The announcement of Nintendo’s Labo was arguably the most confounding and polarizing thing to hit the Internet since…okay so it wasn’t *that* polarizing, just…weird. The idea of cutting out cardboard to assemble a variety of Nintendo Switch Peripherals seemed…decidedly low-tech. Plus the notion of using cardboard as a resting place, holster, and dock for your fairly expensive Nintendo Switch surely gave many gamers, including myself, a level of anxiety.
Clearly intended for children, the trailer featured a number of features including a movable ‘RC Car’ (propelled by HD Rumble), and a highlight for any Power Rangers fan of a certain age, the ability to smash giant buildings as a robot. A lot of it made sense, put the JoyCon here, the Switch there, and bam, you got yourself a whole new way to play some brand new games.
That said, the highlight of the trailer for many was the notion of a cardboard Piano you could play. How would that work? Would there be circuitry built into the cardboard? Was there some other plugin element we weren’t aware of? Nope. Turns out the answer is very simple, and pretty darn genius.
Nintendo Life’s Damien McFarren went hands on with the Labo in the United Kingdom, and reported on how the ‘technology’ worked. He reports “The Joy-Con slots into the back, with its IR camera pointed at a small slot just above the rear of the keys. When one is pressed, it pops into view through the slot and reveals small strip of reflective tape – the camera picks this up and plays the relevant note. The same visual trick is used to change the tone of the keyboard, adjust the pinch, record patterns and much more besides; you can even use the slot on the top of the piano to insert a cut-out (created by yourself) which changes the sound of a keypress based on the shape of cardboard.”
(For the record Nintendo Life may just be the most positive and informative gaming-specific site on the Internet.)
That’s…insane, and the kind of thing that can change a gamer’s mind pretty quickly; and speaks to the Nintendo Switch’s versatility in both its game-pad and JoyCon controllers. Couple this with Ubisoft’s upcoming toys-to-game title, Starlink: Battle Axis, and for better or worse, you might just start getting whiffs of the original Wii era, where plastic doodads and doohickeys and add ons were the name of the day.
Of course the Wii wasn’t nearly as portable as the Switch, and the pride and excitement of building your *own* cardboard piano surely trumps the satisfaction of heading to your local Game Stop to buy a fake tennis racket or wheel. Plus the JoyCons are far more feature-packed than your standard WiiMotes, As it can recognize hand shapes, track motion, and uses a motion-depth Infared Camera to do a variety of neat tricks.
The Labo releases in two flavors, the ‘Variety’ kit for 69.99 (featuring that there Piano) and the Robot Kit for 79.99 (which turns you into, well..you get it), and you can get it, and tickle the cardboard ivories for yourself, on April 20th.