For all the bewilderment that accompanied its initial announcement, Nintendo's DIY game/toy line, Labo, turned out to be a remarkable showpiece for Switch, using the console's hardware in some ingenious and mind-bending ways. Having already witnessed the technical wizardry behind the Variety and Robot Kits, Nintendo's third Labo pack, the Vehicle Kit, doesn't inspire the same initial wonder as its predecessors, but it does a much better job of integrating its constructions into a more traditional gaming experience.
As its name describes, the Labo Vehicle Kit features an assortment of projects all related to vehicles. There are three different types in its accompanying game (car, airplane, and submarine), and each of the peripherals you build is used to maneuver these around the world; the car, for instance, is controlled using the steering wheel Toy-Con, while the airplane is piloted with a flight stick. You also need to assemble two general accessories, a pedal and a "key", in addition to the vehicle-specific Toy-Cons in order to drive them in-game. The pedal rests on the floor while you play and causes you to accelerate when depressed with your foot, while the key houses the right Joy-Con and is inserted into each of the main Toy-Cons to switch between vehicles on the fly.
We only had a chance to assemble the key during our hands-on time with the Vehicle Kit, but just from a glance, the new Toy-Cons are generally more intricate than most of those found in the Variety Kit. The steering wheel is the most elaborate of the bunch, requiring between two and three hours to assemble by Nintendo's estimates. Despite their complexity, the building process is just as intuitive as before, with easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions for each one displayed on the Switch screen as you build it.
Once the Toy-Cons have been assembled, you're able to use them to play several different vehicle-based game modes. The biggest of these, both in terms of scale and the amount of content it contains, is Adventure mode, which has you explore a surprisingly large sandbox world made up of 10 distinct areas. You can freely drive or fly around the world as you please--provided you have enough gas in your tank--but the ultimate goal is to complete missions. Refueling at one of the gas stations scattered about the world will open up a list of tasks that are available in that area, which can range from finding hidden items to chauffeuring an NPC to a specific location; one of the missions we came across during our demo session involved driving a dog to its favorite tree because it needed to relieve itself. A second player can also join in at any time locally by inserting a key into one of the other Toy-Cons, piggybacking onto your vehicle, Mario Kart: Double Dash-style, to blast targets with a bazooka.
Outside of Adventure mode, we got to go hands-on with Battle mode, a head-to-head competition that pits two cars against each other. This can either be played solo against an AI opponent or with another player using a second steering wheel Toy-Con, and the objective is to pummel each other with spring-loaded fists and be the first to rack up three wins. Various power-ups also spawn during the match to give you a temporary advantage over the other player; one causes your vehicle to grow in size, allowing you to run your opponent over for an instant KO. The final mode on display at the demo event, Slot Cars, is a four-player race around winding tracks using only the Toy-Con pedal. Despite its simplicity, Slot Cars was a highlight; you need to cautiously press the pedal to ensure your car doesn't go careening off the track, making for some intense races.
There are still several other modes we didn't get to try, but based on what we've seen so far, the Vehicle Kit seems like it could be the strongest Labo pack to date, featuring a more fully fleshed out collection of game modes that offer more replayability than the previous two kits and utilize the Toy-Cons in more satisfying ways. The Labo Variety Kit launches for Nintendo Switch on September 14 for $70.