On top of all the other failures of Nintendo Labo VR, the biggest one could be its lack of "Nintendo magic".
Virtual reality has already emerged as a genre of games sold by the millions, complete with beautiful, engaging and unique experiences that range from the giant halls of HTC Vive to the PlayStation VR stations. When Nintendo breaks into a new control paradigm, it usually leads the recent competition, whether it's with a hardware innovation, a game design revelation, or a brilliant combination of the two.
But Nintendo Labo VR, the company's first serious VR product, is paralyzed by the lingering feeling that its solution to "VR-on-Switch" is what gets in the way of fun. Your players are constantly urged to get outside of VR, either for long construction times of cardboard, VR experiences the size of a pint, or the mere tension of having a 720p Switch screen filtered through a pair of glass lenses.
The result is a Useful Take VR, and I do not blame any Switch fan for seeing his initial price of $ 40 and biting. That's such a cheap raid on "legitimate" VR like you'll find (assuming you've already made $ 300 of fun with a Nintendo Switch in non-VR forms). But that is not a great warning for a Nintendo experience. Labo VR is a rare case in which the great N actively fights with, and loses, its own hardware in the delivery of something similar to magic.
Labo VR revolves around basic cardboard and plastic headphones, the size of an adult-sized shoe. This box, which takes about 40 minutes to build with folded cardboard, accepts a Nintendo Switch console in a long thin slot. (Previously, we wrote about Labo's basic concept of building your own drivers, and this is Nintendo's fourth test in the concept of cardboard, if you're not familiar with it, catch up with My review of the Labo Robot Kit of 2018.)
While a Switch runs the Labo VR software, its light sensor can recognize that the hardware is gently inserted into a cardboard box (flanked with "soft" tape strips), at which point its 720p screen begins to run on " VR mode "- that is, a rectangular image is now divided into two ovals. (If this is not changed automatically, you can touch the "two ovals" logo on the screen with your finger).
These images are translated by a pair of glass lenses, and the resulting experience is very similar to that of Google Cardboard. Hold the box up to your face with an initial weight of 423g / 14.9oz, press your plastic face against your nose and move your head, although you should only do so in a fixed or swivel chair. As a VR system with three degrees of freedom (3DOF), Labo VR will accurately translate the rotation of your head so that it appears that you are doing the same in a virtual world, with two stereoscopic images in motion that allow you to perceive depth. But this illusion will break if you stand up or walk in any direction. Your virtual self is effectively stuck on a tripod.
However, unlike Google Cardboard or Samsung GearVR, Labo VR lenses interpret a different chalkboard of pixels. Return to 2015, for example, to the first formal release of GearVR for the consumer, and you will find that your "minimum" phone was the Samsung Galaxy S5, equipped with a "Super AMOLED" screen of 5.1 "(129.5 mm) with a resolution of 2560 × 1440 pixels, the Nintendo switch, on the other hand, stretches fewer pixels (1280 × 720) through a larger 6.2 "(157.5 mm) LCD panel.
Therefore, the switch business exchange as a VR screen is not simply due to pixel resolution. OLED panels have long been favored by VR headset manufacturers because of their "true" blacks, which are easier to use in VR headsets. Many of these OLED panels can have "low persistence" modes enabled, which reduces the obvious blurring effects. The Switch's LCD panel, however, does not have any "quick change" capabilities to help you with your obvious and annoying blur. Worse yet, because the switch panel is so large, its effective VR screen, those ovals, has to be smaller to become glass panels that have the proper shape and size for human eyes.
The last problem is made more obvious by tricking a Nintendo switch to run in "2D" mode when it is inserted into the Labo VR headset. You will become almost instantly dizzy if you look at this with both eyes open, but if you close one eye and try it, you will instantly notice much more pixel fidelity in each eye. All of which means: a 720p panel is weak enough for virtual reality, but the switch is effectively functioning at a lower Resolution for Labo VR to work.
Far from Wii Sports
Most Labo VR experiences are designed to solve your problems with blurring, which means they are short, slow and constantly try to rip players off from the fun.
If you only build the default headphones, you will get access to 32 virtual reality mini-games. Less than half of these do something meaningful with their virtual reality perspective. Some of them revolve around an avatar similar to Mario that you control with Joy-Cons (connected to the Labo VR headset, since you have to hold everything with both hands). It will run and jump while managing a frozen camera with the perspective of its head, but only some of these challenges offer a significant reason to look around, usually to find and activate elements and platforms in its hidden visual periphery.
Other "sports" minigames do something similar with a frozen perspective, just to add a floating hand to the formula: you will only hold the handset with one hand, then use the other hand to hold a Joy. With as if it were a true manual tracking controller. Spoiler: it is not. By default, a standard Joy-Con only works in 3DOF detection mode, and that weakness is exposed when these games ask you to emulate a golf putter, a basketball shot or a boomerang. The mix of the inaccuracy of these movements and the uncomfortable grip of the headphones with one hand make these minigames absolutely criminal for Nintendo (especially for the company that practically invented sports games with motion control).
The exceptions in this "basic" section of mini-games include a solid pinball machine, a 3D-style football style version and a soccer goalie challenge. But all these challenges are terribly short, and when you beat each one, they restart to make you repeat the same brief challenge over and over again. These highlights would have benefited from the arcade-like remixes in each ending.