Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is worth playing if you like puzzles
by on July 16, 2018

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a game that you might have missed. Even if you didn’t skip over the Wii U console generation, it could have easily fallen to the wayside amongst more popular entries such as Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U before it or Splatoon or Super Mario Maker after it. In fact, Captain Toad’s whole existence owes itself to its “predecessor” Super Mario 3D World, which included the very concept of this game as miniature levels or sidequests within it. As a result, if you’ve played the Mario title, you already have a rough idea of what to expect from Captain Toad.

Nintendo has graciously provided us with a review copy of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Thankfully, Captain Toad offers a little bit more than the experience from the Mario game before it, though admittedly not a great deal more. It naturally had to include boss battles because now there’s a Mario-esque “story” behind it as Captain Toad and co-star Toadette collect Power Stars. It expanded upon its original mini-levels by having a shooter-on-rails mechanic as well as coin-collection levels. And it’s borrowed somewhat heavily from Super Mario 3D World by pulling in the Double Cherries, Dash Panels, Beep Blocks, and more. It’s as much an extension of Super Mario Galaxy as Super Mario Galaxy 2 was… except without the actual Mario jumping and fast platforming.

Captain Toad borrows heavily from Super Mario 3D World with the inclusion of power-ups and items.

Cute and charming puzzle-solving

Captain Toad is a perfect game for the Nintendo Switch. (Though really, what game isn’t?) Captain Toad is all about bite-sized content in tiny stages, and the portable nature of the Switch means you can jump in, play a few levels, and then get back to whatever you were doing.

And the game is a lot cuter than I originally expected. I admit I chuckle a bit whenever I see Captain Toad appear in the various Mario games, from Super Mario Galaxy and onward. Seeing the little cutscenes with the captain is actually cute and endearing, even though his high-pitched squeaks can get a bit old by the game’s end.

The nature of Captain Toad tends to be more pause-and-think rather than hurry-up-and-go.

Where Captain Toad veers distinctively from its Mario origins is the fact that this is more of a puzzle game than a platformer. The game does have platforming involved within it, but the nature of the game tends to be more pause-and-think rather than hurry-up-and-go. That’s par for the course because the level’s objective is usually in plain sight — similar to the one-screen levels found in Super Mario Maker. However, another part of this originates from the fact that you can’t see the entire level in a single glance. You need to rotate your view around as parts of the level will obscure other parts, especially the underground bits. Even then, there are a few secret areas that won’t even be revealed until you actually encounter them, leaving the huge potential for hidden treasures and coins everywhere.

Despite the general pause-and-think strategy omnipresent in the game, Captain Toad does force you into quick thinking quite often. Enemies such as Goombas and Shy Guys, once they detect you, will give quick chase. And given the captain’s inability to jump, your standard mechanism for clearing out enemies is gone. To replace that, Captain Toad — in a throwback to the American Super Mario Bros. 2 — can hoist turnips out of the ground and chuck them at enemies. However, turnips are far and few between and generally only spawn once, so you either have to be accurate or fast on your feet! The mine cart levels also require quick thinking; while you never have to worry about enemies in these levels, the levels become coin ruins, and you have to shoot targets quickly to maximize your coin count and/or complete your secret missions.

The game itself is divided into multiple episodes — three in total with a set of post-game bonus levels beyond it. It’s important to remember this after you defeat the first 18 levels and arrive at the end credits; the game isn’t over yet! It’s in episodes two and three where you play as Toadette (and later as both characters) as you chase down Wingo, the game’s avian nemesis.

It’s not just about waddling around enemies. There’s also rail-shooter segments.

Is Captain Toad really worth the investment?

So it merits saying that Captain Toad isn’t your Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey. Unless you’re a hardcore completionist, it’s not going to offer you the hundreds of hours of gameplay that the other titles on Nintendo Switch have to offer. Thankfully it doesn’t have to be either of the two games thanks to its price point. In North America, the game is being sold at $40 as opposed to $60, while in Australia it’s being sold at A$60 instead of A$90. And given that the Switch is full of like-minded titles such as Shovel Knight, Golf Story, and countless more, it’s in good company.

Overall, Captain Toad is relatively easy, but 100%ing the game takes much more effort.

It’s reasonable to ask whether or not this game is for you. Captain Toad is like the Kirby series when it comes to difficulty: If you consider yourself decent at playing modern video games, then you should find navigating the 60-odd levels of the main quest a relative breeze. Some levels are more involved than others, and some of the later levels involve a few more timing challenges or tricky spots that require a little more finesse, but you won’t see too many Game Over screens despite the game not inundating you with 1-Up Mushrooms at every chance.

That said, the challenge of the game starts to rapidly increase once you consider all of the optional challenges the game throws at you in order to 100-percent the game. Each of the stages in the main quest has three diamonds in it that need collecting, and failing to collect a sufficient number of these will start locking you out of the game’s bonus content after the main story. Furthermore, each stage has two additional challenges. The first is a simple hide-and-seek game with a pixelated Toad hiding on one of the level’s walls; in the Wii U version of this game, this only could be accessed as amiibo-activated content, but now it’s built into the game itself. Secondly, and more deviously, each level has a bonus mission, and achieving these can actually be quite difficult. It’ll take solid persistence to crack each auxiliary mission in the game.

That said, if you already owned and played Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on the Wii U, it’s not worth getting the Switch version. With the exception of the hide-and-seek games no longer being locked behind amiibo, the only Switch-exclusive content is four additional bonus levels that are generally inspired by Super Mario Odyssey. These levels actually replace the Super Mario 3D World-themed bonus levels from the Wii U version, and as before you can’t play these levels until you go through the game’s storyline. Each of the four new levels is based upon one of the various kingdoms of Odyssey — namely the Cascade, Sand, Metro, and Luncheon Kingdoms. They’re cute fun, but it’s not much to merit a second purchase.

An underappreciated but solid game

I didn’t play Captain Toad on the Wii U, and I had originally made the conscious choice to skip it for Nintendo Switch as well. Before playing it, I had a pretty good idea of what the game was, and, to a large extent, I was correct. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been a long time since I’ve made the effort to fully 100% any game I’ve owned. (I’ve got too much of a gaming backlog to spend time on that!) While I do appreciate the challenges in the game — and some of them were things to which I immediately said, “Challenge accepted!” — those challenges aren’t something that will drive me back to playing it over and over. But that’s just me; depending upon how you game, your mileage may vary.

But Captain Toad is still cute fun, and I think it’s actually a very good thing that Nintendo came and remade the game for the Nintendo Switch. It’s definitely a game I think didn’t get enough acclaim the first time around, so maybe its presence on Switch will give it a bit more luster.

Score Similarity to other Marios
8.5/10 Mario Vs. Donkey Kong – ★★★★☆
Super Mario 3D World – ★★★☆☆
Super Mario Bros. 2 – ★★☆☆☆
Super Mario Odyssey – ★☆☆☆☆
David Johnson
David Johnson, a.k.a. "The Missing Link," was once the webmaster of both Zelda: The Grand Adventures and ZeldaBlog. He works as a software engineer in the games industry. David also pontificates about Zelda, writes features and guides for ZU, and obsesses about CD-i.