Back in 2016, Nintendo broke the paradigm of the usual Switch lineup with the launch of a series of assemblable cardboard accessories called the Labo. They released 4 sets, or kits, each with a completely different theme.
Every kit contains a set of materials that you use to build a "Toy-Con", a construct that can be used in conjunction with the Switch and it´s Joy-Con to play a series of minigames included with each box. You can make wheels, periscopes, pianos and even makeshift VR headsets.
While the minigames that the Labo comes with are fun on their own, and Nintendo included additional tools to make your minigames, it might seem like a waste to spend more than an hour assembling a "Toy-Con" that you aren´t going to use on anything else.
With that in mind, do they work on other games? Or are each kit´s minigames all that the Toy-Cons are good for?
As you can probably guess, no! Some Toy-Cons can indeed be paired with other retail games and used to control them, to an extent.
Which ones? Well, let's break it down by Toy-Con:
Motorbike: Wheelie across the tracks on Mario Kart and Moto Rush GT
The Variety Kit is the most, well, varied of them all. With its tools, you can build a fishing road, piano, house, remote-controlled "cars", and a motorbike.
That's quite the collection of Toy-Cons, but unfortunately, most only work with the Labo itself. The exceptions being the fishing rod and the motorbike.
The motorbike Toy-Con imitates a real bike´s handlebar. It responds to your movements thanks to the Joy-Con, and you use it to steer virtual bikes with motion controls.
Unsurprisingly, it is compatible with a couple of racing games that let you drive bikes around. These titles are the ever-popular Mario Kart 8 and Moto Rush GT.
To play with the motorbike Toy-Con on Mario Kart 8, you simply have to select the option at the bottom of the menu (assuming that you already assembled the toy) and it will work like any other controller.
Moto Rush GT works similarly, you have to enable the option and then you are ready to go.
To race with the cardboard handle in either game, simply twist it in the direction you want to turn, like a real motorbike.
Fishing Pole: Cast your Line in Fishing Star World Tour
This is another Toy-Con that came from the variety kit. The fishing pole can be used as a way to cast your line in Aksys´ Fishing Star World Tour.
However, its use is limited to a minigame. You can grab your cardboard fishing pole for a "Trolling minigame" where you have to catch the biggest fish that you can while on a speeding boat.
The normal gameplay doesn't involve the Labo at all, but it is still motion-based. You hold one joycon vertically and use it to control your line, while the other acts as your reel. You might notice that this is a similar configuration to the one used by the fishing pole Toy-Con itself.
If you are creative and don't mind picking a few holes in the cardboard, you can probably mod the fishing pole for use in normal gameplay. To do so, you would have to cut it open a bit more so that you can access the rest of the Joy-Con buttons.
Be warned though, the jury´s still out if the game will be comfortable to play this way.
Piano: Become a Maestro with Deemo
Deemo is a rhythm game that tries to stand over its peers with charming visuals and beautiful songs. It works like most games of the genre, notes come flying towards the bottom of the screen and you must touch them (or press the corresponding buttons) as they cross the line to play the music.
As you can imagine, the Piano would be a natural fit for this type of game. Luckily, the Deemo team agrees, and in the 1.4 update of the game, they added support for the Piano Toy-Con, along with ten songs specifically designed for the carboard instrument.
Peripherals like this are common in the rhythm genre. Guitar Hero had the eponymous Guitars and Rock Band had a Drum Set, so it is not that weird that this charming indie game decided to use the Piano for some of its songs. Give it a shot if you can.
Vehicle Kit: Drive across Mario Kart and GRID (in the future)
The vehicle kit allows you to build a wheel, pedals, a periscope, and a flight stick. You use each of these peripherals to control their correspondent vehicle.
It comes to no surprise then that the Toy-Con that can be used outside of the Labo is the steering wheel, as there are few flight games on the Switch and zero submarine titles (to my knowledge).
Which games can be used in? Well, Mario Kart, of course. Just like you can steer your motorbike with its cardboard bike handle, you can do the same with the steering wheel that you put together in the vehicle kit.
It works like you think it works, steer the wheel left or right and your car will turn along with it. It is not that much different from the regular motion controls that you can use in Mario Kart 8.
As of now (January 2020) Mario Kart is the only game that supports the driving wheel, but GRID Autosport has promised that it will too add Labo controls later this year.
You can look forward to using your Toy-Con in two very different driving games. One, a cartoony karting game and the other a driving simulation title.
Immerse yourself in Super Smash Bros with the VR Kit.
When people ask if they can use the Labo with other games, this is the Toy-Con that they usually have in mind; the VR headset that you craft with the VR kit.
The VR kit lets you build a cardboard VR headset for you to put your Switch in. It works just like those phone headsets that you can buy for a couple of dozens of dollars, but instead of using a smartphone, it uses your Switch.
Thanks to this kit, you can experience the benefits of Virtual Reality without buying any of the "real" VR platforms. The Labo has quite a few games and even a tool to let you make more.
But, when you think of Nintendo and VR, you think of Mario, Zelda and maybe even Metroid. You want to step in those worlds, not the minigames that were lovingly crafted by the Labo team.
Well, Nintendo is aware of this, because their VR headset is the "Toy-Con" with the greater number of compatible titles.
You can play Super Smash Bros, Breath of the Wild, Mario Oddysey and Captain Toad with this set of cardboard goggles.
The way that each game incorporates VR is quite different. Mario Oddysey and Captain Toad give you access to a couple of bonus levels made exclusively for the kit, Smash lets you play against a computer or spectate CPUs ducking it out, and Zelda allows you play the entire game in VR.
However, this comes with a problem...
The Labo is not a true VR headset, and neither are the games (outside of those that came in the VR kit).
The technology already has a lot of problems with people getting sick when they play with a three-hundred dollar headset. This is made worse by the fact that the games in question are heavy on action and have VR support added as an afterthought.
Normally, VR games have to be custom made (or converted) to virtual reality to avoid giving players headaches.
The aforementioned titles are not made to accommodate a VR headset, meaning that you can expect to get dizzy and confused when playing. Except for Captain Toad, oddly enough, as that game has very little movement and action, making it the "safest" one to play.
Nonetheless, you can get used to "VR sickness" after playing for a couple of hours, and if you move past it, you might find it a very unique, if unoptimized, experience.
But, this warning doesn´t apply to all VR titles on the Switch. There are three non-Nintendo games that also takes advantage of the cardboard headset.
The first "game" of the list is Spice and Wolf, although many will not consider it a game, as it is a visual novel if you are being generous, and a piece of promotional material if you are not.
The game takes advantage of the headset to let you look around while you chat with Holo, the titular Wolf. Your eyes become the camera in the conversations thanks to the VR headset. It is not a very long title, and you can "beat" it in an hour or so.
The second game is Rooms: The Adventure of Anne & George, a puzzle game where you slide rooms around to help the eponymous Anne and George escape a mansion.
The game wasn´t released with VR and so it suffers the same problem as the other Nintendo titles. However, like Captain Toad, the fact that it´s a relatively slow puzzle game means that you won´t have to worry much about getting a headache while looking at it.
The last VR title available for the cardboard headset is NeonWall. This is another puzzle game in which you help a rolling ball navigate an obstacle course using your Joy-Con.
The main strength of the game is it´s unique neon visual aesthetic, which also benefits greatly from looking at it through a VR headset. Like the rest of the puzzle games, the lack of player movement and motions means that you won´t get as dizzy playing it as, say, Breath of the Wild.
If you want to use your Labo for something more than it´s intended purpose, the options are limited, but they are there.
You can use your driving wheel, the bike handle, the VR headset, piano, and the fishing pole on non-Labo games.
Unfortunately, the Robot Toy-Con doesn't have any use outside of its kit. But, all the other kits do have at least one game that lets you use their Toy-Cons as controllers or peripherals.
Wherever you want to play with them is another issue entirely. Some Toy-Con controls are well implemented and can enrich the experience by making it more unique and fun. The driving wheel and the fishing road are examples of this.
Others are more rough in their integration. The VR games that Nintendo put out, for example, can give you a headache if you are not prepared.
If you think this selection is rather small, remember that you can still make your games for most Labo kits, the VR has the VR Plaza and the vehicle kit has the Garage. Either way, there is more than one way to squeeze more fun out of the Labo if you enjoy playing with its cardboard gadgets.
Know of a game compatible with the Labo that is not on the list? Let me know in the comments!
Don't forget to join our mailing list to know when any of the Labo kits go on sale.