In 2013 we got Super Mario 3D World, one of the more notable Wii U games. This game contains a cutesy minigame which, in the following year, spun off into a full adventure. This is how Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker came to be, and its unlikely origins led to one of the Wii U's best titles. Of course, the Wii U didn't sell like Nintendo wanted, so bringing its best titles to the Switch and 3DS make a lot of sense. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is now getting a well-deserved 1-up, and this is the best time to play it if you haven't already.
The game starts with Captain Toad and Toadette going on an adventure to find treasure. Unfortunately, upon finding a star, a giant bird known as Wingo swoops down and grabs both the star and one of the toads. Now it is up to the remaining toad to save their friend and find treasure along the way. While it's not much of a story, some cute animation carries the game much further than you'd expect. It's adorable, and every cutscene made me smile. Nothing will ever be as precious as the Toads finding each other again.
Each level in Captain Toad takes place in a small isolated world. Your goal is to search through the level and collect its star. Naturally, you can't just walk up to the star and grab it, as there are many threats and puzzles along the way. Furthermore, Toad and Toadette have a limited skill set. All they can really do is pull things from the ground, throw things they've picked up, and turn valves and switches. Despite this, the two never give up in finding their treasures.
It really speaks a lot to Nintendo's level creation abilities that so many creative levels come out of such a limited movement set. One level saw me running away from a pack of Boos, stopping to walk on invisible pathways or balance see-saws. Another had me on a moving train, avoiding mudmen and moving blocks around. Each level in Captain Toad is unique, introducing new elements that get used in interesting ways and never overstay their welcome.
While the Toads may not be able to do much on their own, you can always lend a helping hand. Literally, in this case. By tapping on objects on the touchscreen, you can interact with the game's world in new ways. In some levels, this allows you to move blocks around. Others let you reveal hidden coins or passageways. You can always tap on enemies to freeze them in place, giving you a bit of an edge if you get attacked. Making use of this ability is important, as many levels in Captain Toad are built around them.
Since this is a Nintendo Switch game, you can play it either portable or docked. The latter may seem like a weird decision, considering the heavy use of the touch screen that Captain Toad requires. However, the solution is surprisingly elegant. When you play the game docked, your controller will act like a cursor on the screen, allowing you to point at and press a trigger to perform an action. It works really well and is a great compromise to using the touchscreen. While I'd still recommend portable mode overall, playing docked won't hamper you at all.
Almost every level is a wonderful joy of puzzle solving bliss. Almost. There's only a single level in the game that I disliked, and that was Clear Pipe Puzzleplex. The level involves Toadette having to go through a series of pipes, changing direction while always moving forward to avoid enemies. The idea isn't bad, but it's just annoying in practice. The mechanics simply aren't up to the task. I often either lost track of Toadette or failed to get her to do what I wanted. However, there are 68 levels in the game, and only disliking a single one of them means I have nothing but high praise for Nintendo's level design.
Some levels change things up from the normal puzzle solving bliss. In one example, you hop into a mine cart and play an on-rails shooter. These segments see Captain Toad or Toadette rolling forward while you aim and throw turnips in first person. Other times, you'll need to run away from a dragon, who sits in the center of the arena and spits fireballs. No matter your task, it's going to be a good time. Captain Toad is a master at making mechanics that only need a few minutes to worm their way into your heart.
After you finish a level, you can replay it to gather gems and complete bonus objectives. You'll need these gems to advance to later levels in some cases. Needless to say, you'll want to grab as many as you can along the way. As for the bonus objectives, they add an additional challenge that can cause you to rethink how to play through a segment. There's also a minigame where your goal is to find and tap on a hidden pixelated version of Toad, leading to a totally different kind of treasure hunt.
Each level takes somewhere between two to five minutes, making this the perfect "bite-sized chunk" game. It does, however, put Captain Toad a little on the short end. I do wish there were more levels, as I'd love to spend more time in the creative worlds on display here. It helps when I notice how beautiful the game is, and it's almost hard to believe that a handheld can produce such a fantastic looking game. The work Nintendo has put into Captain Toad is noticeable. While a good chunk of it is taking from Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad also has a fantastic soundtrack. Each theme fits the level almost perfectly.
If you've played Captain Toad's original release, there's one major difference here. When you finished the game on Wii U, you could play four levels inspired by Super Mario 3D World. On the Switch and 3DS, these levels have been completely replaced by four new levels based on Super Mario Odyssey. It's kind of baffling that Nintendo has completely removed content, though I do at least appreciate that they replaced it with something else.
I feel a bit bad that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker's initial launch didn't go swimmingly. Especially since it wasn't really the game's fault. However, everything is better now that it's on a console people actually own. If you've never played Captain Toad, you're missing out on one of the smartest puzzle games in Nintendo's catalog. If you have, well... it's Captain Toad. You can play it again and it'll be just as fun.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by the developers. The game is also available on Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker brings some fantastic puzzle gameplay to the Switch, and gives a Wii U classic another chance at life. If you missed it before, it's well worth grabbing now.
- Adorable Visuals
- Smart Puzzles
- Many Fantastic Levels
- Great Touch Screen Compromise
- Fun Soundtrack
- One Bad Level
- Removed Content From Wii U Version