Can Nintendo’s Budget Labo VR System Prove a Real Contender?

Nintendo Labo was probably an afterthought for most gamers. The system was primarily aimed at younger gamers and initial sales figures weren’t anything to write home about.

Nintendo isn’t giving up on their latest peripheral venture just yet though and the upcoming kit could be a gamechanger. Introducing Labo VR which is set to hit shelves this month.

Immediately the aesthetic is less pleasing than a lot of the competitors on the market. But considering packs retail for as little as £35, it could yet prove a marketing masterstroke.

What is Nintendo Labo?

Nintendo Labo is Switch peripheral that comes with some assembly required. Mainly consisting of cardboard sheets and rubber bands. The construction process is the first part of gameplay, attempting to capitalise on a physical, kinetic toy market.

The cardboard design was also selected so that creations could be customised with colours and stickers etc. Again it was a system mainly aimed at young gamers and parents, producing something creative away from the screens.

Labo comes in various kits from steering wheels to fishing rods to mech suits. Each kit is complete with its own mini-games as well as compatibility with certain other Switch titles. The first round of entries was mainly to show off what the joy cons were capable of. Which surprisingly is a lot.   

From fully functional pianos to remote control creatures the options were impressively diverse. Beneath the intended functions was an additional system called the Garage in which players could build their own programs.

It was also a surprisingly detailed programming system that allowed for manipulations of the pre-loaded mini-games code or coding options for entirely new games and features.

Savvy users have created everything from song covers to ticking clocks with the software. Nintendo even expressed the software is complex enough that it could serve as an early introduction for the next generation of games developers.

Nintendo Labo VR

Basically, Labo VR will be the same concept but this time players will be constructing their own VR headset. The latest releases will also include additional peripherals which the player will use as a control system.

The simplest of these is a long barrel gun. Pump the chamber to reload and pull the trigger to fire at will. There’s also a camera which snaps pictures through a twisting the lens and a pedal used for jumping and lifting features.

There’s a bird, with flappable wings for games in the style of Eagle Flight VR and a pinwheel used for blowing functions. Finally, there’s an appendage best described as an elephant trunk for more precise controls like a Paint function. With the full package, Labo VR comes complete with 64 minigames at launch.

The Labo Garage is also making a return to the new system meaning players will be able to customise the mini-games and code their own unique VR experiences. Nintendo has also announced ahead of launch that Labo VR will support Breath Of The Wild and Mario Odyssey.

Mario Odyssey will, in fact, be receiving an update with new challenges specifically added for VR compatibility.

Does it Compare to the Competition?

Now, we know what you’re thinking, a handheld VR headset made out of cardboard? That’s like comparing the Switch’s processing power to the PS4; Labo VR will prove a noticeably budget experience.

Well, the early reviews are already in for Labo VR and the news is good. Most reviewers agree the software is actually brilliant and at least up to the industry standard of PlayStation VR.

Whilst the lack of straps may seem like a cost-cutting measure this actually is by design as it gives Labo VR the lowest age rating of all VR headsets on the market and reduces nausea when using the headset.

With support for two of the Switch’s premiere titles at launch, we can only assume more will follow. Particularly VR games like Keep Talking Nobody Explodes that are already available on the Nintendo e-shop.

The Mario Kart team have also been working on VR technology for a while now, which recently arrived in the UK in the form of arcade cabinets. With a Labo steering wheel and pedal available that already features support for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, we’d excitedly guess a home Mario Kart VR experience could be on the cards.

And as mentioned Labo VR also offers the chance to create custom VR experiences. Although online uploads are currently not available to prevent harmful content so you probably won’t be able to play other’s creations.  

With third-party current and future VR titles, as well as more Nintendo exclusives, Labo VR could be a surprise hit. And for a fraction of the cost of the leading contender PlayStation VR, it could convince more players to take a punt on VR altogether.

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