Of all the Wii U games to be ported onto Nintendo Switch, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was the one I lusted after most. I never played it on the Wii U when it released in 2014, and I so desperately wanted a port of some kind on Nintendo’s next console. Lo and behold, Nintendo answered and we now have our favorite shroom and shroomette on Nintendo Switch. You all can thank me for that. Welcome to our Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker review for Nintendo Switch.
If there is one thing I can say about this game, it’s that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is filled to the brim with boundless joy. Readers may be aware by now that I absolutely love my Nintendo Switch, and it’s becoming a bit of a cliche to claim that the Switch is made for these games. But that’s because, in my humble opinion, it’s true. The Switch offers an experience that no other platform delivers and that’s because the console itself is the experience. It’s no shock, then, that we have yet another game that feels wonderful on the Nintendo Switch.
Visually, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a delight. Bright colors, warm lighting, and good shader and texture work all combine to create a warm, welcoming, and happy visual presentation. Bumped up to 1080p in docked mode and 720p in handheld mode, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is clean, bright, and, at times, whimsical. It exudes a happy innocence that is quite intoxicating. The art style really holds up after these four years on from its original Wii U release. In fact, this is yet another example of a Nintendo game showing how good art direction can create a timeless visual presentation.
As a puzzle-platformer, the gameplay consists of you taking control of Captain Toad and later on, Toadette. Functionally, both Toad and Toadette are identical. You cannot jump. Each level presents itself as a puzzle. You can only manipulate the level around you to collect Super Gems and ultimately, the Power Star. Playing through the levels, I found the puzzle variety to reflect the overall theme of the level itself. Boos chase you in the pitch dark in one level, for example, while you must manipulate water wheels in a water level.
On the Wii U, you could simply touch various elements of the level to manipulate them. And this was fine because the Wii U’s Gamepad enabled this. However, on the Nintendo Switch, there are some differences in control.
In handheld mode, for example, it works just like the Wii U Gamepad. However, in docked mode playing with a Pro Controller, Nintendo has opted for a pointer system. Basically, the Pro Controller leverages its gyro, allowing you to point at various elements in the level to manipulate them. However, this means you are controlling the camera while physically moving around your controller to point at things. I found this to be quite cumbersome.
I found the best solution to was to play the game in docked mode, but with both JoyCon in hand. Using a brace of JoyCon allows the right JoyCon to act as a pointing device, and I found this to be much more intuitive than the Pro Controller setup. This is the primary method I used. It’s just a shame that the more standard controls are compromised, leaving me with a feeling that they were overlooked.
Performance is locked to a solid 60fps per Digital Foundry’s findings. In my own observations, I never saw performance dip below this line in both docked and handheld modes. Yes, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a port, but Nintendo’s continued focus on delivering 60fps first party titles is on form here and cannot be overlooked. The game is very smooth and feels great.
The 60fps framerate serves to enhance the wonderfully cute animation work as well. Toad and Toadette’s emotes are highly expressive and provide great charm and joy into the experience. The idle animations are my favorite, further providing these small moments of worldless characterization. It’s just so damn cute.
Like the visuals and animations, the music adds to this joyful experience and does a great job reflecting the levels’ various themes. Boo levels sound ominous, while sun-drenched levels are bright and happy. Sound effects are on point as well, with click, boops, and chimes all combining to create more endless joy. The audio is a real treat.
All of these things culminate to create this intangible “Nintendo Magic.” Like the other cliches I’ve brought up in this review, this “Nintendo Magic” is a big one, dangerously bordering on hyperbole. However, there is an element of truth to cliches, and I believe Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker to be one such example.
Even though this game is four years old now, it looks, feels, and sounds timeless. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker elicits pure joy from me. I don’t say that lightly. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time I was playing. Perhaps, then, this timeless joy is the magic.
You all know my thoughts on review scores (spoiler alert: I hate them), but alas, we’ve come to that moment in this review.
Um, other first-party Nintendo puzzle-platformers?