Ever since it was announced, the biggest question surrounding Nintendo Labo is about durability: how long will a lot of cardboard accessories remain? It was a question that only time could answer; A few minutes with a cardboard piano is not enough time to determine how long you will survive the clutches of an aggressive child. I have had a large number of Lab accessories in my home for the past three weeks, and I have been playing with them together with my children (a two and five year old child) quite a lot. Not every day, but enough to really put them to the test. And aside from some minor issues, the Labo kits have been wonderfully maintained.
The biggest problem so far has been with the piano. The cardboard contraption is so similar to a real instrument that it is easy to treat it as such. This can be especially true for children: it's a lot of fun to hit the keyboard, especially when you use some of the weirdest sound modifiers, like one that turns each keystroke into a kitten sound. The problem is that those keys are not exactly solid. The small rectangular cardboard sheets that you roll up to make a key shape are probably the most fragile pieces of any Labo kit. Nor are they held in the body of the piano very firmly. They simply rest inside and swing on a thin strip of cardboard.
The piano works in an ingenious way: place a Joy-Con controller on the back and your IR camera can read stickers on the back of each key, so you know what you are pressing and then relay that information to the Switch , where the sounds are produced. But this requires a certain level of precision. If the keys do not sit correctly because they are a little flat or one of the stickers on the back starts to come off, things do not work as they should. The good news is that, at least so far, I have not encountered a problem that can not be repaired quite easily. With the piano, the keys can be doubled again and work like new. You can also paste the stickers again. (But do not cover them with duct tape, as this will cause problems with the IR camera.)
I have had some similar problems with the RC car and Labo toy house kits. (Until now, the fishing rod and the motorcycle kits have not had any real problems). Bug cars are especially weak. They stand up with thin legs and move through the surprisingly powerful vibration of Joy-Con controllers. It's smart, but it also means that those legs wobble pretty fast, which makes them move in a somewhat erratic way. Once again, it was an easy solution: I could reinforce them with a bit of tape, and they seem tough enough for now.
The house, meanwhile, presents a series of buttons and cranks that you can place in a side window. These allow you to interact with a small creature inside the house that is displayed on the Switch screen. Turn the crank and fill your room with water; Press a button, and go from night to day. Like piano keys, these small accessories are made up of lots of complicated bits that can easily be squashed or separated. But they are also easy to repair. I have had to reassemble each of the buttons and cranks several times during the last weeks, but I have not yet come across any irreparable damage.
One area that I had to be careful, however, is personalization. One of the most interesting aspects of Labo is that you can decorate your personalized accessories, which is especially fun for children. The cardboard is a blank canvas, and my young people really enjoyed decorating the Labo kits with markers and stickers. But this can also lead to some problems. One day, I gave them the kit of the house and I let them do it, without supervision. They turned the tiles into a mosaic of rainbows and then punctured with bright foam stickers of butterflies and stars.
It looked adorable, but it did not work properly either. Some of the stickers blocked the fireplace where the controller rests, as well as the slots on the side where the various interactive bits fit. It was a simple repair, I eliminated the stickers, but it illustrates the limitations of Labo's personalization. You can make these kits look great, but you should also make sure not to interfere with their operation.
In general, Labo kits are quite resistant, even after three weeks of prolonged use. I had to make some corrections, sure, but this never seemed an arduous task. It is in keeping with Labo's DIY spirit. Unlike most other devices or toys in my house, when something does not work with Labo, my children can work with me to find out why and find a solution. Repairs are part of the fun.