There’s adorable, and then there’s Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. This is a game where you have to guide the interminably cute Captain Toad through perfectly formed vignettes that you rotate and inspect in order to solve the family-friendly puzzles that are put in your way. It is, in a word, delightful, and now, having made the jump from the Wii U to the Switch, even more people are going to be able to experience it.
Treasure Tracker is as much a collect ‘em up as it is a puzzle game, and despite each level often being pretty diminutive in stature they’re packed with a bunch of things to seek out. The primary thing you’re aiming for is a power star, but before you grab it you’ll want to be on the lookout for coins – some of which are only visible under the glare of Captain Toad’s helmet light, or your touch – and most importantly three diamonds which can be hidden in any number of places, and which you’ll need to progress. Besides that, each level also has a further task, such as defeating all the enemies or managing to make it through without being seen, to give you plenty of reason to keep returning to the same levels over and over again. Add in Pixel Toad hunts and there’s a lot to like if you’re a completionist.
The Switch’s similarity in form to the Wii U gamepad when playing handheld means that nothing is lost in translation when levels require you to tap on blocks and platforms or spin a wheel. I’d forgotten just how much Treasure Tracker used the Wii U’s touchpad, and it means that Nintendo have had to make compromises to compensate for not having that when playing docked.
What’s natural and intuitive on the touchscreen becomes much less so with gyro aiming with, and puzzles where you’re tapping away at the screen repeatedly in order to move sections around or to distract or hinder the enemies just lose something. The game is still perfectly functional, but it’s absolutely best experienced as a handheld outing, just as was the case with the original. The big difference is that you can now take it beyond the walls of your home. In fact, Treasure Tracker’s level structure makes it a perfect portable game, and with the benefit of the Switch’s screen there’s no reason not to play it this way.
The level of craftsmanship that’s gone into each of the tiny levels is still simply wonderful to behold, and they’re each remarkably coherent and focussed. Captain Toad and Toadette do much of their exploring at a relatively lackadaisical pace, but there are still shades of the Mario mainline games, with falling floor segments, or rocket boosted sections which require the same level of timing and precision that you’d expect from the wider series.
The highlights have to be the larger boss battles though. Whether facing off against Draggadon in a steadily rising pit of lava or tackling the Giant Bird’s powerful blasts of wind from its wings. The Switch version – and its sister 3DS port – have gained a smattering of bonus Mario Odyssey-themed levels, including an awesome New Donk City one, which you can unlock by reaching the end of the game, or by tapping your Mario Wedding amiibo if you want the fast-track.
They’re four levels that distill the essence of some of Odyssey’s more memorable kingdoms into miniaturised forms, with New Donk the real standout here, while also having a short cart ride level and boss battle to cap it off. The simple fact of the matter though is that if you’ve experienced Captain Toad on the Wii U there isn’t enough of a reason to double dip here, and as charming as it might be, it’s still a relatively short and easy experience for all but the youngest of players.
Similar to Mario Galaxy and its sequel you’re able to tackle every level in two player, with one player controlling Captain Toad while the other assists with the gyro pointer, distracting enemies with turnips or moving platforms. In docked mode it actually makes more sense to play this way than it does when playing alone, and it’s a great mode if you’re after some light co-op fun, or if you have younger children.
Nintendo’s continued run of Wii U ports has to have a finite end, but while Switch players are getting games like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker then its best just to bask in it. Gloriously cheerful, charming and enthralling, it’s only diminishing features are its slightly short length and lack of difficulty for seasoned players.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch – also available for 3DS and Wii U