Review: Nintendo’s new cardboard Labo Vehicle Kit races itself to top of the scoreboard

Buy now

Throw out everything you thought you knew about cardboard, Nintendo’s back with yet another of its Labo cardboard construction kits. This time putting you right in the driver’s seat of a car, plane and submarine, Nintendo has more than a few tricks up its sleeve for the new Vehicle Kit.

We got out hands on the company’s latest and after putting it to the test, it’s hard to not be thoroughly impressed. Nintendo has seriously upped its game and made its cardboard creations even more enticing. Head below to get an in-depth look at everything the Labo Vehicle Kit has to offer.

For those unaware, Labo is Nintendo’s attempt to enter the STEAM education space. The kits leverage intricately folded cardboard paired with rubber bands and reflective tape to augment your Joy-Cons with interactive controllers. The Vehicle Kit enters as Nintendo’s third release following the Variety of Robot sets.

Those tasked with assembling the kits will still look to the Switch for instructions. This process of following the digital guide is seemingly unchanged from the previous releases. After all, if it isn’t broken, why try and fix it? I found the guide to be a little tedious this time, with the fast-forward option not fast enough. Still, building the cardboard controllers is far from difficult and as easy as ever. 

Putting cardboard to creative use |

The Vehicle Kit isn’t without its improvements. Nintendo has clearly focused on making more complex and sturdier builds for its third round of cardboard fabrications. The Variety of Robot Kits were by no means flimsy, but sturdiness has been notably improved. There are some unique new mechanisms like gears, triggers, buttons and dials which are just as satisfying to assemble as they are to interact with. 

Aside from just an overall improvement in quality, Nintendo has also introduced a new key component into the mix: the Toy-Con Key. Being that these are all vehicles, it fits the theming quite well. This miniature construction allows you to quickly swap the Joy-Con from one build to the other, something that wasn’t particularly trivial in the previous kits.

Headlining the kit is the Toy-Con Car followed by the Plane, Submarine, Pedal and Spray Can. The former is certainly the star of the show and is by far the most complex of the builds. It also packs some exciting software support, but we’ll get to that later.

An open world of mini games |

When we last checked in to see what games were paired with the Variety and Robot Labo kits, we were fairly underwhelmed. Since April, Nintendo has certainly learned a thing or two and improved the software to go along with its cardboard hardware. 

Enter Adventure Mode, an expansive in-game world that takes full advantage of the three different included vehicles. Gamers in the driver’s seat will traverse the many terrains using a dune buggy-esque car, retro plane and a spiffy submarine in order to complete tests and explore their surroundings. 

Each of the vehicles correspond to their own cardboard controller which offers unique ways to pilot the ride. All of the world’s challenges leverage the vehicles unique abilities and differing gameplay styles. So as you complete everything Adventure Mode has to offer, you’ll find yourself mastering the controls and putting all of your previously built creations to use. 

The Toy-Con Wheel pairs with the car, joystick with the plane and lastly a less identifiable device controls the submarine. While the first two are pretty intuitive, piloting the submersible poses an intriguing challenge to get the hang of. Not only do the controls themselves just vary, but the car, plane and submarine all sport their own actions as well. The car has a variety of melee-esque weapons, the plane shoots missiles and the sub is equipped with a grabber.

Of course being a more open-world style game, you’ll be able to play at your leisure. It’s actually pretty entertaining to soar through the skies and cruise around the terrain in your vehicle. None of the challenges are too toilsome, but are plenty engaging. 

Nintendo’s Vehicle Kit is geared towards a younger audience and Adventure Mode definitely reflects that. But that’s to be expected and hasn’t really changed since the last set of kits. While there’s no denying it’s a fun and unique gameplay experience, it isn’t super substantial. Even so, for what Adventure Mode is and what it offers, Nintendo has really stepped up its game for the third Labo release. 

Toy-Con Garage |

As a quick recap for those unaware, Toy-Con Garage is Nintendo’s attempt at pairing its whimsical cardboard creations with a coding-style educational experience. I previously praised everything Garage had to offer when I first took a look at Labo, and not much has changed this time around. 

You’ll still be able to create your software to pair with the vehicle controllers. One notable change is that Nintendo has made discovery of how the Labo builds interact with their corresponding software much more evident. When first diving into Toy-Con Garage, you’ll be shown just how all of the levers and buttons work. It wasn’t necessarily difficult to figure out before, but the small tweak is definitely going to be beneficial. 

Mario Kart makes all the difference |

Up to this point, I was already thoroughly impressed by my time spent crafting and playing with the Vehicle Kit. But then a simple software update made the newest release all that much better. Yesterday, Nintendo expanded its Mario Kart 8 Deluxe support to include the third Labo kit.

Previously it worked with the variety kit’s motorbike, and now you’ll be able to hit the circuit with the new steering wheel.

This seriously takes the Vehicle kit to a whole other level. The arcade-style mini games that make up much of the bundled software are fun, but from personal experience, don’t do much to keep bringing you back to your cardboard creation. Mario Kart changes that, making the Labo builds live up to Nintendo’s promise of being fully featured controllers.

Final thoughts |

Nintendo has made improvements across the board. From construction techniques and bundled software to support with big-name Nintendo titles like Mario Kart. But does that make the Vehicle Kit any more worth picking up? Absolutely.

All of the changes push the new Labo kit the extra mile. Which makes it the most thoughtful and fun cardboard experience yet. Mario Kart support can’t be over-emphasized. It will likely be a big selling point for older Nintendo fans. Not to mention, what keeps gamers coming back to their cardboard controllers time and time again.

It’s by far the best of the three kits, and blows the previous versions out of the water on the software side of things. The Variety and Robot Kits got the ball rolling, but the Vehicle kit showed the true potential of what cardboard, some top-notch software, and a little bit of Nintendo magic can accomplish. 

If you’ve previously passed on picking up a kit, I seriously urge you to reconsider. Nintendo has gone above and beyond with the Vehicle Kit. Making it a compelling case for build-your-own controllers and accessories. Even if Adventure Mode doesn’t interest you, Mario Kart support is a blast and easily justifies the price in my book.

Buy the Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit for $70 at Amazon

FTC: 9to5Toys is reader supported, we may earn income on affiliate links

Subscribe to the 9to5Toys YouTube Channel for all of the latest videos, reviews, and more!

Load more...
Show More Comments