The educational aspect of the Nintendo Labo kits for the Switch has always been foremost in my mind. The entire experience is designed to teach maker skills such as patience, persistence, and the reward of having built something cool. Nintendo realizes this as well, with their Labo educational program.
The cherry-on-top of the Labo experience is the play itself, where the Labo creations add a tactile aspect to the video game.
Now, Labo has gone a step further, into virtual reality. In doing so, it creates an immersive and unique experience that not only requires the player to move around a bit (no sitting hunched over a console) but also offers players a chance to look under the hood and see how video games are created.
In short, the educational aspects of Labo now include maker skills, problem-solving skills inherent in video games, and game design.
Not to mention a 360-virtual reality experience from a VR headset that you create yourself.
GeekDad Z and I played with (and I do mean played!) the pre-built VR kits on our trip to New York City on Tuesday for Nintendo’s preview of the Nintendo VR Labo kits that will be available April 12th.
All the VR Toy-Con products include what you’d expect for 3D: one that puts the player inside the game. We tried out the Toy-Con Blaster, the Toy-Con Elephant, the Toy-Con Bird, and the VR Plaza, which contains 64 mini-games. The VR plaza is where you can look under the hood at the code that creates the game, modify those games yourself, or create an entirely new one. These games can also be played in 2D as well and have multi-player functions.
My favorite was the Blaster, as there was something viscerally satisfying at using the Labo Toy-Con creation in conjunction with defeating the aliens. But the Toy-Con bird has an immersive experience so far as setting the playing down in a new world, where you are the bird that explores his world, controlling the direction and also the speed by flapping the bird’s wing.
Still, the coolest of the Toy-Cons that we tried may well be the Toy-Con Elephant. Yes, it truly looks like an elephant trunk. We each used the Doodle game to literally draw creations in the air by moving the trunk around. My first thought after finishing was that this would be a terrific tactile game for those who struggle with motor skills, such as handwriting or drawing. That’s because it’s almost as much fun to open the trash can and suck up the inferior creation as it is to draw it in the first place. There is no fear of failure. Instead, destroying what you create becomes fun.
Similarly, while these kits are made to be enjoyable (of course), because they are tactile and immersive, they may be a new way to teach kids various skills. Like the Toy-Con Camera, a 3D exploration of an ocean world that allows the player to take photos/screenshots and save them. There’s no “contest” here, just an ability to let a child explore on their own. Yes, a virtual world is not as good as a real world, but many kids never have the chance to, say, go snorkeling in the real world.
So the steps now become:
- Build the Labo VR kit, learning about the physics of building, including gears and pulleys (rubber bands).
- Play with the VR, stepping into another world as the one around you vanishes.
- Look under the hood at the code of the games, allowing understanding of how the commands work together and allowing a chance to practice game design.
Nintendo Labo VR kit launches on April 12th. From Nintendo’s press releases:
The Nintendo Labo VR Kits:
- Nintendo Labo: VR Kit: Available at a suggested retail price of $79.99, the complete Nintendo Labo: VR Kit includes the Nintendo Switch software and materials to build all six Toy-Con projects – the Toy-Con VR Goggles, Toy-Con Blaster, Toy-Con Camera, Toy-Con Bird, Toy-Con Wind Pedal and Toy-Con Elephant – as well as a Screen Holder and other accessories. It’s a good option for kids and families who want to dive into the full experience.
- Nintendo Labo: VR Kit – Starter Set + Blaster: Available at a suggested retail price of only $39.99, the Starter Set includes the Nintendo Switch software, plus all the components to build the Toy-Con VR Goggles and Toy-Con Blaster, as well as the Screen Holder and other accessories. The Starter Set is a great entry point into the world of Nintendo Labo VR.
And the Nintendo Labo VR Games
- Ocean Camera (Toy-Con Camera): Dive into the deep blue virtual sea and complete objectives like taking photos of sea life. The ocean is full of surprises.
- House Camera (Toy-Con Camera): Interact with the strange creature living in the house – which some people may recognize from the Nintendo Labo: Variety Kit! – and complete missions by taking photos in its mysterious home.
- Marble Run (Toy-Con Elephant): Try to complete physics puzzles by using various objects to guide marbles through rings. You can even create puzzles of your own to challenge friends and family.
- Doodle (Toy-Con Elephant): Create colorful 3D artwork by moving the trunk of the Toy-Con Elephant through the air, using various in-game tools and styles to bring your creations to life. Once finished, show off your masterpieces on the TV by docking your Nintendo Switch. An additional multiplayer game lets you take turns drawing and guessing each other’s drawings.
- Bird (Toy-Con Bird): Soar through the sky on a bird’s back, collecting items and helping baby birds hatch along the way. Players flap the wings of the Toy-Con Bird to fly and simply tilt it to turn.
- Bird Dash (Toy-Con Bird, Toy-Con Wind Pedal): Compete in timed challenges by racing through checkpoints as you fly through the sky. The Toy-Con Wind Pedal is used in conjunction with the Toy-Con Bird to deliver an extra boost of speed, while also sending a surprisingly strong puff of air toward the player that enhances the sense of flying.
- Blaster (Toy-Con Blaster): Battle an alien invasion and giant bosses in an on-rails experience that requires sharp reflexes and a keen eye.
- Kablasta (Toy-Con Blaster): Challenge a friend to competitive hippo feeding. Yes, hippo feeding! Fling different types of fruit toward the hippos to lure them to your side of the pool and score the most points.
- Hop Dodge (Toy-Con Wind Pedal): As a frog, jump as high as you can on an ever-growing stack of balls while avoiding obstacles and heading soccer balls. The wind resistance from the Wind Pedal will make you feel as though you’re actually experiencing a breeze.
- VR Plaza (all Toy-Con creations): Enjoy 64 bite-sized games and experiences in VR Plaza, including platformers and puzzlers. Many of these experiences can be enjoyed using only the Toy-Con VR Goggles and Nintendo Switch system.