The Nintendo Switch is home to many slam-dunk titles. Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, and Animal Crossing New Horizons are just a few of the many examples of fantastic games that are regarded as some of Nintendo’s best titles in their large ever expanding library. With the Switch having so many well received games it’s only natural that some titles may be missed. One such experience that many Nintendo fans may have overlooked is none other than Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. Although it may not be a masterpiece such as the previously mentioned games, it is certainly an enjoyable experience with a plethora of content that will keep players entertained throughout its runtime.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker is a spin off of side missions in Super Mario 3D World in which the player navigates the slow Captain Toad around a small map. The player uses the camera as well as some motion controls to locate collectables with a gameplay structure based more on puzzle solving instead of the platforming style Mario games are known for. Although I found the Captain Toad levels to be a fun distraction within the main game of 3D World, I never saw it as anything more than just a small side experience. When I saw Captain Toad was getting his own game, I was very skeptical. Could a collectable driven game with a slow character who can’t even jump be enjoyable? As it turns out, yes it can.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker makes up for its slower gameplay by having small stages to explore. Most levels can be beaten in under a minute, and none of the levels take longer than five minutes. The main goal of each stage is to navigate Captain Toad to the star at the end of each stage. Each level also has three gems hidden throughout, a bonus challenge that can only be discovered after beating the level, and a mode to locate a tiny 8-bit Toad hidden somewhere on the stage. Although these are optional, a certain number of gems are needed to unlock missions that are required to progress. The game has over 70 missions separated into three episodes, as well as a bonus set of levels. The first two episodes are both 18 levels, and the third level and bonus missions offer a larger selection.
The amount of content is perfect. In my playthrough I collected all of the gems, and completed the hidden challenge before moving on. Playing every mission this way never hit a point for me where I had my fill of the game. Levels were fast enough where I rarely felt I was spending too much time on one mission, but challenging enough for completing a level to feel rewarding. Each level has very unique designs and layouts, but still stay true to the aesthetics of 3D World, and Odyssey that most of the games missions are based on. The music fits each stage very well, but most of the tracks are reused from 3D World. Overall each level feels impressive. Missions that use similar aesthetics have gameplay elements or map layouts that allow each stage to stand on their own and feel unique. I found this to be a nice surprise considering that 3D World struggled in this aspect despite using similar world types.
Despite the simple mechanics, there is a wide variety of stage types. Some missions require looking at the map from multiple angels to determine where collectibles may be hidden. While others are based more on the movement mechanics, creating a compelling platformer level even without the ability to jump. They even have missions that are akin to stealth games where you have to sneak passed enemies without being detected. Although most puzzles within the game are not very difficult to solve, there are enough challenging objectives sprinkled in to keep the game entertaining throughout without being annoyingly difficult.
My favorite objective in each stage is certainly the challenge time the game asks you to complete after you find all three gems, as well as complete the bonus objective in each stage. The challenge time in some stages feel as though the only way to beat the mission fast enough is to beat it in the lowest amount of time that is physically possible. A lot of my successful runs felt as though it was actually impossible to get a lower time. Combine that with the fact that some of these times require perfect movement and execution makes the challenge time mode fairly challenging and extremely satisficing
Although I found this puzzle platformer to be a fantastic yet simple experience the game does have its issues. This game was certainly designed around the concept of completing the game 100%. Sadly, unlike the rest of the game, the Pixel Toad hide and seek mode gets old quick. The mode started off as a fun enough side mission to find a tiny 8-bit Toad hidden on each stage. A problem arises however as the games levels get larger and more dynamic. Finding Toad in the smaller stages that are prevalent through the beginning of the game ranged from fine to a little annoying. Once the second episode starts however, the mode starts to eat more and more of your time as the levels get larger. It just turns into an obnoxious and frustrating chore that you have to complete if you want to 100% the game.
This game starts to lose its luster when missions feel as though the objective is uncomeatable. The Pixel Toad missions certainly gave me this feeling the most, but even searching for collectables had moments like this. Some missions hidden objectives may be to find a golden mushroom hidden invisibly underground that you have to walk over to reveal. Most of these I either found on accident, or by just walking on every part of the map until I ran into its hiding spot. I didn’t mind looking for the mushroom like this, but sometimes I would miss the opaque stem that Toad would have to pull in order to get the collectible. This would cause me to spend way too much time looking for it. Once you are stuck in a situation where it feels as though you’ve done every possible option to find something and have still come up with nothing, the mission can stop being fun.
The lack of touch controls the original Wii U version of the game had requires gyro controls to aim a pointer at different stage elements to move them. Although this sounds like it would be much worse than the touch screen, I encountered very few moments where the gyro controls felt restrictive, but they certainly still appeared.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker offers a unique puzzle experience that is full of content and compelling missions that can hook the player into saying “just one more level” over and over again. Although the game certainly has its moments where gameplay can get slow and frustrating, especially with the Pixel Toad missions, the overall experience is not ruined by these moments. Captain Toad is a fast and rewarding puzzle platformer game that has gone underappreciated on the Switch. It is the perfect game to pick up while waiting for Nintendo to release their more anticipated titles.