Nintendo Labo


Hear about video game accessories that aim to educate rather than to entertain and your first reaction is probably a firm, "thanks, but no thanks".

But perhaps we shouldn't be so hasty on this occasion. The latest Nintendo Switch add-on - aimed predominantly at children and young teenagers - has the potential to be one of the most exciting innovations the medium has seen in a long time.

First things first, what exactly is it?

Out of the packet, the Nintendo Lab is essentially a bunch of flat-pack cardboard pieces which, assembled in the right way, make three-dimensional models.

On its own, this sounds impossibly dull - but here's where things get interesting: the models actually double up as pods into which you place your Nintendo Switch control. In so doing, you can then bring them to life using the console.

It's easy to scoff at, but there is a real educational function to this game. It helps teach children about physics and design in a fun way - it's exactly the sort of thing that classrooms up and down the country could adopt in the not-too-distant future.

How much play time will I get out of it?

The true test of any great video game is how long it keeps you entertained. In other words, will you be happy to revisit after having exhausted (or "completed") all of its features?

The truth is that the Nintendo Labo has much the same appeal of the Nintendo Wii, insofar as you could theoretically finish it in its entirety in just a few hours, but there's fun to be had in becoming a master of your technique and showing it off to anyone who visits your home.

The variety of toys that you can construct and tack onto your Switch also sets the Labo apart from many other flash-in-the-pan add-ons.

The Car, for example, is probably the most exciting model you can build. Half the fun, in fact, is in customising it in your image, and that's before you even insert the controller and start moving it around.

The Fishing Rod favours the patient gamer. Here, you tack your toy onto the Switch screen and move it around, waiting to catch a bite on the end of your hook.

The Piano, one of the more complex designs (it can take a good half an hour to construct), encourages you to actually press physical keys to produce sound from your console.

The Robot is all about physical activity. You're not just building one small, desktop mode, but a backpack that you put on your own body in order to control the figure on the screen. This comes in a separate pack - which is £10 more expensive than the standard one.

Any downsides?

The obvious concern that any parent will have is that combining small, boisterous children and expensive cardboard instinctively sounds like a terrible idea. There is indeed cause for alarm here: though the material is strong, it's not quite kid-proof.

Another big snag is the price. Like all Switch games, you're looking at an outlay of £60 or more, which compares unfavourably to titles on the Xbox and the PlayStation. The console itself is relatively cheap, of course but your game library will likely need refreshing every year.

Our verdict

If you have young children who you struggle to impress with old-fashioned board games, the Labo is well worth a look. Early demo sessions have shown that seven and ups are enthralled by the construction process, making it both educational and, more importantly, super fun.