Something Nintendo don’t often get credit for is the way they build a character’s identity.
Nintendo don’t always tell their stories through elaborate narrative twists and turns, but over the years they have mastered the art of crafting a niche for their characters, placing them in scenarios which often work far better than they should.
Wario is the master of the mini-game, Luigi is the world’s leading authority on ghost-hunting, Yoshi is cuddlier than ever with his new wool obsession.
As for Captain Toad, I’ve never met a treasure hunter more fit for the task.
Did you forget Indiana Jones? At least he can jump.
No. Look, all I’m saying is Toad’s always been a little bit shrewd and crafty. You don’t become one of Mario Kart’s most popular characters without a bit of zestiness in your DNA.
And while Mario has been collecting coins since before Toad was a psychedelic collage in Mama Mushroom’s eye, the mining picks and cap lamps just suit our speckled friend better.
True, Treasure Tracker does turn into a bit of a ‘Tag, you’re it’ rescue mission between Toad and Toadette, but you’re never too far away from a golden mushroom or glistening diamond either. Put it this way, it’s little surprise a big ol’ birdo swoops down to keep taking them away in its talons.
As Toad and Toadette, you face a series of block-sized, rubix cube style mazes which can be twisted and turned using the right analog stick or shoulder buttons. The aim in each maze is to collect the Power Star at the end, but you’re also encouraged to hunt for secrets, in particular finding all three diamonds in every level. This is especially important as later levels will need a certain amount of diamonds in order to unlock.
These treasures could be immediately visible but require you to do a bit of backtracking / puzzle solving, or they could be hidden out of view, meaning you need to tilt the maze the right way to find a route to them. Basically, adjusting the maze to your line of sight is a crucial part of the whole experience.
In that regard, there really is nothing out there quite like Captain Toad, both on a Nintendo platform or anywhere else. Even though it’s a cult classic Wii U title, I can’t think of a game that plays quite the same way. Monument Valley is close, but even then feels different.
While each maze has structured paths, Captain Toad has full, free-roam movement using the left analog stick, but he can also tug at grass patches to dig up certain items, like turnips which can be thrown at enemies. Toad can also drop on enemies heads from a height and use other creative means to outwit or defeat his foes
As expected, mazes get much tougher the further you progress but there’s never a point where Captain Toad feels too difficult. Even if you just want to get the star at the end, you always feel like that’s achievable and within your grasp. To fulfill bonus objectives and get a completionists stamp, however, will take some doing.
And so much of that is down to some absolutely first class level design. Truly, the creativity that has gone into mapping these levels, as well as the actions you can pull off and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you beat them is sensational. Particularly boss battles which, in a game like this, may not initially seem like a natural fit. There’s no wasted levels in Captain Toad, everything has its place and serves to prepare you for the level to follow.
Any reason for me to double dip if I own on Wii U?
Good question. To be honest, the experience is largely unchanged, though I do think the overall aesthetic has had a bit of extra spit and polish as images appear to be more crisp and the music seemingly of a higher standard.
There’s also an additional mid-level zoom option which is actually extremely useful if you’re trying to look at Toad’s immediate area or if areas of the maze look a bit too strained in handheld mode.
The touch controls feel a bit more responsive and HD Rumble works subtly but like a charm. Additionally, the ‘Find Pixel Toad’ mini-game previously only unlockable with an Amiibo is now playable once you beat a level.
Co-op also works wonderfully with both of you using JoyCons and really adds another dimension to the game that just wouldn’t be possible on any other format.
Unfortunately, the much touted Super Mario Odyssey levels are a little bit disappointing. It’s still a lot of fun to revisit areas from Mario’s latest outing and take in the catchy tunes all over again, but they’re not of the same quality you come to expect throughout the game. To be honest, the Mario 3D World levels were made a bit better. Perhaps future DLC?
All that said, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker feels like a game born to be played on Switch. It looks beautiful on the big screen, but the quality of the content is such that it suits handheld / portable pick-up-and-play sessions down to the ground. This is one of the best games only a handful of people experienced on the Wii U but still stands up incredibly well considering the stacked Switch library.
This franchise deserves to have a future, whether that’s through DLC packs over the next year, a full sequel or even a series of mobile games. Whatever the case may be, as Wii U to Switch ports go, Captain Toad is perhaps the best of the bunch and certainly the most welcome. Essential for any Switch gamer.
+ Some of Nintendo’s smartest level design
+ Gorgeous variety in environments
+ Lots of collectibles for completionists
+ Co-op works great
+ Nice new tweaks for Switch
– Mario Odyssey levels are a bit disappointing
– Never massively challenging
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch) Review
8.5 out of 10
Tested on Switch
Code provided by the publisher