Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was a real hidden gem of the Wii U era, which is amazing when you consider that it was almost created by accident. The original concept for Captain Toad existed inside Super Mario 3D World, which featured a few minigame-like levels in which you had to help Captain Toad navigate a bunch of tiny cube-shaped levels, avoiding enemies and collecting stars and coins.
These levels were a nice change of pace from the frenzied chaos of a typical Mario level, and that's largely down to the fact that Captain Toad is the antithesis to Mario. He can't jump, you see. Instead, you can only waddle around the environment, forging your own path around enemies, to the tops of platforms, and past various different traps.
Nintendo clearly saw the genius of this design, and how well it captured and made use of the Wii U gamepad, that it was turned into its very own game: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The design remained largely intact – why fix what isn't broken? – but was expanded on. Toad would now simply have to reach a single star to end the level, with hidden gems to find and extra challenges to pass for those that wanted more out of the leisurely difficulty.
It's most notable for making excellent use of the oft-maligned and misunderstood Wii U Gamepad, allowing you to perform basic actions, like tapping to interact with the environment, to the unique, like blowing on the Gamepad's mic to keep platforms afloat. The innovative ideas flowed thick and fast. The icing on the cake has to be its beauty. Make the case that this is one of the most gorgeous titles on the Wii U, and it's unlikely anyone that had the pleasure of playing it will disagree with you.
So you could consider it criminal then that many of us never had the chance to play. Until now, that is, because Nintendo has dusted off the intrepid explorer and relaunched him on Nintendo Switch. And thankfully, the experience remains mostly intact. It's clearly designed for play in handheld mode due to the amount of tapping and touching involved, but Nintendo has included gyro controls to allow for TV play. It's definitely a far better experience in handheld, but the gyro controls more than suffice if you want to check it out on the big screen.
Either way you play is a trade-off though. It plays best in handheld mode but looks far better on your TV, where the higher definition visuals get to shine on the bigger screen. It's amazing how well it holds up as well; though it launched on the Wii U back in 2014, it's easily one of the best looking Switch games currently available. The amount of visual polish on show is remarkable, which is even more amazing when you consider that back in 2014 the Wii U was considered underpowered for a home console.
There's new content as well, which is never a given where Nintendo is concerned. The best of these is the introduction of four new levels, themed on the Metro, Cascade, Sand, and Luncheon worlds from Super Mario Odyssey.
Curiously though, these new levels were included at the expense of levels themed on Super Mario 3D World. It's not clear why Nintendo has made this decision – perhaps they're holding them back for a Super Mario 3D World re-release on Nintendo Switch? – but it's an odd omission. We can hardly complain due to the inclusion of new levels, but we can still shake our heads in confusion.
Given that it's a Nintendo Switch title, room has obviously been made for multiplayer. You can each play with a single Joy-Con too, so it's ideal for keeping the kids quiet during a long drive. The least interesting piece of extra content is the Pixel Toad challenges. These simply require you to scour each level with your eyes to find Pixel Toad somewhere and tap on him to complete the challenge. It's cute, but rarely challenging and barely interesting. These were present in the Wii U version as well, but as they were gated behind the illustrious Toad amiibo before, they now unlock as standard without any plastic figurines.
Ultimately, there's not an awful lot of new content, so you might not be persuaded if you've already played and own the Wii U version. But, if you've never experienced Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker before, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It's found a great new home on Switch, and the added co-op feature breathes new life into it as you take on challenges with a friend.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a hidden gem from the Wii U era that's been given a new lease of life on the Nintendo Switch, and rightly so. New levels and fresh multiplayer are welcome inclusions but it's a bit of a shame that we've lost four levels as a result – and for no apparent reason. Still, all being said, this is a wonderful and gorgeous puzzler fit for all ages, and one which you should definitely experience if you're yet to.