In terms of raw computational power, the Nintendo Switch is the weakest of the current generation of consoles, which led many fans to believe that it would never see any kind of VR support. The system isn't strong enough to support any virtual reality headset on the market.
Nintendo surprised everyone earlier this year when they announced Labo VR, which uses the Nintendo Labo cardboard toys combined with lenses in a headset and a Nintendo Switch in order to provide simple VR experiences.
The Nintendo Labo VR kits are finally available and we can finally see whether the Switch can actually provide a satisfactory VR experience, or whether it's just a waste of money.
The Nintendo Labo VR Toy-Cons are made out of cardboard, plastic bolts, and elastic bands, which means that a fair amount of assembly is required. The bulk of the construction will involve folding cardboard, which is something that the player will grow incredibly tired of by the time they have finished assembling their Labo VR sets.
The VR Goggles are relatively simple to assemble and will take less than an hour to build. The player has to be careful about keeping the lenses as clean as possible before placing the cover on the VR Goggles, as any speck of dirt will be noticeable when playing any games.
The Blaster is a much bigger project and will take at least two hours to assemble, due to all of the moving parts that it has in comparison to the VR Goggles.
The Starter Set also comes with a Pinwheel attachment (that the player is meant to blow on) and a cover to carry the Switch when it's not in VR mode.
The real question that everyone is curious about is whether the Labo VR sets actually offer a true VR experience.
The answer is yes and no.
The VR Goggles do offer a true sense of depth and distance, which makes approaching objects feel as if they really are coming towards you. The VR effect is far more effective than what many people originally suspected it would be.
There is one major problem with the Labo VR experience, though, and it relates to the graphics.
Graphics & Holding The System Up
The Nintendo Switch only has a maximum resolution of 1280x720, which is split in half when the screen goes into VR mode.
The sense of distance and space created by Nintendo Labo is offset by a blurring effect that makes the lens of the VR Goggles feel as if it has been smeared with Vaseline. The grainy and blurry visuals make it a lot more difficult to appreciate the technical accomplishments of Labo VR and every game feels as it's being played from the perspective of someone who is short-sighted.
The fact that the Blaster and VR Goggles require the player to hold the Switch up to their eyes is another problem, as the player's arms are going to tire out before long, which means that you can't use the Labo VR sets for extended play sessions. The lack of a head strap really hurts the VR Goggles and it likely won't be long before third-party variants of the headset that sports a strap will start appearing online.
One positive aspect of using the Labo VR sets is that there was almost no motion sickness, but that will differ from person to person. The only time I ever encountered any kind of queasiness was when leaning forward on a table, as the disconnect from my body to what I was seeing temporarily threw my balance off.
The Labo VR sets were originally promised as being bite-sized VR experiences and that is the best way to describe them. The Labo VR games are short and mostly involve influencing items within a small environment.
The Blaster has several dedicated games, one of which involves fighting off an alien invasion while moving on rails, while another is a multiplayer game where players need to feed hippos. The best thing about the Blaster games is the Labo itself, as the act of locking and loading the gun (combined with the HD Rumble) is an incredibly satisfying experience and makes a simple game of shooting aliens feel incredible.
The VR Goggles feature several minigames that involve moving items around in a 3D space, which often requires the player to disconnect a Joy-Con in order to use them as an item in the game, such as a baseball bat.
There is an unlockable Toy-Con Garage that allows the player to create their own VR games, but the user interface isn't very friendly and it seems as if a lot of work will have to go into learning the mode before being able to make anything of substance.
The games that come with the Labo VR sets are short slices of fun, but they won't offer much in terms of long-term enjoyment. Then again, that's exactly how Nintendo promoted the Labo VR sets, so the player should already be aware of this fact.
One potential use for the VR Goggles is the promise of future support, as Nintendo has confirmed that Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will add Labo VR modes later this month, with the latter game promising that the player will be able to experience everything except for the cutscenes in VR. It seems likely that Nintendo might add Labo VR support to other games in the future, such as ARMS or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. There is also the possibility of Virtual Boy games coming to Labo VR, with the VR Plaza even including a reference to the system in one of its videos.
More Impressive Than It Has Any Right To Be
The Labo VR sets are far more impressive than they have any right to be, considering how they are tied to the Nintendo Switch, but the graphical shortcomings make it difficult to appreciate the virtual reality levels that the games are trying to create.
The Labo VR sets are more impressive than they have any right to be.
The most attractive aspect of the Labo VR sets is the price, as the basic set only costs $40/£35, which gives the Switch the cheapest VR option on the market by a wide margin. The Labo VR sets are perfect for someone who isn't sure how they would react to a VR headset and want a cheap alternative to be able to test the experience out.
The Labo VR sets offer small experiences that are fun and charming, but they won't last for very long. The fact that the Switch is capable of any VR experience is impressive on its own and it will be exciting to see what Nintendo does with the concept going forward, but the muddiness of the visuals may be an obstacle that is too difficult to overcome.
- 3 out of 5
A copy of the Nintendo Labo VR Kit Starter Set + Blaster was purchased by The Gamer for this review. The Nintendo Labo VR sets are available to purchase now.