With the Nintendo Switch outselling the Wii U in less than a year on the market, it’s hard to argue there isn’t a market for ports of classic Wii U games. Not only are these titles being exposed to new players, but it’s also giving them a second chance in the spotlight and expanding that growing Switch first party line-up. Following on from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Bayonetta 1 & 2 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, it’s now time for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker to receive the port treatment. For most, it’s not going to be worth purchasing a second time around, though if you missed out on this charming gem the first time it still comes highly recommended.
For those who are curious of the differences between the Switch and Wii U versions of Captain Toad, there isn’t too much to cover. Firstly, the game has been optimised to run at 1080p when in docked mode and 720p while in handheld mode. The original game ran at 720p on Wii U, so there’s no loss in performance and everything continues to run smoothly. On Wii U the player could interact with the environment by pressing the gamepad’s touchscreen. This transfers over to handheld mode, but when playing in TV mode a blue icon appears on screen and is controlled using motion controls with either the Pro or Joycon controllers. It acts like a pointer, but can become annoying and distracting as it’s constantly on the TV screen. It also often needs to be recalibrated – the pointer technology here isn’t as reliable as the Wii, but at the very least a quick button press realigns the pointer to the middle of the screen. It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t minimise the pointer’s impact, making it only appear when pressing a button. Arguably, Captain Toad is best played in handheld mode for that very reason. Still, the game is playable in TV mode with the pointer being a relatively minor hindrance.
The Switch version also contains a basic two player co-op feature. While one player controls Captain Toad or Toadette, the other will take direct control of the pointer and interact with the environment to assist their partner. It works similar to co-op in the Super Mario Galaxy games. Both players also control the camera, so it can become an interesting tug-of-war depending how cooperative you are. Finally, the Super Mario 3D World inspired levels have been scrapped in favour of Super Mario Odyssey levels (why Nintendo couldn’t simply have both is a mystery in itself!). These can be unlocked by tapping a Wedding-themed Mario Amiibo or by normal progression of the main game. The levels based on New Donk City and Sand Kingdom are easily the best of the bunch, featuring tall buildings to scale and small underground areas to explore. The other two aren’t quite as impressive; Cascade Kingdom acts as an on-rails shooter and the Luncheon Kingdom sees players rush through a linear path avoiding a collapsing floor and obstacles in their way. The levels feature music, backdrops and some character assets taken directly from Super Mario Odyssey, which helps capture the heart and mass appeal of the title.
Ultimately the new content is not enough to warrant a second purchase for those who owned and completed the game on Wii U. Captain Toad was already a visually gorgeous game to behold on Wii U, and the extra optimisation for Switch is certainly welcome. However, at its core you only have a handful of new levels and a new basic multiplayer option. This is otherwise the same game with little extra value.
With that out of the way, for those who are unfamiliar with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the game is a puzzle platformer that is less about rushing to the goal and more about exploring. Unlike Mario who jumps, punches and uses a variety of power-ups to get through a level, Captain Toad and Toadette do not have any of these abilities to fight enemies. All they can do is walk briskly through a level, climb ladders, collect coins and pluck items from the ground.
While the game is slower paced, it retains its own identity within the Mario universe. Levels are designed as small dioramas where you must guide Captain Toad and Toadette through obstacles to collect the end of level power star. This in itself is an easy task, but the main appeal comes from discovering every last secret the level has to offer. As well as the power star, there are three hidden gems and a secondary objective which changes in each level. The secondary objectives can include collecting a certain number of coins, finding a golden mushroom, only interacting with the environment via the pointer a set number of times or defeating a certain type of enemy. Some of these items are well hidden, so a second or even third run is often required. There’s also a hide-and-seek mini-game for most levels where you have to locate a tiny hidden 2D sprite of Toad. The mini-game was previously tied to the Toad Amiibo on Wii U, but here it’s unlocked after you collect the power star.
There’s a lot of joy to be had in just discovering and exploring the dioramas. At one moment you can be navigating a jungle-themed environment with piranha plants everywhere, the next you can be cautiously walking through a haunted mansion or exploring a train speeding through a mountain range. Nintendo’s developers have let their imaginations run free here, and it will instantly appeal to your inner child. Levels also constantly throw new challenges at players. To name a few, some challenges involve activating switches to gain access to particular areas, while others have players navigate short mazes or place platforms in the correct order. Some levels are even played out as an on-rails first person shooter, with the player riding in a minecart and having to shoot turnips to collect coins and defeat enemies. Puzzles will occasionally leave you stumped, but this isn’t an overly challenging experience for seasoned gamers. There’s over 70 levels throughout the entire game, with most players being able to complete everything within 10-12 hours.
As mentioned you can interact with the environment via the touch screen in handheld mode or a pointer function when playing in docked mode. It’s used to freeze enemies in place for a short time, uncover hidden coins, move selectable platforms into place and also locate that naughty 2D sprite of Toad in the hide-and-seek mini-games.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a welcome addition to the Switch library and should be picked up by anyone who did not play it on Wii U. The game is a charming puzzle platformer that focuses less on rushing to the goal and more about uncovering every last secret. It’s going to appeal to your inner child and is brimming with Nintendo’s magic. The pointer function while playing in docked mode does distract from the overall experience, but otherwise this is a winner.
- Optimised visuals for Nintendo Switch - Great level design - Fun, charming gameplay
- Pointer icon in docked mode is distracting and annoying - Super Mario 3D World levels have been cut - Not a lot new for players who owned the Wii U version