Videogames laboratory it is a unique work to say the least which, following in the footsteps of LittleBigPlanet, Dreams is Super Mario Maker, wants to offer players the opportunity to develop their videogame production, which is why we were really curious to analyze it in the review phase. Part of that series of titles on which Nintendo does not aim to the maximum, announced by surprise with a tweet and video on YouTube a few weeks after the release, Videogames laboratory it is the representation of Nintendo’s will to give users the opportunity to express their creative freedom.
Although many may think that this ideology was born only recently, expressed with titles such as Super Mario Maker or sets of Nintendo Labo, whose Garage mode largely inspired the making of Videogames laboratory, actually the Big N had been trying for a long time already. We remember in fact Mario Paint or even the birth of Mii: Nintendo has always tried to offer players as much creative freedom as possible, without getting great results due to hardware limitations.
This time the Kyoto house has finally found the perfect way to give players the opportunity to express their imagination. If even just thinking of being able to fully exploit the technical and structural peculiarities of Nintendo Switch may seem an incredible idea, as in fact it was with Labo, be faced with a blank screen, with dozens of tools available and hundreds of different options to create your own video game, it’s a strangely pleasant feeling.
It is as if the game is asking us “what are your ambitions today? “. Having such a varied creative freedom in your hands it might even leave us spoiled for choice on what to develop: Will it be a racing game, a first person shooter, a puzzle game? And it is precisely here that the creative, almost childish and innocent gamer who has been hiding inside us for years, hidden by the seriousness and structural linearity of modern productions, comes to light.
Everyone to a programming lesson!
Pad in the hand – or “screen under the fingers” – Videogame Laboratory offers two main modes: Guided lessons is Free programming, both of which are quite explanatory. Before we can start finding ways to create DOOM (spoiler: this has already been done) we have to know the tools, i commands, the logic behind which the title will allow us to develop our game. The section dedicated to lessons serves exactly this, offering us the possibility of developing seven different games, of equally different genres, with a virtual guide.
They range from racing game to shoot ’em up, up to platforming in 2D and 3D. What made us appreciate this variety the most is that each lesson brings to light different mechanics and dynamics unique to each title, teaching us not only the best techniques to create certain elements, but also that each video game has its own peculiarities. If we keep in mind that the work is clearly designed for a younger audience, we understand how the ability to teach the differences between types of titles is also important for the purposes of greater cultural enrichment of the viewer.
However, we didn’t really like the way the virtual guide instructed us through the various micro-lessons. All too often it happens that Bob (as the character is called) explains things or taking too long, with dialogues that are often avoidable or even worse repetitive, or oversimplifying procedures that are instead very complex. An adolescent or mature user may indirectly understand the more technical dynamics, but a smaller player may not understand what he is doing and risk getting bored soon.
There are also short challenges that will be faced after the completion of a lesson, necessary to unlock the next. Although initially they may be as trivial as few others, as complexity progresses their difficulty also increases. They show themselves as a sort of test, to test the player and see if he has learned what he did in the previous lesson.
Video Game Lab: from Minecraft to DOOM Eternal
How long the lessons are of excellent quality, the heart of Videogames laboratory it is somewhere else. The name from which the game itself takes its title, is concretized in the section dedicated to creation, naked and raw. Free programming puts an empty project and all available tools in the hands of users. As for the Nodon and the ways in which they can be connected, we can only pay homage a good variety but above all a great simplicity, perhaps even too much.
Their operation is quite understandable – especially after many hours of play – and so is the interface, even if it feels there lack of a tutorial that also shows the command shortcuts. Also in this mode we have the possibility to save and load the games developed by us or by other users: here we will find the options to upload or download the creations of the players. As well as in the already mentioned Super Mario Makertherefore, we will be able to download games made by other online users from the internet.
However, the sad difference, element that it penalizes the experience enormously overall of Videogames laboratory, is the absence of a menu to navigate between these creations. For some strange reason, Nintendo has decided to limit the search for online games to the use of certain codes, which involves discovering new creations in other ways, perhaps through forums, videos on YouTube or groups on social networks.
This lack limit substantially the discovery of new productions, especially when considering that this aspect is among the fundamental of Super Mario Maker 2. On the other hand, playing other users’ titles allows us to discover new things we can do with Videogames laboratory, thus helping us to always have fresh and diversified ideas. Some players have shown that they can create some very fun games like F-Zero (G 002 54C N4P), Minecraft (G-002-91L-03F) or even DOOM Eternal (G 002 CYJ CW1).
Having to discover these creations on YouTube is really unpleasant, and we can’t help but penalize this software on the basis of this absence. It is about an element that could really have further enhanced Videogames laboratory, and it is difficult to understand the reasons why the Kyoto house made this decision, which is why we hope it can add it with an update in the future.