Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

The Switch delivers Captain Toad in a higher-resolution format, and with better gyroscopic controls.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Photo: Nintendo

It’s fitting that, four years after releasing on the Wii U, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is enjoying a second life on the Switch: The majority of the game’s clever puzzles revolve around shifting our sense of perspective, and isn’t it a port’s job to give players a chance to see an old title in a new light? Indeed, the Switch delivers Captain Toad in a higher-resolution format, and with better gyroscopic controls—for when you’re playing on a television and need to point at an object with a Joy-Con in order to activate it.

Because Captain Toad is slow, players can tap, and as such stun, enemies in order to avoid coming into contact with them. And because Toad can’t jump, players must often trick enemies like the football helmet-wearing Chargin’ Chucks that first made their appearance in Super Mario World into dismantling obstacles, or find turnips for Toad to throw into foes or out-of-reach items (an obvious nod to Super Mario Bros. 2). The things that Toad can’t do never hold him back from clambering past the same enemies Mario might simply leap around; they just force players to do so in creative ways.

This is most obvious in the four bonus stages from Super Mario Odyssey that are new to this Switch edition. Instead of facing a Cookatiel head-on, Toad slaloms through a fiery labyrinth behind the enemy. Instead of navigating all of New Donk City, Toad visits a densely packed one-block-wide version of the metropolis that has you relive key portions of Mario’s journey, such as turning the power on in the sewers. Elsewhere, when Toad travels through the waterfalls and fossilized cliffs of the Cascade Kingdom via minecart, the on-rails experience is reminiscent of the way in which Pokémon Snap expanded on Pokémon Red and Blue, showcasing familiar environments in a new way.

Not that Captain Toad is reliant on Super Mario Odyssey to prove its bona fides. There are over 70 miniature stages to complete, each no more than five minutes in length (once you know what you’re doing). And while Captain Toad draws from the richness of the Super Mario series’s history, featuring appearances from everything from Goombas to the Conkdors first seen in Super Mario 3D World, it boasts its own inventions, like the spectral Mummy-Me version of your character that appears in bonus levels and forces you to keep moving. And most levels are a perfect mix of the old and new. For example, Toad must stun Boos with his headlamp (a mechanic cribbed from Luigi’s Mansion) while also moving the various doors of a ghost house into alignment, as if playing with some sort of spectral Rubik’s cube.

Each level might not always offer something entirely new, like the underwater section of the Briny Bowl Swimming Hole or the transparent pipe maze of the Clear Pipe Puzzleplex, but even each of the three encounters with the smoke-spewing volcano Draggadons offers some newly devious twist, like having to manually rotate walls into position that’ll serve as temporary shields. There’s always some new trick to master, whether it’s avoiding thin ice by following a bunch of Biddybuds or launching yourself into a giant pachinko machine.

Even replays of the same level offer new surprises. Each presents a more challenging objective to complete, as well as a time trial, and there’s also a Where’s Waldo-like alternative for each course in which players track down a tiny, pixelated Toad. At no point in any of these modes does Toad’s inability to jump feel like a handicap, but rather as a reminder of how nice it is to take the longer, more scenic route. For Captain Toad, the trip itself is the treasure.

 Developer: Nintendo  Publisher: Nintendo EAD Tokyo  Platform: Switch  Release Date: July 13, 2018  ESRB: E  ESRB Descriptions: Mild Cartoon Violence  Buy: Game

Aaron Riccio

Aaron has been playing games since the late '80s and writing about them since the early '00s. He also obsessively writes about crossword clues at The Crossword Scholar.

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