I don’t care what anyone says, the Wii U had a fantastic library of games. It’s apparent that Nintendo is aware of this because they’ve been porting so many of those titles to the Switch. One of those games, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, was recently released on Switch and I must say, it’s well-deserving of your attention. It may not have the highest Metacritic score, but it’s one of the most unique releases in Nintendo’s catalogue in recent memory. How interesting is it that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker spawned from a mini-game from Super Mario 3D World? It seems Miyamoto loved these mini-games so much, he thought, “why not make an entire game out of them?”
Treasure Tracker is unlike anything I’ve played before, which is why summing it up in a short pitch won’t do it justice. In it, you play as Toad from the Mario universe, and must navigate through 3D Rubix-cube-like levels, while avoiding obstacles. However, unlike Mario, Toad lacks the ability to jump, and that’s where things get interesting. Completing levels gets complicated and revolves around hitting switches to raise and lower platforms, avoiding enemies, and literally rotating the stages to get a better view. The fact that Toad can’t jump forced the developers to get creative with how they approached the level design.
Before we get into the structure of the stages, let’s first discuss the intuitive menus. Boy, does this have that Nintendo polish. Unlike many Mario games that feature an overview of all the levels with a path between them, Treasure Tracker keeps the contents of the stages in a nifty little book. Each page of the book contains a playable stage. Not only is that a novel (here we go with the puns) idea, but the fact that each page has a stamp on it to notify you that everything is collected makes menu-navigation a breeze. Since the levels are condensed within a book, it means there’s less clutter and makes things easier to take in.
That intuitiveness carries over to the gameplay itself, too. Most of the stages take place on a floating piece of terrain with a specific theme. There are numerous styles ranging from beaches, haunted houses, and even a speeding train. What’s interesting is that you can rotate the camera around the stage and see many of the paths leading to hidden collectibles, similar to Fez. Once you get a sense of the level structure all of the different possibilities start to run wild. That’s what’s so cool about Treasure Tracker; there are numerous ways to get through the levels and complete objectives. Since most of the objectives aren’t too difficult to overcome, it starts to become addicting to keep playing level after level, especially once you get the hang of things. “One more level”, will be said a lot because of how bite-sized and rewarding they are.
Treasure Tracker does a fantastic job of keeping things diverse, especially with its level design. You might find a hidden hammer that allows you to smash through blocks, or a cannon that you can shoot enemies with. Maybe you’ll find yourself wanting to complete all the challenges for each level. Some of them will force you to do things you might not otherwise do, adding to the diversity.
One of the areas where Treasure Tracker shines the most is in its boss battles. These sprawling areas are set up just like ordinary stages, but include a boss that oversees the level, making things a bit more difficult. The idea here is to get through the area while avoiding the boss’s attacks. The same rules apply; collectibles can be found, along with coins, and other enemies. Once the end is reached, the battle begins. These pre-boss battles are great because they give the bosses time to shine.
The battles themselves are pretty run-of-the-mill, which isn’t a bad thing. Sure, I would have loved to see a bit more creativity with these fights, but the formula works and is a ton of fun. It’s what you’d expect, though: avoid attacks and throw the object into the boss to win. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess.
Treasure Tracker has a simple premise that doesn’t push back much, making it unexpectedly addictive. I love how everything is accessible and isn’t overwhelming, like some other games can sometimes be. It’s also nice having this on the go which is great because most of the stages can be knocked out in a few minutes.
As this is a Nintendo game, you better believe it’s got some weird quirks. One of my favorite things is the voice acting. Don’t be fooled, there isn’t dialogue or much writing at all. What you will hear are the various screams from enemies or Toad, himself. When Toad takes damage, he lets out a yell that makes me laugh and brings in an element of silliness.
Additionally, the enemy design is memorable and charming. One of the bosses is a gigantic dragon that sits in a pool of lava. I love this area because of the composition of colors. Even setting aside the gameplay mechanics, this boss area is vibrant, wacky, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s part of why I love Nintendo games.
One of the only areas of contention might be the amount of content. The only reason I’m on the fence is because Treasure Tracker isn’t a full-priced game. At the $39.99 price-point, the lack of substantial content is easier to swallow. However, it’s hard to ignore that you can do everything in around 8-10 hours, so you’ll have to make that call.
If you haven’t tried Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, you should at least download the demo on the eshop. It’s definitely made with causal players in mind, but that doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the level design. It’s cute, quirky, and probably unlike anything you’ve played before, so I think it may be worth your time.