Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Review
Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Nintendo 3DS
Based on the Japanese gardening concept known as hakoniwa (box garden or miniature gardening), Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was originally released on the Wii U in 2014 following the popularity of 2013’s Super Mario 3D World’s ‘Adventures of Captain Toad’ challenges. Sadly, like many other titles on the Wii U, the adorable puzzler never really enjoyed the success it deserved. Fast forward to 2018, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker represents the latest of Nintendo’s missed generation to find itself a new home on the Switch, and while not much has changed, a few little modifications have made it an essential purchase for every Switch owner.
On the surface, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker looks like a new addition to the platforming masterpieces that make up the Super Mario licence, but that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a beautifully-crafted level-based puzzler that boasts all the same love and charm you’d expect from a title in the Mario series.
The game features more than 60 beautiful puzzle-based obstacle courses where your ultimate goal is to collect the shiny gold star at the end - there’s also a ‘story’ that plays out between levels, but it’s pretty meaningless and doesn’t particularly add anything of value other than setting up the aesthetic for each level. Embedded within each course are three diamonds, coins, hidden items and some levels also include optional challenges, such as collecting a certain amount of coins; you don’t need to collect everything to progress, but the perfectionist in you may want to!
Despite their small appearance, each level boasts spectacular design, and most are significantly larger than they first appear, some require a 360 degree camera swing to find the hidden path, others require you to move segments around, while some require you to destroy obstacles to move forward. You’ll even find yourself defeating huge bosses, or climbing huge castles in order to bag the star. The level design and puzzles ooze Nintendo, and are truly memorable, timeless even, despite the fact that bosses aren't particularly challenging. The puzzles are made even more spectacular by the fact that Captain Toad can’t jump!
As I mentioned earlier, very little has changed from the Wii U version, bar the removal of the Super Mario 3D World bonus levels in favour of Mario Odyssey style worlds (couldn’t we have both, Nintendo?), updated visuals, and a new co-op multiplayer moder. A few of the controls have also been tweaked, with the Switch version ditching the Wii U’s infuriating internal gyrosensor, and the requirement to blow into a microphone socket to move platforms. However, while docked, a giant blue cursor constantly hovers over the screen as you're no longer using the screen's touch controls. It’s a little inelegant, but doesn’t impact gameplay too much, and after a few hours you’ll seldom notice it.
As you would expect from a Nintendo Switch title as appealing as Captain Toad, a two-player multiplayer mode has been introduced, whereby one player controls Toad and the other points at elements using the second Joy-Con and fires turnips. It’s a quaint little addition that broadens Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker’s appeal, but can make the game a little too easy. The ability to fire turnips at enemies means all threats are nullified before the player controlling Toad arrives.
Despite its age, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a beautiful game, and it says a lot about Nintendo’s graphical design and style that this remaster is one of the best-looking titles on the Switch to date. The Switch’s 1080p docked resolution output really makes each level pop with colour. I thoroughly enjoyed how each world featured throwbacks from across the Mario series, from characters such as Boo and Shy Guy to the ever-famous ding sound every time you collect a coin! Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker also features a beautifully-crafted score that effortlessly incorporates everything that makes the Mushroom Kingdom so special for so many people.
The updated visuals and spectacular soundtrack both work in tangent to create a gaming experience that is simply a joy to play, and the way the game is structured means you can tackle a couple of levels on your way to work, or binge out for a few hours in the evening. If you’re a puzzle mastermind, the 60+ level on offer here won’t take you more than five/six hours to complete, but you can expect to add another two or three to that total if you’re going for 100%. I just hope that Nintendo has plans to release new content for the title going forward, as once you’ve mastered the game, there’s very little incentive to return.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker may be four years old, but the Switch version is certainly the definitive way to play thanks to a few control tweaks and the updated visuals. While it won’t appeal to everyone, the game shows that when it comes to level design, puzzle creation and ingenuity, very few do it as well or better than the masters at Nintendo. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is easily one of the best titles on the Switch, and hopefully it’ll get the recognition this time around that it so truly deserves.