Nintendo are mad, aren’t they. Full on, off their rocker. For years they seem aggressively intent on wrapping their good name up in a bin liner and booting it into the Sumida, and now here we are playing Skyrim on the bus. Well sort of. I don’t catch buses. Or own Switch Skyrim actually. That’s not the point though.
The point IS, I’m getting on very well with the Switch, and to kick off the veritable slip n slide that is the beginning of a brand new year, Nintendo only went and jump-scare announced a bloody portable Dark Souls remaster. Prepare to die on public transport. Actually that’s a perpetual concern of mine anyway.
Anyway, that’s not actually the point either. The point IS (for real this time) that Nintendo’s SECOND, big, eagerly anticipated, infuriatingly teased reveal for this month, is that they want you to buy their old cardboard that’s been kicking about the offices for too long.
Yep. If you haven’t already, have a see:
Madness isn’t it. And in the most Nintendo way. Now, Shigsy and his mates teased this little flood-gate opening by touting it as a ‘new, interactive experience’. Powerful words to be used extremely wisely or else NOT AT ALL. Do you hear.
These very words got Twitter’s big stubby fingers a-twitching naturally, and many horrible, horrible things were speculated prior to the unveiling. There’re things people aggressively want for their Switch, and with the knowledge that SOMETHING was going to be revealed, for a short while there was no filter.
And when it turned out the big announcement was some cardboard, aimed primarily at kids with unpaper-cuttable fingers (totally a thing), there was an air of, what could have been considered disappointment.
But alas, disappointed people of the internet, you are, as ever, wrong.
I shared your immediate suspicion, a slow rising of the eyebrow in comparison to the simmering confetti-fest that was the Dark Souls reveal. But that was soon thwarted when I considered for a moment the bigger picture. And also when I failed to fight off the urge to be that robot thing. I mean, look at it.
Sure, Nintendo didn’t announce the next big game. They haven’t developed a 4K device, if that stuff is important to you, and they haven’t dunked their little plumber face first into the world of VR (save for a pat on the back to Google Cardboard) but what they HAVE done, is something totally, unthinkably, laughably, fascinatingly new.
Video gaming is still integral to the system here, but with Labo, added in to the mix is a tactile element; a building, crafting, creating aspect that enriches the experience and ultimately just feels, well, wholesome.
Sure, this might not be the most life-changing thing for you or I (save for the robot thing) but much like the Skylanders/Lego Worlds/Amiibo extravaganzas, I know for a fact I’d have gone nuts for this as a kid. The opportunity to utilise a favourite gaming console to bring something you’ve made to life sounds brilliant in a boat load of ways, and just like how Minecraft is teaching kids everything from design to the fundamentals of wiring and circuitry (I think the red rock stuff taught me an embarrassing amount about making a system work), there’s real potential here for a games console to become instrumental in learning, growing, developing and being creative.
And who knows where that could lead. Perhaps when we discover a renewable, malleable material that’s cheap to make and won’t fall to bits in the rain, they’ll upgrade Labo. For now, cardboard does actually make sense. The sets might seem over-priced for some bits of card, but look at that trailer closely, and actually, those things look more complex than anything I could manage in an afternoon. Similarly, it means ideas like the big robot backpack or the keyboard can be played around with, without upwards of 200 quid needing to be invested on a single accessory.
Ultimately, cardboard is far better than the bits of plastic we all drowned in circa the Wii’s implausible, unstoppable, unbearable popularity.
Like it or not, Nintendo reshaped the landscape of home console gaming when the Wii became a household sensation in 2007, even if it were as short lived as knocking over your tall-standing lamp / cat / Grandma on Christmas day with an involved swing in the Wii Sports tennis game. With the Switch, they’ve put a more traditional gaming foot first, and now we’re seeing another side to the console.
I was giddy when they announced Dark Souls. I’m less immediately excited about Labo, but putting aside what I want for just a moment – Labo IS a good thing; it’s inspired, insane and who knows if it’ll have the kind of longevity its hardier novelty counterparts have failed to attain. We’ll see.