Nintendo Labo, the weird experiment from the makers of the Switch console, is out today. In case you forgot, Labo is a sort of paper-craft kit where you combine cardboard models with the Switch’s hardware and detachable controllers to make fun creations, like a fishing rod or a piano.
It’s meant to be a low-key crafting experience for kids and kids at heart. “With Nintendo Labo, building is just as much fun as playing. Every Toy-Con creation presents exciting challenges and varying degrees of complexity, making each one a unique experience,” Nintendo’s press materials state.
“The chance to spend time building something with your kid, seeing how it all works, and at the end of the day, still letting them play a Nintendo Switch — meaning screen time for them, but less guilt for you — is an intoxicating combo,” Select All’s own Jake Swearingen wrote following a preview event in February.
Nintendo Labo isn’t about competing — it’s about creating. To which I say: Screw that. I’m going to set a world-record speedrun on Nintendo Labo.
Because Labo only came out today, there aren’t any established norms for a speedrun. A speedrun, just as a reminder, is an attempt to finish a game as quickly as possible. The most popular category is any%, meaning that you don’t have to do everything the game requires, you can just get to the end (often via intentional glitching).
For this any% run, I decided to make the RC Car, which Nintendo predicts would take children ten minutes to make. I, a fully grown adult, intended to blow through that time estimate like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier.
To prepare, I watched the instructions on how to make the RC Car, but I did not punch out or pre-fold any of the cardboard. I’ve only got one shot at an untainted run.
I will have completed my run when Nintendo tells me that I am finished with the construction.
There is admittedly not much to constructing the RC Car. Maybe about a dozen folds and then you’re all set. Rather than use the Joy-Cons to flip through each step, I decided to use an extra controller that would not end up as part of the finished device. I believed this would save me precious seconds.
I cleared off my work area, and neatly set out my Joy-Con and cardboard. I pounded a Gatorade, did ten jumping jacks, and put on the Rocky soundtrack. I only had one shot at this.
Here we go. I immediately ran into problems after starting the clock. It is surprisingly difficult to pop a fresh Labo stencil out of cardboard. By the time I’d finally gotten everything (two pieces) out without ripping anything in half, two minutes had already elapsed.
I was burning daylight.
Next came the folding part, which was expectedly easy because I’d prepped by watching the tutorial. One of the difficulties of speedrunning Nintendo Labo, I found out, was that it requires you to press and hold the A button in order to progress through the instruction processes. Folding and then holding was an inefficient process, so I tried to keep an A button held down with my pinky finger while the other nine folded the RC Car into existence.
When I was done, I slotted in the Joy-Cons — their rumbling causes the car to move — and popped the antenna onto the Switch’s tablet. I stopped to take a photo. Then I watched a short animation declaring my creation finished.
Final time: 7:11.91. A world record! (By virtue of being the only declared record.)
What would I do differently next time? Well, I burned a few seconds taking pictures of my process, so I should probably not do that.
First things first, I gotta get better at popping Labo pieces out of their frames. Do I push on the front of the cardboard? The back? I need to examine this further and swap tips with other speedrunners.
Progressing through the construction steps was also slow. If I can find a way to glitch through the steps faster, that would drop a few seconds off of my time. In the meantime, I have to figure out a better way to hold down the A button while folding the cardboard. Maybe I can hold a Joy-Con in my mouth and bite down? That’s a possibility.
Overall, I’d say that Labo presents a lot of new possibilities for the speedrunning community, and I can’t wait to see what exploits people come up with. For now, however, I am the world-record holder, and nobody can take that away from me.