Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch) Review
Final Score: 8 / 10
When rattling off a list of Nintendo's biggest successes, the Wii U certainly does not land in the top five. I know it, you know it, Nintendo knows it, so no dancing around the subject is necessary. This, however, does not mean that the Wii U doesn’t have a vast catalog of hidden gems that are incredibly terrific in their own right. Thanks to the immense success of the Switch, some of these titles are finally getting the recognition they deserve via ports on the new console. The latest title to get this treatment is perhaps one of the most deserving, and it is a must have for any and all puzzle / platformer fans who are in search of a fresh take on the genre.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker first hit the shelves back in late 2014 and at the time was hailed as one of Nintendo’s better spin-offs in recent years, making it the perfect title to cast back into the limelight. Building upon the Captain Toad mini-games featured in Super Mario 3D World, Treasure Tracker allows the player to navigate through dozens of beautifully designed worlds as the titular character in search of, you guessed it, that sweet sweet treasure. Though Toad’s abilities are limited (poor little guy can’t even jump), everything the player needs to track down that loot is right at their fingertips.
The game’s key feature is that the player can rotate the camera to look at the map from virtually any angle, meaning the treasure that you’re searching for could be in any remote corner waiting for you to find it. While this can get frustrating in some situations, it adds a nice little flair to the game that makes the experience truly delightful. I was a little worried initially that the feature might start to feel gimmicky and tedious as the game went on, but I was happy to find that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is nothing but completely charming.
Each level breaks down to 3 key components, which might sound limited but actually allows for quite a wide breadth of content. The primary focus of each level is to reach the gold star at the end, while searching for 3 gems along the way. Once that is complete, the player is presented with the opportunity to go back into the level to complete an optional challenge, which most of the time involves collecting coins or golden mushrooms. Sometimes the challenges get a little trickier, but the savvy treasure tracker will come to welcome such variations in gameplay.
The additional challenge presented at the end of a completed mission is the Pixel Toad hide-and-seek challenge, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Your camera tilting skills are put to the true test, as there is an 8-bit toad hidden somewhere in each level, laughing in your face as you struggle to determine what angles you haven’t actually viewed the map from. These particular puzzles, for me at least, were the real thinkers. At first they were fun and simple, hearkening back to the salad days of finding hidden images in a Highlights magazine, but eventually you begin to wonder where in the hell a little Pixel Toad could even be hiding on a map that is fairly wide open. How did he get there anyway? And where does he get off taunting me like that? (Hot tip: the closer you get to him, the more he starts to make noise, which will tell you when you’re in the right general area).
Overall this is a fantastic little game which, whether it flew under your radar until now or not, feels like a criminally underrated piece of the Mario pie. Is there enough depth to say this should be (or should have been rather) the game of the year? Maybe not. But if you’re like me and you welcome any and all Switch titles that will keep a smile glued to your noggin for the duration of the gameplay, you can’t do much better than this. Anyone who missed playing this on the Wii U, or is just waiting for something to hold them over until that Yoshi title drops, is sure to have a wonderful time playing this game. If you have a vendetta against Toad for some strange reason (read: years and years of letting the little bastard assault you with blue shells in Mario Kart), I urge you to set it aside to have a little fun trackin’ that treasure. If not for yourself, do it for poor Toadette. Think of the Toadette!