Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch & 3DS)

An enjoyable adventure, no matter the platform!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/09/2018 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
A-
Outstanding
grade/score info
1up
1-Up Mushroom for...
Stunning visuals that rival anything on any other platform, including Switch; mechanics are fun and intuitive; tons of replay value; new Odyssey levels are great; Shy Guys
1up
Poison Mushroom for...
Soundtrack is solid but needs more variety; co-op is broken; loss of the 3D World levels is bewildering
Our review of the 3DS version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker can be found below!

When the Captain Toad levels were introduced back in 2013’s Super Mario 3D World, they were so fun and warmly received by fans that they warranted their own spin-off game. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was that title, dropping roughly a year later and bringing with it an expanded adventure featuring both the eponymous Toad and his companion, Toadette. What was originally a concept intended to be a Zelda spin-off went from a handful of levels in a Mario game to a full-blown release on Nintendo’s then-premier home console. Not bad for the little Mushroom Kingdom denizen! Yet, its timing couldn’t have been worse, as it debuted on one of the worst console failures Nintendo has had since the days of Virtual Boy.

It’s perhaps thanks to the game’s poor luck that Nintendo has opted to dust off Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for Switch. The game is back, with new controls, co-op play, and a handful of new levels based on Super Mario Odyssey. The result is a double-dip that has revived a potential new franchise for legions of fans who might have missed out on it the first time around. It also provides enough new material to warrant a look from those who played Treasure Tracker the first time around. Whichever camp you find yourself in, you’re going to want to come back to hang out with Captain Toad.

So what exactly is Treasure Tracker? It’s a platformer… with no jumping! It’s also a puzzle game.¬†Shinya Hiratake, the co-director of Captain Toad, was one of the members of the design team working on Super Mario 3D World and helped to develop the mechanics that would go on to be more fleshed out in Treasure Tracker. The idea is that Toad and Toadette, weighed down by their enormous backpacks and assortment of gear, are incapable of jumping. Thus, the player has to guide them through each stage with only the abilities to climb and drop. Not that the duo is defenseless, of course, as both can pluck turnips from the ground to hurl at foes and also shine their headlamps at spectral predators.

The goal in each stage is to obtain the Power Star tucked away somewhere within the environment. Sometimes the Power Star is right in plain sight begging to be captured, other times it takes a bit more exploring to be found. Beyond that, there are three Super Gems hidden throughout every level, and these can take quite a bit more effort to locate. Many are hidden, others can only be obtained after completing a certain objective, and they all ultimately help further Toad and Toadette’s journey, as access to later stages is restricted unless enough of these large diamonds have been harvested. There is also a secret objective called a Bonus Challenge within each stage, asking that players either locate a particular item, avoid damage, or accomplish other similar feats before completing a level. Note that the Bonus Challenge becomes visible upon the first completion of a stage, so the game doesn’t leave players guessing for too long.

There are also Pixel Toads, which are 8-bit Toad sprites, hidden within each stage. This was a feature that was originally unlocked using a Toad Amiibo in the Wii U version of Treasure Tracker, but now it’s automatically activated every time a stage is completed. These Pixel Toads can only be obtained with a tap of the touch screen or aiming a cursor using the controller/Joy-Con at the little guys. Snagging all of the Super Gems and Pixel Toads, and completing all of the Bonus Challenges, rewards the player with stamps. Treasure Tracker is split into three “episodes” that are contained within large books on the menu screen. The stamps that are earned adorn the fronts of these books and continually upgrade with each feat the player achieves.

For this Switch version of Treasure Tracker, besides the automatic inclusion of the Pixel Toad challenges, there are other changes that have been implemented. While Switch might bear some resemblance to a Wii U GamePad, it cannot, unfortunately, be held and docked at the same time. Thus, there are a couple of workarounds that have been crafted to accommodate Treasure Tracker on the hybrid console. While docked, players can utilize a cursor that appears on-screen and can be aimed via motion controls with either the Joy-Con or a Pro Controller. This allows the player to “poke” hidden Pixel Toads (and Luigis!) or the different, touchable segments of a given stage. When played in handheld mode, players can instead simply use their fingers to swipe and tap the touch screen. Either method works smoothly and intuitively.

This version of Treasure Tracker also has incorporated a form of co-op where a second player can jump into the fray with another Joy-Con at any time. Player one is in charge of moving either Toad or Toadette on-screen, while player two handles firing an infinite barrage of turnips and controlling the camera. It’s that last bit that really wreaks havoc with what could have been a decent co-op setup. Having player two in charge of the camera controls just doesn’t work. Not unless the two people playing are mentally tethered and instantaneously know when and where to move the camera for optimal viewing. It’s an egregious oversight that practically renders co-op unplayable. It would be generous to say it’s just not very fun.

Not that Treasure Tracker really needs co-op, but it’s a misfire that feels wildly out of place given the level of polish in the rest of the game. It’s sadly not the only misfire. The original Treasure Tracker had a handful of levels that were based specifically off of Super Mario 3D World. All of those levels are gone, replaced by new ones based on Super Mario Odyssey. It’s a major letdown. The new Odyssey-themed stages are great (and can be unlocked either by beating the game or scanning in one of the wedding Mario Amiibo), but to lose the 3D World levels is inexcusable, especially as there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason behind the omission. I also question why the Bonus Challenge isn’t listed until after a stage is completed. Granted, the objective for a Bonus Challenge can be satisfied on the first play through of a stage (usually by happenstance), but it ultimately comes across as an artificial gesture meant to coax players to return to a level. With plenty of Super Gems and Challenge Times (time attacks for each stage) already, there are more than enough reasons to replay stages, so I’m not sure what’s gained from holding out on the Bonus Challenge. Plus, would it kill Nintendo to give us a replay button in the pause menu?!

If it isn’t self-evident, these are small quibbles. Overall, Treasure Tracker is a real gem of a game. It’s also beautiful; I was stunned by it on Wii U, but the visuals have only gotten better on Switch. It’s bright, cheery, and wildly creative from an aesthetic standpoint. Each stage is like a diorama, making the game feel like the player is interacting with toys, rather than lines of code. The soundtrack isn’t especially varied, likely because most stages don’t require a lot of time to beat, but I’d have appreciated a few more tracks to spice things up. These small warts and ticks aside, anyone who missed Treasure Tracker on Wii U owes it to themselves to play it on Switch. For returning players, the portability of this Switch version and the new Odyssey stages definitely make a return visit worthwhile. Here’s hoping the game does well enough to warrant a sequel!


Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on 3DS

We’ve combined our Switch and 3DS review of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker because the above synopsis is largely the same here, save for a couple of differences. For one thing, the most obvious deviation between the Switch and 3DS versions of the games is the graphics. On a Switch, Treasure Tracker runs at 720p while in handheld mode and 1080p when docked. 3DS… is nowhere near either of those specs! Yet, that’s the wonder of smaller screens, as the lower resolution on Nintendo’s diminutive handheld means that, somehow, miraculously, Treasure Tracker is very nearly as spectacular here as it is on the company’s home console.

There are sacrifices besides resolution, of course, as the 3DS version of Treasure Tracker runs at 30fps whereas Switch clocks in at 60fps. These are differences that at the end of the day don’t mean, much, however. Playing Treasure Tracker on either system is a treat, and quite honestly the 3DS iteration is a sublime showpiece for what the handheld can still achieve this late into its lifecycle. There’s also the added bonus of the hardware running both a top and bottom screen at the same time, meaning the control setup here is closest to what was on Wii U. Authenticity is always a plus!

My only real gripe about playing the 3DS Treasure Tracker is that although the smaller screens of the system prove a boon for the lower resolution, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword in that some of the action is harder to see, as a result. This is especially true on a 2DS. Thankfully, the larger screens of New 2/3DS XL systems largely rectify this, but keep it in mind if you don’t own either of those beefier versions of the 2/3DS hardware. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Treasure Tracker runs better on New 2/3DS; quitting out to the Home menu, for instance, has a long pause on 2/3DS that’s absent on the more powerful New variants. There’s also the added luxury of the C-Stick, which allows for more intuitive and comfortable control of the in-game camera. Overall, I think that the 3DS take on Treasure Tracker is just as good as what Switch has to offer.


Rating: A-

1-Up Mushroom for… Uncannily optimized visuals and controls for the 2/3DS; new Odyssey stages are super fun; tons of replay value

 

Poison Mushroom for… Smaller 2/3DS screen make it harder to see the action; soundtrack is good but not varied; loss of 3D World stages is a mindless omission

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