I’ll be honest, I’m still pretty fond of Nintendo Labo VR.
Look, I know that on a fundamentally technological scale, the thing is the pits. The screen is blurry, the tracking is primitive and the input is shoddy at best. But spending three hours arguing with my partner as we painstakingly folded cardboard and then refolded and refolded again (just to be sure) was some of the most enjoyable collaborative tomfoolery I’ve had in gaming. It didn’t really matter that the end experience was a bit, well, low-rate.
So, yes, I still put on the bird thing every once in a while and fly across the sunny shores. I might even build the friggin’ blaster one day. But since launch Labo VR’s library has grown in some surprising ways. Many of Nintendo’s biggest games have added support for the kit in one way or another. They’ve never been robust enough to warrant their own reviews, so we thought it best to compile our verdicts on each in one handy spot. We’ve ranked them from best to worst with scores, too. If you’re thinking of picking up Switch VR for yourself, best take a look here first.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Hidden Gems?
Of every game that’s endeavored to support Labo VR since launch, Captain Toad’s efforts are perhaps the least offensive. In this twee adventure game you navigate tiny courses, avoiding dangers and solving puzzles. The little diorama-sized levels look quite adorable inside the headset and the smooth, simplistic art style helps ease the sting of the 720p display. It’s mostly comfortable to play, though rotating the stages can be a little disorientating. Still, there’s very little of it (four levels that each last about four minutes at most) and the experience would be much better with positional tracking. But it’s as agreeable as Switch VR gets and gives us hope Nintendo might take a more serious stab at the tech one day.
Nintendo Labo VR Kit – Wonky Fun
The pack-in software that comes with Labo VR itself is a mixed bag with a few key highlights. Not only does it include a faultless step-by-step guide to building each Labo kit, it contains a bunch of minigames to play with them after. Some of these, like a bird-flying game that reminds me of Pilotwings, are utterly mad (you hold a bird’s butt to your face) but a novel bit of fun. Many of them, though, are painfully dull or frustrating. Some third-person platform levels don’t really highlight the joys of VR, whilst games that utilize the Joy-Con’s motion controls are incredibly difficult to handle. Trying to throw a boomerang within one game is so infuriating I was tempted to lob my Joy-Con knowing full well it wouldn’t return.
Still, the kit’s best games are decent enough to warrant a look and the welcome spurring of build-it-yourself mentality makes it unlike anything else in VR. If you have kids you want to share VR with in particular, this isn’t the worst place to start.
Super Mario Odyssey – Astro Not
It’s not often you’ll see Nintendo aping Sony rather than the other way round. But the handful of VR levels on offer in Super Mario Odyssey do carry a small spark of Astro Bot-infused delight. You scutter around three environments from the main game in 360 degrees, completing a small number of challenges. It’s quite warming to see Mario scarper about in VR, especially when he climbs up close to the camera and shoots his lovably naive smile. He probably thinks you’re gasping at the sight of his masculine, plump figure brought to life in VR, but really you’re just relieved to see a friendly face between the sea of pixels. The further you venture away from the camera, the closer Mario resembles his 8-bit origins, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s often hard to work out what’s going on and, just as you grasp it, the level ends. Mario deserves his own full VR game to rival Astro Bot, but this isn’t it.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate – Wasted Potential
Super Smash Bros Ultimate brings Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid and many, many more storied gaming franchises to VR. If you want a Metroid VR game, this is the closest you’ll get without an emulator. Sadly this is a very poor VR debut for Pikachu, Snake and Cloud; Smash Bros’ vapid VR support is one of the worst Labo integrations going. You can either play single-player matches against AI or spectate and control the camera. If you’re playing, the stage appears so small it’s impossible to appreciate the 3D effect. The action, meanwhile, is too fast-paced to keep up. It’s like watching a pack of very fierce mice squabble over some cheese from afar.
Spectating is somehow the preferable choice, allowing you to zoom in and even look beyond the normal screen’s boundaries to see more of a stage. But even then the platform’s limitations snuff out any spark of excitement before long. Without positional tracking and a sharper display, this is an utterly dire experience.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Blur of the Wild
I didn’t think Nintendo would ever be able to get Breath of the Wild running in VR. So I guess credit where it’s due; you can play all of this modern masterpiece with Labo VR stuck to your face if you so choose. To do so, though, would be a crime to the good people of Hyrule. If you move your head to look around, you’ll discover the camera isn’t freely detached from Link. Instead, you’re simply moving the camera as you would in-game, centered around our hero. This can be incredibly nauseating, and it really detracts from the freedom one should experience in VR. Someone needs to sit the developers down and give them a long and enlightening talk about why this is the absolute worst way they could have implemented VR. We’ve all dreamed of wielding the Master Sword in VR but this is absolutely not the place to do it.
Bonus: Spice & Wolf VR
We haven’t actually played Spice & Wolf specifically on Labo VR, so it wouldn’t be fair to rate it. I can say, however, that even the PC VR version of the game isn’t very inspiring, with just a few short conversations to watch between two characters. The anime art is striking and the character animation is smooth, plus it’s an ideal fit for Switch VR’s limited capabilities. But from a pure content perspective, this is only worth picking up if you’re a die-hard fan of the show/manga.