Personally, I don’t see how anyone could not love Captain Toad. Nintendo’s plucky and most adventurous of Toads is downright adorable, and his bite-sized appearances in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World were more than enough to win me over. Back in 2014, the big N saw fit to give him his own game with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, doomed to be forgotten on the less-than-successful Wii U. Thankfully, our favorite adventurer has gotten a new lease on life with the Nintendo Switch.
As we’ve come to expect by now, Nintendo has done an excellent job of bringing the game to their hybrid handheld console. When docked, resolution comes in at a full 1080p, locked at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. Moving to handheld, that drops to 720p, matching the native resolution of the Switch’s built-in screen, which makes for a rather sharp image. Edge smoothing is still limited overall, but image quality is a noticeable step up from the original Wii U version.
Visual splendor aside, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker plays just as well on Switch, even if there are a few control quibbles to deal with (more on those later). The game opens with a brief tutorial, which sees Captain Toad and Toadette on the hunt for treasures galore. Moments after tracking down a Power Star, the villainous crow Wingo swoops in to steal their prize, inadvertently kidnapping Toadette in the process. This kicks off Captain Toad’s journey to rescue both Toadette and the treasure, which unfolds across 70-something different, miniature stages, which are reminiscent of those elementary school dioramas you probably got stuck making at one point or another.
Unlike the nimble Mario, Captain Toad is not nearly as fast-footed or limber. To add insult to injury, he can’t even jump, a consequence of lugging around his heavy adventuring gear. As a result, levels are focused around exploration and puzzle-solving, with plenty of hidden secrets to uncover in each one. The main goal of each stage is to collect a hard-to-reach gold star, but there are also three gems you can track down, some of which are hidden out of sight. Beating each level unlocks a corresponding bonus challenge, which range from finding Gold Mushrooms to collecting a certain amount of coins, and plenty more. Some of the best ones require you to beat stages in entirely different ways, such as using a limited number of “touch” moves.
Without a Wii U Gamepad to play on, the developers have retooled a number of mechanics to best suit the Switch’s hardware. For example, some stages task you with raising and lowering platforms by “touching” them, which was originally done on the Wii U’s touch screen. This time around, this is accomplished using an on-screen gyro pointer (if you’re playing with the Switch docked). If you’re playing in handheld mode, you can just use the Switch’s touch screen to perform these actions. Originally, some platforms were controlled by blowing into the Wii U’s microphone. This time around, those platforms have just been changed, eliminating the need for any blowing, which would look a little awkward when playing on the go. While it’s a tad annoying to have an always-present gyro pointer icon on your screen, it works well enough when using the Joy-Con (the Pro Controller is a bit more unwieldy).
Of course, you can always outsource these responsibilities to a friend, thanks to the newly-included two-player mode. Aside from being in charge of the pointer controls, the second player handles the camera, rotating the world in order to get a better view of the action, as well as to unearth new passageways and secrets. A second player can also take advantage of an unlimited number of turnips (Captain Toad’s preferred weapon of choice) to dispatch enemies. This does remove any difficulty when it comes to enemy encounters, but frankly it’s fun to reign down terror on Shy Guys and Piranha Plants with reckless abandon.
If you’re still having trouble, you can always take advantage of built-in amiibo support. Scanning in just about any amiibo will grant a 1-Up Mushroom, while the Toad amiibo bestows a brief period of invincibility. On the Wii U, the Toad amiibo unlocked “Pixel Toads” for each stage, unlocking a new hide-and-seek mode where players can track down a hidden 8-bit Toad in each level. With Toad’s amiibo being hard to track down these days, Nintendo has removed the need to track down a specific figurine when playing on Switch, allowing players to try out this mode after first completing a stage. If you happen to own any of the Super Mario Odyssey amiibo, you can immediately unlock four new Odyssey-inspired levels, though it’s worth noting that they can be unlocked through regular play. These new stages offer up some of the best moments; it’s just a shame that we only get four of them.
While some may write off Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as just another uninspired port, it’s anything but. The endless amount of charm and fun on display offers up a refreshing change of pace from the action-heavy games we’ve seen this year. Honestly, I’m hard-pressed to think of a more adorable and joyful game than Captain Toad, and at the end of the day, our favorite adventurer’s excited and high-pitched utterances, cries of panic, and idle animations are more than enough to brighten my day.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Nintendo.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is, by far, one of the most joyful and charming games I've played to date. The lovable and adorable Captain Toad has gotten a new lease on life, and I couldn't be happier.