If you were wondering why Nintendo Labo, the DIY cardboard accessory kits for the Switch, costs at least $70, Toy-Con Garage is why. As we approach the April 20th release date for Labo, Nintendo has finally revealed more details of Toy-Con Garage, a software feature included in each Labo kit that teaches kids basic If This Then That programming. It’s an ingenious feature that lets the cardboard toys be combined and remixed with each other, opening up way more possibilities for them to be played with.
Labo offers two Toy-Con Kits right now: the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit. The $70 Variety Kit — which comes with five mini-games and the cardboard sheets ready to make an RC car, a fishing rod, a house for a Tamagotchi-like friend, a motorbike, and a piano — was most likely designed with Toy-Con Garage in mind. The video above shows some of the ways that each toy can be programmed, like controlling the RC car with the fishing rod. The $80 Robot Kit, as satisfying as it is to stomp around and punch a bunch of buildings as a giant robot, is less versatile.
We got our first glimpse of Toy-Con Garage at a press hands-on event last month, where Nintendo reps showed off other possible creations like a makeshift cardboard guitar with rubber band strings. Several of the Toy-Con creations make use of the camera sensor on the right Joy-Con, which detects strategically placed reflective IR stickers. For example, IR stickers placed on the backside of each piano key are picked up by the camera on the Joy-Con placed in the back of the piano, so when you press a key, the Switch will play the corresponding note. These little reflective IR stickers are the key to getting the most out of Toy-Con Garage; where you place them and what you use it for is up to you.
You could spend an afternoon building all the cardboard toys, but the beauty of Toy-Con Garage is how it lets you expand the lifespan of each toy. You can play around with setting up actions for input nodes, customizing middle nodes with counters and timers, and determine output nodes like what kind of effects to trigger, such as making a sound, or having it light up the Switch screen.
Labo is a lot like Lego in that the tools are all there, it’s just up to your imagination to make something of the pieces. Nintendo is deliberately marketing the Labo towards children, and it’s basically the perfect STEM toy. If there was a modern Home Alone remake, Kevin McAllister would definitely use the Labo to torture home intruders.