperative features.
This kit certainly delivers when it comes to pure entertainment value, but you should expect to spend your first 5 to 8 hours in its company building stuff out of cardboard. Nintendo gives rough estimates of how long each component takes to build, and in total, you're looking at over eight hours if you consider yourself to be a novice cardboard-folder.
Even if you're quick, you're still going to have to invest the best part of a single day's waking hours in simply building the tools needed to play the game.
This was, to a certain degree, an issue with the other two kits – especially the Variety Kit, which contained several complex Toy-Con. However, those kits could be assembled one at a time, whereas to embrace the full potential of the Vehicle Kit, you really need to have all three modules made before you fire up the Adventure Mode.
If you've got kids then obviously this is more a joy than a chore, but even their patience may be tested by the sheer magnitude of the task at hand.
Once you've made the Toy-Con, you then have the thorny issue of where to store all of this cursed cardboard. One of the big criticisms of Labo is the sheer amount of space each assembled kit takes up: if you've bought all three kits released so far, we dread to think what your living room must look like right now. With no easy means of taking the kits apart when you're not using them, Labo presents a very real issue when it comes to storage.
The storage issue aside, the third Labo kit shows that the core concept has matured massively over the past few months and is more than capable of supplying true game-like experiences.
The immersive nature of these Toy-Con modules included here cannot be denied, and there are times when it feels like you're sat in an expensive arcade cabinet – a remarkable feat when you consider you're simply using cardboard and the power of the Switch Joy-Con. Nintendo deserves a massive amount of credit for creating a genuinely new way to play, one that looks set to take over our homes and storage closets with its cardboard creations.
This could well be the most accomplished and playable Labo kit yet, but make sure you've got plenty of room to store the three large modules required to play.