12 great games that are a perfect fit for the Labo VR Kit
Regular readers, or those of you with your ear to the ground and eyes on the shelves, will have noticed that the Nintendo Switch Labo VR has released. It's a tidy £35 to get started with the basic kit and that'll include a cartridge with assembly instructions and around 70~ bundled games.
The issue is that most of these bundled games, 64 of them in fact, are made using the cartridge's on-board development tools, with many of them simply interactive dioramas. Peripherals live and die by their game line-up, and with the Labo VR currently counting in at a line-up of precisely one cartridge there's not much hope for the headset.
That said, Zelda and Mario are both getting free patches which make them compatible with the device. But unless this is something the two games (both released in 2017) really scream and shout about — we're talking TV ads, main menu updates and shop standees — it probably won't pull in massive numbers. What the headset needs is games.
When I say games, I mean dedicated software. The kind that Ubisoft were notorious for when it came to the last few console generations. When a new console or peripheral launched they were standing there princely with Red Steel for the Wii, ZombiU for the WiiU, Child of Eden for home consoles with motion kits, and, well, Starlink for the dying toys to life genre. Many might have laughed at Kinectimals, Super Fruit Fall or Project Rub, but without the likes of those there wouldn't be the start of a browseable library — just ask Putty Squad.
Naturally there are obstacles to getting games over to the Labo VR. I can sit here and shout 'Elite Dangerous' all day, but the hardware can't handle the game and the VR doesn't currently have enough inputs to accommodate. When it comes to shooting games the Labo Blaster's fire button is also up near the user's face, although this does work without the pump being pulled back (that just cocks for recoil).
So, with this all in mind, lets get talking about some existing IPs, games and series which could be dusted off and prepared for the Labo VR Kit.
Okay, let's start with the big guns, oh-ho.
In all seriousness, a lot of the rail shooters out there are almost perfect fits for the Labo VR Blaster. Time Crisis, with reloading not done through shooting off screen but instead through going into cover, is instantly a great fit. The Blaster has a tilting attachment which holds the left JoyCon and could control the player dropping into cover — a great fit due to it being done with the hand normally used to pump the gun rather than fire the shot.
Including spin-offs there's almost a dozen entries in the series, and Bandai Namco have previously ported the series onto consoles, including with motion support and — ill-fatedly — with a packaged G-Con and TV adaptor.
- It wouldn't be the first time Time Crisis has made its way to handheld devices either, Time Crisis Strike released back in 2009.
Pretty much every Time Crisis game has you saving the world, something I think we can all relate to. Time Crisis could easily open up the pathway for new developers to return to the rail-shooter genre, something which — what with a stagnant arcade scene — would be more than welcome.
Nintendo have had dealings with Bandai Namco's other prominent arcade title, Point Blank, in the past. A DS version of the mini-game packed shooter launched back in 2006 where it fit snugly into many people's library alongside the Warioware and Rayman Rabbids series.
The Point Blank titles were exceptional, with silly mini-games all revolving around the use of a light gun. Shooting targets in time, answering questions by shooting the right answer, and shooting a leaf as it flapped down through the air. The second game added in a campaign mode, which wouldn't necessarily work with the Labo unless players disconnected and reconnected the toycon during loading screens, but it is still an option.
Short mini-game experiences are a great way to showcase the potential of new technology and peripherals — afterall, this is what the included Labo VR software does. So Point Blank would be a brilliant way to start off a library.
It makes sense after discussing Point Blank, that we move onto Nintendo's own mini-game bonanza, WarioWare.
The WarioWare series functions on many levels. They're a densely packed collection of ridiculous activities which include at least a few games which use the features of the consoles. This means that WarioWare games have used gyros, force feedback, light sensors, touchscreen and even more over their extensive series run.
As with the previously mentioned campaign mode of Point Blank, a rapid changing of VR ToyCon is an unrealistic expectation. However, WarioWare games have previously structured themselves around staggering levels and variety. WarioWare Smooth Moves for the Wii had a massive directory of games which could be played by 'pose' type, and the campaign mode introduced the poses slowly. Similarly dividing up the minigames by ToyCon, with a major focus on the goggle-only based experience, could still deliver a decent selection before anybody needs to move around some cardboard.
WarioWare is a great fit for the Labo VR, and could even bring a party experience through the passing of the headset between mini-games. It's also easily one of Nintendo's best ways to support a diverse selection of ToyCon.
I've already written about exactly why the Labo VR needs Pokemon Snap. My post from earlier this week covers precisely how the title is perfect for the Camera ToyCon and how it is a tight fit for the platform, perfectly placed to smash it home.
It would be great to see Pokemon in VR, and a camera based game fits the bill perfectly.
House of the Dead: Overkill
House of the Dead: Overkill was an unexpected delight when it launched for the Wii back in 2009. A full-on parody of the grindhouse horror subgenre of film, it won a lot of praise, and a little condemnation, for its story, gameplay and high-density of swears. Agent G and Detective Washington definitely deserve another shot.
The game's publisher, Sega, and Nintendo continue to have a close relationship, and the on-the-rails shooter has already been approved for Nintendo platforms previously. While this list of games certainly contains a lot of shooters, there are only a few FPSs which have already gone through the licensing process, House of the Dead: Overkill (and House of the Dead 2 & 3) are among that.
Earlier, while discussing Time Crisis, I pointed out that shooting off screen isn't very viable on the Labo VR — as a reload option it doesn't work well when your screen is part of your gun. However, swapping the gun-cocking mechanism to do the reloading, or creating an area which you can fire into in the dead areas in the corners of the screen would be possible solutions.
Another rail shooter which previously released on the Nintendo Wii was Ghost Squad. It was one of the lesser known arcade ports to make it over to the platform, however Ghost Squad's wacky campaign (you too can hi-five the president while dressed as a cowboy) and well-structured progression system, made it stand out from the other shooters.
It also had fun little asides from the shooty-bang-bang: Disarming bombs and throwing grenades. Although these used an additional button on the gun, so maybe this wouldn't make it over into a VR adaptation.
Okay, so we're through the bulk of the first-person, rail-shooter part of the list now, thanks for sticking with me.
Of all of Nintendo's franchises Star Fox might not be the first one to spring to mind when it comes to the Labo VR treatment. Most people's initial assumption would be that the Bird ToyCon would be the best method of play for this type of game, however the bird is best suited to first-person experiences — Star Fox would suit the Elephant ToyCon much better.
- The last handheld outing for Star Fox was Star Fox Command for the DS, from back in 2006, here's our review where we scored it a Bronze Rating.
The Elephant ToyCon has you drag an elasticated arm around within 3D space, you have control of a button, which with some tweaking could be changed to two. One button could be your standard fire while the other used for specials or held down to perform more elaborate manoeuvres, like the (now iconic) barrel roll.
Perhaps better yet, the VR regularly reminds players that they need to take a break. Star Fox's shorter levels suit this short-session gameplay down to a tee.
Child of Eden
Child of Eden, from Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment, is a successor to Rez, one equally filled with psychedelic colours and amazing audio work. Players move around brightly coloured environments shooting at approaching enemies and objects, once destroyed these emit a sound, essentially working as audio feedback to the players. It makes for an almost hypnotising experience which truly channels that zen feeling that often comes with rhythm games.
While Child of Eden was motion controlled, it never received a VR outing. However, Rez did, and there's plenty of people out there who have been campaigning for a virtual reality version of the game.
The Silent Scope series is an arcade classic which has players looking through their sights at a series of scenes, tasked with taking out targets or completing objectives. It all gets quite hairy, with bosses and a story that escalates at the pace of an 80s action movie. The most fun part of the arcade installations was that when you put your eye up to the scope on the weapon it showed a zoomed-in version of where you aiming on the larger screen. This could easily be adapted to a quick twist of the ToyCon camera, with the shutter working as the firing mechanic.
Silent Scope has been previously ported to consoles, with Konami releasing the trilogy on the original Xbox back in 2004, there was also a massive Sniper Rifle peripheral.
We know the Sniper formula works as well, not only has the Sniper Elite series done exceptionally well, but iOS & Android releases of Hitman: Sniper have done very well.
Link's Crossbow Training
I've spent a lot of this article talking about the 'how', and the reasons 'why' the games could appear on the Labo VR. Well, here we have something that would actually truly be one of the most simple things for Nintendo to port over. It was a title released alongside the Wii Zapper, a plastic holder which took the Wiimote and Nunchuk controllers. Link's Crossbow Training acted as a short, simple experience for people who didn't yet have another game which they could use the Zapper with.
Most of Link's Crossbow Training was simply a case of shooting targets while you were static, or in on-rails situation. There were some 'Ranger' levels which had you use the analogue stick on the Nunchuk but these could simply be carved out of the experience to have it quickly ready for sale. Afterall, a lot of the included shooting games for the Labo VR Kit have you static in place anyway.
We're into the darker reaches of the list now, so everything gets a bit crazy.
The Fatal Frame series was a classic survival horror game complete with strange camera angles and scary enemies. The big difference was that you fought enemies by taking pictures of them with the Camera Obscura — a camera which could capture and calm spirits.
- Fatal Frame has made it to handheld platforms before, Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir released on DS back in 2012, although we didn't think too highly of it, scoring it a 2.5/5.
While it would require some work, the word is that Nintendo hold rights to the series (despite its Sony origins) and the IP could be adapted into a horror experience for VR players, used to target an older audience with the Labo and ToyCon.
Race The Sun
Last, and definitely not least, comes Race the Sun.
Race the Sun is a third-person driving game where the aim is the dodge obstacles while also attempting to keep a high speed as to not become consumed by shadow. This all takes place in a sleek, low-poly landscape set between you and the setting sun. Your vehicle is solar powered, so if you move behind an obstacle then the absence will result in a massive drain to your vehicle's battery.
Most runs are less than five minutes, and there's a decent progression system as well as daily run challenges.
Race the Sun's short runs and sleek visuals would be a brilliant fit for the headset when it is played in the VR Goggle kit.