Spare a moment to consider the Wii U’s plight – home to dozens of great games, but played by barely anyone because the console never quite caught on. That disparity between software quality and overall exposure more than justifies Nintendo’s strategy of re-releasing overlooked classics from its previous hardware generation on the Switch, especially as it tends to mean a full 1080p upgrade and a few extras thrown in besides.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker doesn’t enjoy quite the level of enhancement as, say, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe did over its own Wii U release, but then this was never as complex a game to begin with. Starting as a minigame in Super Mario 3D World, Toad’s adventure was expanded into a standalone gem-hunting puzzle title, each level an enclosed challenge of shifting elements and tricky camera angles. There’s a basic story – rescue Toadette, kidnapped by cartoonishly large bird Wingo – but it’s simply a framework upon which to hang increasingly fiendish maze escape gameplay.
That remains the case for the Switch release – each level sees Toad hunting three gems and finding a Star Sprite to exit the course. Toad can’t jump, unlike most Mario series games, but can climb, throw vegetables to knock out enemies (a callback to Super Mario Bros. 2), and operate switches and pulleys to create new routes. Nintendo’s ingenious approach to design is on show throughout, starting with simplistic and obvious paths to each goal, but after a few levels you’ll be pulling your hair out as variables – and hidden bonus items – make it increasingly tough to find everything and reach the end.
Aside from a visual boost making it look rather lovely in full HD while playing docked, the Switch version introduces a two-player mode. Here, the second player uses a cursor to freeze enemies or throw turnips around, while the first player guides Toad. It’s a nice addition, but given the brevity of the levels to begin with, not one that’ll get much repeat use.
This is now easily the definitive version of a great puzzler.
This port – also available on Nintendo 3DS, which can also display the maps in 3D on its top screen – also adds in a few new levels inspired by Super Mario Odyssey. However, you’ll need to own at least one of the Wedding series amiibo from Odyssey to unlock them on either Switch or 3DS, which will no doubt frustrate anyone unable to find one.
The biggest change to this upgraded Treasure Tracker comes courtesy of an overhaul of controls. The 3DS version is in this sense the ‘purest’ port of the Wii U original, already suited to replicate the dual screen format of Nintendo’s previous home console. With each screen replicating the same events, you’ll move Toad around with the thumbstick, while tapping on the touchscreen to interact with the world.
The Switch, however, offers essentially three control schemes – tablet, Joy-Con, and Pro controller. In tablet form, you’ll have the benefit of the touchscreen, enabling you to tap enemies to freeze them in their tracks, activate moving blocks that can reveal new areas, or spin rotating objects, but trying to do so one-handed on a single screen is fiddly and takes some getting used to. Using the two Joy-Cons, either at home or on the go, sees the left-hand used for movement and the right-hand one to control the camera with the thumbstick while guiding a cursor with motion controls – a squeeze of the Zr trigger has the same effect as a tap of the screen. The Pro controller, sadly, combines both Joy-Cons into a less satisfying whole, having to move the whole joypad around to act as a cursor, while also moving Toad around and manipulating the camera. The ‘best’ control scheme will very much be personal preference, but for our money, tablet is the way to go.
With bonus challenges on each map, and separate challenges to find a pixelated version of Toad hidden in every level, there’s plenty of replay value, even if the game as a whole is relatively short. Arguably too many control options on Switch may frustrate though, as will locking the Super Mario Odyssey levels behind an amiibo purchase. However, like so many Switch re-releases of Wii U games, this is now easily the definitive version of a great puzzler.