I Built Nintendo Labo's New Vehicle Kit, and Here's What Happened

From the very first trailer featuring Nintendo Labo, I knew it was something special.

These special kits contain all of the materials to make awesome cardboard peripherals that work with the Nintendo Switch's Joy-Con controllers and their buttons, infrared cameras and motion sensors to control games.

Past kits have contained a piano, fishing rod and a backpack that transforms you into a rampaging robot, but the brand new Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit contains everything you need to make all types of vehicles. The folks at Nintendo were generous enough to provide me with one of these kits so I could experience Nintendo Labo for myself.

Getting Started

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I first opened the Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit, but everything inside was quite neat and tidy. On top of layers and layers of cardboard was a game box containing the software for the kit, which comes in the form of a Nintendo Switch game cartridge, as well as a baggie full of stickers, rubber bands, washers and eyelets.


So I popped the game into my Nintendo Switch and began the process. While everything seemed a little bit intimidating at first, I was put at ease by how well the instructions were put together. Each step was extremely precise, telling me which pieces I'd need from now, and which of the 25 cardboard sheets they were from. Thankfully, the cardboard pieces were simple to pop out as well. I've done DIYs with cardstock or cardboard before where the pieces were poorly perforated, resulting in bendy, torn pieces. I didn't have that issue at all with the Nintendo Labo.

Better yet, the visual step-by-step instructions on the Switch walked me through every action, no matter how small. The process allowed me to rewind if I'd missed something, and to move around the camera to see what I was building from different perspectives. No matter how tricky the builds got, I was never lost. I also enjoyed that each fold and insertion came with silly sound effects, and the text was encouraging while sounding fun, rather than patronizing.



I began by constructing the pedal. Despite its simple appearance, it's actually critical to almost every activity you can do with the Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit, because it's what enables you to move forward.

Each object you can make with Nintendo Labo gives you a time estimate for how long it might take to complete it, and I found these times to be spot-on.  The Pedal was listed as taking 60 to 90 minutes. The tutorial broke it down into four parts: the base, pedal, frame and Joy-Con. As I started, it introduced me to many of the basic steps I'd be using for building all of the Labo projects.

It told me which pieces to remove from the cardboard, and which holes to pop out, before showing me how to fold the pieces and teaching me a few handy techniques for getting the sharpest folds. It also introduced me to locking pieces that are great for holding two pieces together, and showed me how to slot pieces together to create sturdy structures. It also introduced using rubber bands to create tension, and had me insert one of the Joy-Con controllers from my switch into a slot.

The resulting pedal is way sturdier than I thought it would be. I've pushed down on it a lot, both barefooted and in shoes, and it's just as stable and rigid as the day I put it together. When I push down on the pedal, the angle in the Joy-Con changes and lets the system know it's being pressed. The game had me test it out with a slot car minigame before I moved on to the next build.




Next up, I had to build a Key. This simple object would only take 15 to 30 minutes to build, but it was perhaps even more essential than the pedal for making this Nintendo Labo kit work. I was able to speed through it thanks to the skills I'd learned building the pedal, and when it was done, it had a fun little button on the end of it. One of the Joy-Cons fit neatly inside, and locked in with a special tab.

I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it at the time, but I later learned it had some pretty awesome built-in functionality. It makes use of the right Joy-Con's infrared motion camera to read special indicators in each vehicle it turns on. When you move the Key between the Car, the submarine and the plane, it immediately knows where it is so you can seamlessly swap between the three.

The set also includes the parts you need to make a spare Key in case something happens with the first. This hasn't happened to me yet, but I like having the option just in case.




But I couldn't do much with the Key before I finished the Car. With an estimated completion time of between 150 and 210 minutes, it was definitely the most ambitious project in the Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit. There were seven big steps required to complete the car, starting with the steering wheel and its base before moving along to the engine compartment, levers and gadgets and then to the main base and finally the insertion of the Joy-Con.

There is a lot going on inside of the Car, but it all works well together to make for a functional tool for gaming. These are best demonstrated in the game's Adventure mode, where you can navigate across an open world and use your vehicles to complete various tasks.


You use the Car by inserting the Joy-Con key right into the center of steering wheel. This wheel works great, but that's just the beginning of what the Car can do. A lever on the left allows you to drive in reverse, while a cord on the right can be pulled to activate a boost of speed. There are also levers on the side, which you can use to activate tools on either side of the car. By clicking the dials at the end of these levers, you can switch between everything from a hose for refueling your car to a spinning saw blade or windshield wipers. All of these work by reading white stickers that are strategically placed within the engine compartment as the Car is being built.

By clicking on the button on the Key, you can also check your map at any point. There are 10 different biomes to explore, each with their own tasks to complete, and you can unlock them on your map by refueling there. But if you want to thoroughly navigate every inch of Adventure mode, you can't just stick to the car.


(Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit via Nintendo)



The Submarine is another big build, but after putting together the Car, it felt like a breeze. This one can be completed in 60 to 120 minutes in four major steps, starting with a gearbox and creating clackety wheels and finishing with the top panel and insertion of the Joy-Cons.

The Submarine is interesting because of its unique moving parts. Unlike the other vehicles in the kit, there are holes in the back so you can peek inside and see these movements in action. Like the Car, it works through the use of reflective white stickers inside, which are read by the Joy-Con key.

Of the three vehicles in Adventure mode, the Submarine probably takes the most practice to master. Rather than a steering wheel or a control stick, you operate it by turning two wheels on the side of the machine, which each control a propulsive engine on the submarine. To dive deep into water, you'll want to point both engines toward the sky and press the pedal to be pushed downward, and to move forward you'll want them behind you. Learning to turn requires some tricky maneuvering by using both thrusters together to push you in the desired direction. It's not easy, but getting the moves right is pretty satisfying.

The Submarine has one last feature—a button that shoots out an arm with a claw on the end. So far, I've used it to bust up a rock on the bottom of a lake floor. That's pretty handy.



Though the Plane is a faster build, taking 30 to 60 minutes to finish, it was particularly tricky, making it one of my favorite objects in the game. That's because of a super weird fold at the bottom of the joystick that involves doubling over the cardboard in just the right way to make a bouncy platform that allows for bending before jumping straight back up. In addition to this motion, there's also a trigger you can push to shoot missiles in Adventure mode.


I've seen flight simulator joysticks with similar functionalities to this one that retail for hundreds of dollars, and I'm pretty proud of building this thing on my own. The directional controls aren't what I'm used to, but I still really enjoy flying a plane around in the game.


(Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit via Nintendo)


Paint Can

Last but not least is the Paint Can, which isn't as impressive as the vehicles in the kit, but is plenty of fun anyway. By inserting the Key and pointing the Paint Can at the screen, you can give your in-game vehicles custom paint jobs. By turning the key 360°, you can change the paint color or wash it all off with water. I haven't found a way to paint cars and submarines in any way that feels precise at all, but I appreciate the feature.


(Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit via Nintendo)

There's also a little ball-shaped cardboard object that rattles around inside the tool, though I think it's more for the sound and feel than something that actually enables the Paint Can to work.




It's fully possible to get through the whole Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit process without actually understanding how any of it works. That's where the Discover section of the game comes in. It's devoted to teaching you more about Nintendo Labo, from how to update the aesthetic or fix broken pieces to learning all of the technical aspects of how Nintendo Labo works.

If at any point you feel like you're not understanding something, I recommend running through Discover until you arrive at it. Everything is explained through texting-like conversations with funny in-game characters, so it's always put into terms that anyone could understand.


(Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit via Nintendo)


Bottom Line

At $69.99, I think the Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit is actually a great deal. I've always been frustrated when people claimed that Labo makes people "pay $70 for cardboard," because the experience is so much more than that. You don't say that spending money on Lego sets is just "buying plastic." Instead, it's like buying a game that comes with a number of incredible tools for playing it, plus the experience and satisfaction of getting to build them yourselves.

One of my favorite features is actually the instructional guides, which are probably the clearest and most helpful I've ever followed. I'm assuming it's pretty expensive to do directions this way, but they're basically foolproof, and the interactivity makes them even better. If only something similar could be made for tricky origami projects and other DIYs.

There are a few downsides to Labo, but they're not dealbreakers. First, it doesn't come with additional cardboard pieces, so you have to be careful not to make extra folds. Still, some types of tears can easily be fixed with tape. I also love taking screenshots of games as I play, but since the button to do so is on the right Joy-Con, I can't do so whenever I'm using the Labo Pedal. Once built, the pieces are also pretty sizeable, so if you live in a small space, you'll want to make sure you have somewhere to store everything when you're not playing with it.

Lastly,  you can't do anything with the Nintendo Labo kits unless you also have a Nintendo Switch. Still, Labo will provide a lot of hours of fun crafting, followed by as many hours of gameplay. After finishing my first kit, I'm eager to go out and create more stuff. Thankfully, Nintendo Labo also has a Variety Kit and Robot Kit to keep me busy in the future.


If you're looking for a quicker gaming experience, click HERE for my favorite games that can be beaten in a single sitting.