The pixel toad noises have been burned into my mind
Personally, I never ended up buying a Wii U. My original plan was to wait for Breath of the Wild to release on the system before nabbing one. But by the time that was drawing near, the Switch was announced and right around the corner. However, one of the games that immediately caught my eye during the Wii U’s life-cycle (and nearly pushed me over the edge into purchasing the system) was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
As a toad enthusiast who is still baffled that after The Year of Luigi we’ve yet to experience or even hear plans for The Year of Toad, I was stoked toads everywhere were finally getting the spotlight in the form of Captain Toad. Still, I couldn’t help but feel distraught at the time knowing Captain Toad was released on a sinking ship of a platform. Thankfully, Captain Toad has now made its way to the Switch and 3DS and if you missed out on the Wii U like me, there’s no time like the present to enjoy some fantastic puzzling on the go!
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch [Reviewed], 3DS, Wii U)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Released: July 13, 2018 (Switch, 3DS) December 5, 2014 (Wii U)
Captain Toad is pretty light on story, with only a handful of story beats and cutscenes happening throughout the course of the game. The adventure begins with Captain Toad and Toadette out exploring in search of stars when suddenly Wingo (a giant bird) comes along and steals the star and Toadette along with it. Of course, Captain Toad is a toad of action. He isn’t about to go beg some plumber in a red cap for help and sets off to save the day. That said, Toadette isn’t any slouch though waiting to be saved, as you’ll even get to play as her in the following episode in what is basically a role-reversal.
This adventure takes place across three episodes, each with a number of different levels and bonus challenges to complete. The levels themselves, although small in size, allow you to manipulate the camera around them to uncover various hidden areas or objects. It’s in this foundation of a mechanic where the bulk of the puzzle-solving is built upon, with the simple rule of Toad or Toadette not being able to jump (due to their heavy backpacks). Alongside moving the camera around the stage, you’ll also be tapping or using the gyroscope-controlled cursor (when docked on Switch) to stun enemies or activate or move objects in the environment to reach the star and complete the level.
Notably, though, you can’t seem to use gyroscope aiming during on-rail levels while the Switch is docked. I can only assume this was due to the gyroscope controls being assigned to the mock-up cursor when playing while docked. Co-op was also added to the Switch version (if you can even call it that), which allows the second person to take control of the on-screen cursor… Exciting! As for the 3DS version, you move the camera with either the right analog nub or by dragging the touch screen on the bottom screen. It’s not as intuitive as the Switch controls, obviously, but it still works. However, what you will find on both versions of the game is some absolutely solid perception-based puzzling and plenty of charm.
Each level is beautifully crafted and meticulously planned out, with a number of them throwing in their own unique mechanics. The first episode acts as sort of an introduction to many of the puzzle mechanics and is fairly simple overall. For those of you aiming for 100% completion, though, Captain Toad offers up a good challenge in the form of hidden collectibles around the environment and bonus challenges to complete. Episode 2 and onward thankfully picks up the slack as well, with a slightly higher difficulty in some levels — which was much appreciated. My favorite level was easily 3-10 (Multi Vator Mayhem), simply because it let me drop four toads off a high ledge and it sounded wonderful.
Quality toad sounds from Samantha Kelly aside, not all the levels are wonderful. A good number of them re-use a lot of the same puzzle concepts with a slight twist, which definitely felt like padding at times. Then you have some trash-tier levels as well, such as Drop-Road Dash and Clear Pipe Puzzleplex. These levels, in particular, throw the perception-based puzzle solving out the window in favor of dumb gimmicks. Drop-Road Dash is an entire stage dedicated to a collapsible pathway floating in the sky filled with enemies that you simply run through. Clear Pipe Puzzleplex is an entire stage dedicated to going through clear pipes filled with enemies, all while moving non-stop.
Playing Clear Pipe Puzzleplex for the first time, I didn’t realize you had to hold the analog stick in the direction you wanted to turn next while going through the pipes. Instead, I was trying to flick the analog stick in the direction once I was near or at the turns themselves, resulting in me missing nearly every turn and a fair amount of lost lives. Captain Toad and Toadette are like the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They’re great at thinking on their feet, problem-solving, and having diplomatic discussions. But once you put them in an action film, it’s obvious they aren’t action stars. Basically, these two levels are the equivalent of Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis. They don’t match the overall puzzle-solving theme of Captain Toad and simply aren’t necessary.
Thankfully, the Switch and 3DS versions of Captain Toad include some additional Super Mario Odyssey–themed levels and they’re wonderful. These capture and highlight the notable Kingdoms from Super Mario Odyssey, as well as offer up some slightly unique puzzle-solving mechanics from Odyssey itself. You’ll gain access to the levels once you’ve completed the three episodes and they act as a perfect end-game incentive. Oddly enough, however, the Super Mario 3D World-themed levels from the original Wii U release are nowhere to be found on the Switch and 3DS versions of the game.
Some missing content aside, the Switch and 3DS versions of Captain Toad look absolutely fantastic. The 3DS version, in particular, is maybe one of the best-looking 3DS games I’ve played yet from Nintendo. This is bolstered by the fact it even supports stereoscopic 3D and the 3D effect itself works extremely well with the perception-based puzzle mechanics. Compared to the original Wii U release, which ran at 720p and a locked 60fps, the Switch version of Captain Toad now runs at 1080p while docked and 720p in handheld mode. Regardless if you’re playing docked or handheld mode, both seem to run at a locked 60fps, while the 3DS version is locked at 30fps.
Whichever version you go with, you’re still going to be in for a great time. Everything about Captain Toad is overwhelmingly charming. The soundtrack is solid, with plenty of levels having their own unique themes, as well as a few with familiar tunes from previous games in the Mario franchise thrown in for good measure. I’d argue there’s been no better time than now to be a toad fan and with Captain Toad and Toadette planting their flags on more of Nintendo’s platforms, here’s hoping we continue to see them for years to come.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to visit my doctor. Because after collecting every pixel toad, I can’t stop hearing them.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]