Nintendo Labo review: A brilliant idea on paper and in reality
Nintendo Labo, (Switch) ★★★★★ Age: 3+
Parents already know the frustration of shelling out for an expensive toy only for their youngster to spend more time engaged with the simple box it came in. Nintendo cleverly draws on that experience in its new Labo toy kits that combine the functionality of a game console with the tactile task of building components from cardboard, string and rubber bands.
The €70 Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit includes five fun objects such as a fishing rod, remote-controlled car, house, motorbike and piano. Each of the five incorporates the parts of the Nintendo Switch console (not supplied obviously) to add vibration, a screen, a camera and controls for some simple mini-games. A more ambitious €80 Toy-Con Robot Kit transforms the player into, you guessed it, a full-sized robot whose movements are mimicked on-screen.
The attraction of Labo is not really the mini-games themselves, amusing as they are, but rather a child's enjoyment of assembling and decorating the little devices out of flat bits of cardboard. Fortunately, this is not Ikea hell. Nothing is too tricky and each step is clearly explained in simple videos. The easiest object takes just 10 minutes of bending and folding, the most complex may require two hours.
Younger children may need an adult's assistance, more to prevent them breaking the cardboard than anything else. The raw material is sturdy but not impossible to damage (Nintendo will of course sell you a replacement). Older players with a bit of curiosity will be intrigued by the possibility of the Toy-Con Garage. It's a rudimentary coding environment that enables you to program simple interactions with your objects - such as "if this happens, do this". You could even add your own DIY contraptions made out of other cardboard lying around the house.
Labo is another left-field success for Nintendo. It's not dirt-cheap but it taps the imagination with the same creative potential that made Minecraft a sensation.
(iOS) ★★★★★ Age: 12+
Falling in love is deeply personal yet also universal. Florence explores the relatable theme with a deft touch using a graphic-novel style to eavesdrop on the life of a millennial navigating the choppy waters of dating.
There's no real "game" here as such, just a series of taps and swipes to advance the story as Florence struggles with loneliness, meets a guy and begins to fall for him.
Music plays an important role, filling gaps in the mostly wordless scenes as Florence moves from day-to-day mundanities to big decisions on where her life is going.
It's brief, even shallow in its mechanics, yet curiously moving and memorable.