The Nintendo Switch has a unique hardware form factor that begs to be utilized in unique and innovative ways. The big problem with that so far has been that no studio has taken advantage of the Switch hardware in any meaningful way. However, that’s about to change with Nintendo Labo, which promises to turn simple cardboard cutouts into a wide range of fun and interactive objects.
To date, 1-2 Switch has been the title that comes to mind when I think of unique uses of the Joy-Con controllers. However, since this launch title, I can’t really think of anything that a game has done with the Joy-Cons or the Switch itself that couldn’t be done with other consoles on the market.
It’s a shame because the Joy-Cons are pretty packed with technology. Both Joy-Cons contain an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The right Joy-Con has a built-in infrared depth tracking sensor and NFC reader built in as well. Both controllers also have a new haptic feedback system Nintendo calls HD rumble, which was used to great effect in the 1-2 Switch Ball Count mini-game in which the controller emulated the feel of balls rolling around in a box.
With the introduction of Nintendo Labo though, it seems like Nintendo is finally utilizing the Switch hardware to its fullest. You can insert the Joy-Cons into a cardboard RC Car and use their vibration to control its movement via the Switch touch screen. The fishing rod uses the motion sensing controls and HD rumble to simulate fishing. The Toy-Con Piano is my personal favorite. You can craft a 13-key piano from cardboard and insert the Switch console and Joy-Con to play it.
One of the two introductory Toy-Con packs allows you to build a whole robot suit out of cardboard and bring it to life by inserting the Joy-Cons in the backpack and visor. The Joy-Con on the visor uses the IR sensor to detect head movement, which allows it to be tracked on-screen. How well the head tracking works remains to be seen, but both Toy-Con packs are great proofs-of-concept for unique game design for the Switch.
I sincerely hope that the Nintendo Labo line inspires other studios to analyze what they can do with the Switch’s hardware a little closer. I’m loving the system’s library already, but I’d like to see more games do things making use of the Switch’s unique capabilities. Nintendo Labo might be targeted towards children, but it might be a harbinger of a host of games for all ages that give gamers an experience they could only have with the Switch.