Nintendo Labo is one of the most innovative games to be released in years. Coming next month to the Switch, it’s a cardboard-meets-coding set, like Lego Boost crossed with papercraft. You assemble little cardboard creations, stick the Switch controllers inside, and suddenly, simple paper becomes fun toy electronics.
Now, Nintendo has revealed a new capability of Labo called Toy-Con Garage. Instead of simply following instructions to build little robots and pianos, you’ll also be able to free-code the software to do whatever you want. That means you can program Nintendo’s motion controllers to do things like make sounds or vibrate in reaction to movement or timers.
But what’s most interesting is the interface Nintendo built to make this all happen. By tapping on a sewer icon inside the Labo software, you can reach the special code area. Here, the interface is a spartan collection of white boxes on a black background. You pick an input (like the controller shakes) and connect it to an output (like the screen lights up). It’s remarkably simple “if this, then that” logic. And linking these ideas together is as simple as dragging your finger to connect one box to another.
Given that the Switch controllers feature a whopping 18 different buttons, motion sensing, haptic vibration, and both IR and wireless radio communication–plus don’t forget that the Switch has a touch screen, too–it looks like what you can actually code can get pretty complex, pretty quickly. But this maximalist approach to one’s options is an encouraging thing to see. Nintendo has traditionally been as protective of its hardware as Apple, building in all sorts of anti-piracy tools and opting for physical media over digital to keep things locked down. That concern hasn’t necessarily been eliminated completely, but now we’re seeing Nintendo literally give gamers a way to hack the Switch hardware to make entirely different toys out of it. It looks like a blast.