Is Nintendo Labo Doomed?

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Variety posted an article today, “Nintendo Labo’s Last Chance“, that touches on the disappointing sales numbers the cardboard-based edutainment concept has suffered.

A lot rides on the next two months. “I had high expectations for Labo at the initial announcement that, so far at least, appear to have been a bit too enthusiastic,” NPD’s Mat Piscatella said. “But I’d agree that the holiday period would be the time for an uptick to happen.”

I thought this was sad.

A few weeks ago, Wyatt picked up the Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit.

For a solid week, Labo overtook our house, knocking Fortnite into the oblivion. Wyatt would spend his free time folding cardboard, following the step-by-step instructions on the Switch. He built the:

  • Steering Wheel
  • Gas Pedal
  • Flight Stick

And then quit. No longer were:

  • Cars being driven
  • Objectives being accomplished
  • Nor planes dive bombing the blimp circling the in-game city

Nintendo Labo went from the hottest toy in the house to the cardboard refuse in the corner. The submarine controls remain to be built on a rainy day. But for that week that Labo overtook the house, I saw my son use his imagination in a different way. Refining his fine motor skills through folding cardboard. Interacting with on-screen instructions/games while physically manipulating cardboard. Labo is this perfect marriage of digital and physical toy combined. Truly a unique toy that could only have come from Nintendo.

I’m sure Wyatt will circle around back to Labo at some point. I guess all I need to do is grab a sheet of cardboard and start folding. Maybe even explore the way Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Labo interface with one another. Innovation deserves to be awarded and Nintendo Labo deserves to be experienced.

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Parenting through the Fortnite Fog

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Fortnite makes me feel old.

Let me try that again, talking with my son about Fortnite makes me feel old. Figuring out the pricing structure for the game made me feel even older.

Parenting Website Fail

My search began in the in-game Fortnite store. Tabitha and I wanted Wyatt to buy the full Fortnite game first before spending money on micro-transactions (skins/costumes). I could not find a full game unlock in the store, but I noticed something called a Battle Pass. I was confused. The parenting fog of war was beginning to set in, as I tried to pit normal video game pricing logic versus free-to-play logic. All I wanted to know is:

What is the difference between the $60 base game (I kept finding on Google) versus the $10 Battle Pass?

The information I found on parenting websites was either outdated or months old. Add in the different consoles with their different versions and the confusion only grew thicker.

After awhile, I figured out that the Nintendo Switch version is different than the Xbox and PS4 versions. The Xbox/PS4 has a $60 physical version that features an exclusive zombie mode. The Switch version, it turns out, does not have a physical version/zombie mode and only requires a $10 Battle Pass. Beginning to see the light, Wyatt and I got in the car and headed to GameStop to pick up some V-Bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency).

Seeing the Light in GameStop

The friendly GameStop employee quickly confirmed my thoughts:

  • On the Xbox/PS4, $60 buys you a physical copy of the game that features an exclusive zombie mode.
  • A $10 Battle Pass, think subscription, allows you to play the game through a season (10 weeks). The Battle Pass gives you experience point multipliers (helps you level faster) as well as the opportunity to unlock in-game cosmetics/skins. Parents: You or your child can still play the game without a Battle Pass. You just don’t get the “fun” unlocks.
  • Instead of having the game tied to your credit card, you can buy a pre-loaded card that has money on it for your respective system. For instance: We picked up a $10 Nintendo eShop card. Keep in mind that when we bought the Battle Pass later on, the Battle Pass came out to $10.31. Yes parents, tax is involved so plan accordingly.

In the End

I’m not sure how I feel about paying $10 every 10 weeks for the ability to unlock items that are already present in the game. Maybe this is where I start to show my age; maybe all games work like this? I’d much rather pay a $60 one-time fee and be done with it though. But we’ll see how long the Fortnite craze holds in the Hall household. Right now, I’m looking at opening my own account on the PS4 in order to play with Wyatt. I’ll report back, at some point, with my Fortnite impressions. Until then, play all the games or not.

When was the last time your kid/s made you feel old?

Oxenfree

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Looking back, I feel bad for my dad. I think he was used to nice things like his stereo system. Nice things that us kids always managed to break. I think we broke his turntable first, but my memory is a tad fuzzy. What I do remember though is the green glow of his Pioneer radio tuner. There was something magical about that soft glowing dial that brought music and voices from afar.

Title: Oxenfree
Developer: Night School Studio
Platform Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

A group of teenagers head to an island to party for the night. Just a small get together really. They bring along a handheld radio, you know, just for fun. And maybe also because tuning the radio to specific frequencies causes weird things to happen.

The evening soon goes to cosmic horror hell. Oxenfree starts dropping hints of:

  • A submarine crew who died off the island’s coast…
  • A scientist who was researching radio frequencies…
  • Environments that react to specific radio frequencies you tune in to with your radio…

Friends start going missing. You soon do not know where reality begins and the isolated island nightmare ends.

.: SPOILER ALERT :.

I played this game without knowing much about it. I’m happy I did. And I won’t ruin that for you. What I will spoil is that there are multiple endings to this game. Endings based on specific dialogue choices you make. Oxenfree is all about a constant flow of conversation that feels inconsequential. But surprise! Your words do matter and do affect the outcome of the game.

Do you want the super happy ending? The ending where whatever is happening actually ends? You have to pick the right grouping of dialogue choices.

By the end of the game, I doubted whether I had actually finished Oxenfree. Even after the credits rolled, I didn’t trust the game due to how much it had messed with me. The game reinforces this feeling of unease as the credits finish rolling and Oxenfree loops back to the main menu:

“Continue on the same timeline?”

The same timeline? What is this? I was so confused and yet felt like I could kinda see the breadcrumbs the game had left me. My confusion led to a Google hunt. That is where I learned that dialogue choices are a huge key to this game. HUGE! So much for choice.

I’m happy with the time I spent with Oxenfree. I feel a little ripped off by the way it all ends… but I also like endings that are not all neat and sorted out. Life is a lot like that.

The Nintendo Switch was the perfect system to play this game on. Nothing like laying in bed, headphones on, being creeped out by forces who just want to live. No matter the costs.

3/5 – Best use of a handheld radio gameplay mechanic. Love the way the Switch’s rumble felt as I spun the radio dial. In the end, I wish the game had telegraphed more how important conversation choices are.

Unwritten Rules: The Ability to Pause

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Our dishwasher went out about a month ago. That same weekend, my weed eater engine decided to freeze-up, and I discovered that I owed the government money. Needless to say, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by brokenness tossed with a side of bureaucracy.

In pulling out the dishwasher to measure for a replacement, I discovered that the washer was directly plugged into the house’s electrical system. A direct electrical connection, I Googled, was a normal way of wiring dishwashers twenty years ago. Who knew? But in our modern day, the dish cleaning device is supposed to be plugged in to an electrical outlet. Something goes wrong with the dishwasher, no need to panic. All one has to do is unplug the washer and move on versus making a frantic trip to the breaker panel.

I mentioned my dishwasher dilemma in small group this past Sunday. One of the guys told me that he could help. So this past week, Brian came over and helped me wire a new electrical outlet so that I could plug the new dishwasher in. In the course of the evening, after we had finished installing the outlet, I grabbed the Nintendo Switch to show him.

As we were talking, I said something I realized I needed to write down here and share. This is one of those unwritten rules I have:

As a husband/father, who plays video games, I have to be able to immediately pause or quit a game at a moments notice.

This unwritten rule means that the games and the systems I play them on must fit the criteria of being able to pause, save, and quit on demand. I have learned:

  • To avoid gaming genres built on needing excessive amounts of time to advance/play (the MMO genre).
  • To embrace gaming systems that feature a sleep or suspend feature/button.
  • To play games that feature short core gameplay loops (the main activities that structure a game, that a player repeats over and over). These types of games allow me to feel like I have progressed/accomplished something with my gaming time.

The ability to pause at a moments notice, allows me to feel less frustrated, when I need to suddenly divert my attention to what is going on around me. Communicating, hopefully, to my family that they are important (because they are!) and worth me being present and available for.

Zelda and the Art of Distraction

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Wyatt wanted to play RollerCoaster Tycoon last night. So I got him set up on the computer, pulled up a chair alongside him, and grabbed the Nintendo Switch along with Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Figured that I could make some progress in Zelda while letting the boy learn how to control/use the RollerCoaster Tycoon toolset. Win/win, right?

For awhile now, Wyatt has been dumping hours into Zelda, slowly beating each divine beast before me. Then, when I’ve sat down to play on Sunday afternoons, he’ll sit there and guide me. Later on, never failing, to remind me that he helped me.

“You didn’t beat that by yourself, I helped you.”

Deep in my 36 year old heart, I knew that I could not allow such a thing to continue. A 9 year old boy would not best me in a game, not yet anyways. I had just beaten the Zora and Ruto divine beasts, with Wyatt’s help. In his game, Wyatt was off chasing the beast out in the desert. So I decided to tackle the only beast he hadn’t gone after yet, the beast of Death Mountain, Vah Rudania.

A combination of wanting to play smart mixed with a smidgen of desperation to get ahead of the boy, led me to consult a walkthrough. I wanted to know exactly where Vah Rudania lay. The quick consult made me decide to plot a course to Goron City and set up a basecamp there. The walkthrough mentioned fire armor and a guy needing me to collect lizards for him. I warped into a tower, took a flying leap, and glided towards the lizard man. 10 lizards collected later, I had me some fire armor for protection against the volcanic environment.

All the while I’m navigating Death Mountain, Wyatt is engrossed in RollerCoaster Tycoon. He had no clue that I was pushing further into Zelda than he is currently. The only problem I face now is maintaining the momentum. Face it, I’m competing against a 9 year old who plays video games much more than me. He’ll probably get ahead of me in the long run, but I’m not giving up. I have a beast to slay!