Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nintendo’s new foray into virtual reality involves holding a cardboard elephant to your face.
Nintendo is not one for the technological arms race that has defined video game VR so far, with its expensive headsets and controllers. No, an ebullient toymaker at heart, Nintendo prefer a wind-pedal that blows air into your face as you look up the backside of a bird and fly through a colourful landscape by flapping its cardboard wings. Never let it be said the Japanese gaming giant doesn’t do things its own way.
Nintendo proved that its cardboard Labo kits could actually be decent gaming accessories — especially for kids. But the idea of using Labo to bring VR to the Switch sounds even more far-fetched. Could an under-powered system with a low-resolution screen actually produce believable virtual reality? It turns out, it can.
Obviously, the Labo VR kit isn’t a legitimate competitor to the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or even PlayStation VR. It’s even less impressive than the standalone Oculus Go. It has more in common with Google’s Cardboard initiative, which at best was a way for people to experience 360-degree videos with their phones. Nintendo isn’t one to follow the crowd, though. Its spin on VR is more centered around accessibility and brief moments of surprise and delight.
You can snag the entire Nintendo Labo VR Kit for $80, or get the starter pack for $40, which includes the Goggles and Blaster. You can pick up two expansion packs for $20 each, which include all of the other Toy-Cons. While it might seem a bit confusing, I appreciate this pricing flexibility. For parents, there’s no telling if their kids will actually like playing around in VR, so it might make more sense to start with the cheaper $40 kit.
You start by building the goggles themselves, constructing a cardboard headset around a simple pair of lenses. It takes about 20 minutes or so to slot together the goggles from the pre-packaged sheets, before slipping Nintendo’s Switch console into the front.
Oddly enough, Nintendo seems to be taking a page from Sony with VR. It’s approaching a whole new medium in a way that makes sense for its audience. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the Labo VR isn’t as powerful as the Oculus Rift or Vive. It’s for kids, and that’s perfectly fine.