Games: Nintendo's card gamble seems to be a real – as opposed to VR – Labo of love
IT'S an oft-cited parental lament that the fruit of their loins often enjoy the box more than the toy – but Nintendo is combining the best of both with their latest descent into madness.
When the company announced it had a "new interactive experience" in the pipeline, online tongues speculated on everything from Skylanders-style toys to fresh ways of waggling your old Wii-mote on Switch. True to form, the Japanese giant – high on the success fumes of Switch – confounded expectations and instead invites you to get those fingers out and footer with their Labo.
A stunning mix of high-tech and lowly cardboard, Nintendo are literally thinking outside the box with its range of mini-games played in the real world with DIY toys. Labo's kits combine traditional videogames with sheets of perforated card that can be popped out into shapes, folded and assembled into “Toy-Cons” – pianos, fishing rods and the like that, when combined with the Switch controller, literally come to life. Sod VR – this is reality.
Add the Switch screen to your cardboard piano, for example, and you can tinkle the paper ivories, or by swaddling your Joy-Con in a cardboard car, you can drive it about – for the first time in the history of gaming you'll use the screen to control the controllers. Most impressive of all is a full-size robot suit which enables the wearer to stomp around like a cardboard cyborg, impervious to everything bar some damp. Thankfully – given that my digital dexterity makes even the most rudimentary Ikea box a challenge – the handmade hoopla promises to be idiot-proof.
In breakfast economics, your cereal's box costs more to Kellogg than its contents (it's also more nutritious), and Nintendo is putting an eye-watering premium on Labo's cardboard delights, which cost over 60 sheets for 28, erm, sheets of plump perforated paper. Two different flavours will be available at launch on April 27. The Variety Kit's assorted craft doodads include the Toy-Con RC Car, Fishing Rod, House, Motorbike and Piano for £60 while the Robot Kit, featuring the wearable automaton suit, is £70. Once assembled, budding artists can bling their Toy-Cons, with stencil and sticker-loaded Customisation Kits retailing at £8.99.
It's easy to cry rip-off, but bearing in mind Labo's kits also come with bona-fide game cartridges (in fact, the games don't actually require sheets of corrugated tree-corpse to play, though that's rather missing the DIY point), the price doesn't seem that bad, while patterns will be no doubt be provided online for free.
Turning humble cardboard – coffin material for pets and hobos alike – into a form of biodegradable Lego will have hipsters soiling their skinny jeans.
And while creating a "build-and-play experience designed to inspire creative minds and playful hearts alike" is a lofty idea, by mixing the Japanese giant's love of quirk with the country's own tradition of origami, Nintendo will ensure you don't get card-bored.