The reasons for future retro collectors to pick up a Wii U are shrinking ever further with Nintendo’s plans for the Switch. Next on that list of games that didn’t deserve exclusivity to a commercial flop of a console is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, a spinoff from Super Mario 3D World that stunned audiences for actually being ruddy fantastic. We’ve had some time with the full version for the Switch and we wanted to give you our thoughts thus far. That’s kind of the point of this kind of thing.
First off, let’s be absolutely transparent; this is almost a direct port of the Wii U version. The differences aside from the new (and cut) content are almost purely performance-orientated, which is what you should expect for a port really. The original chugged along at a perfectly respectable 720p at an unbreakable 60fps, and the Switch version does exactly the same but at a lovely, full 1080p. If you want a more detailed breakdown of frame rates and resolutions, we recommend you check out Digital Foundry’s video on the game.
So what about that new content? Well largely due to its success, Super Mario Odyssey has gracefully shoehorned its way into the world of Captain Toad, bringing a slew of new bonus levels for you to chew on based on that game’s many Kingdoms. You can unlock them by simply scanning one of the Super Mario Odyssey Wedding amiibo on the appropriate screen. It should be said that not all of these levels are unlocked with a simple tap of the amiibo, and whilst it’s not clear to us in the time we’ve played so far, we’d be surprised if there wasn’t a way to play these new exclusives without slamming an appropriate amiibo down.
These new levels are really good fun, and far more tailored to a Captain Toad experience over the Super Mario 3D World levels that were put in the Wii U version. These have also been cut from this version of the game for reasons unbeknownst to us, which is a shame, but it’s a more than worthwhile tradeoff.
We should also mention the game's two-player co-op mode. Sadly, this doesn’t involve two people running around as two differently coloured Toads simultaneously, which now that we think about it would be a logistical nightmare, but instead player one has precise camera control ripped from their hands and placed into those of player two. Player two also controls the pointer (which we’ll get into in just a moment) that replaces the Wii U’s touchscreen functionality. You can also throw turnips, which you should absolutely do at every possible opportunity.
This co-op is a quite a fun way to include another person without it toad-ally disrupting the game’s mechanics. It’s similar to Super Mario Galaxy in its design, but it plays a much more pivotal role than what the Wii could boast. Player one can still control the camera on the X axis, but more precise and/or vertical movement will require breaking the awkward silence you hoped to avoid and communicating with the other player. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s nice.
Now let’s address that whole pointer shenanigan. If you played the Wii U version you’ll know that you needed to use the Gamepad’s touchscreen to activate certain elements in the various levels. This hasn’t really been changed for the Switch all that much, as you still use the touchscreen for all this when in portable mode, but when you’re hooked up to the TV, things naturally have to be a bit different.
You now have to use motion controls to move a cursor on the screen to ‘touch’ the appropriate objects in order to make them do their thing. This is generally fine on the whole, and can be done with a Pro Controller or Joy-Con pair as you’d expect, but all other controllers that don’t have any motion gubbins inside them are no use. It’s a bit clumsy, but it’s not used too often, so it’s not the end of the world.
What is the end of the world, however, is that this cursor is always on screen when you’re in a level. Nobody’s hands are perfectly steady, and so no matter what you’re doing you’re bothered by an irritating speck slowly wobbling around your field of view. It’s incredibly distracting and the worst part is that this can’t be hidden at all. There are plenty of buttons that could have been assigned to turn this on, or off, or have it only appear when one button is held down, but instead it’s always there, always annoying you.
For this reason we feel the game really is best suited to portable mode. It technically works fine on the TV, but the inextinguishable blue dot hampers the experience more than you’d think; you’re spending half your brainpower just trying to not be distracted by it, but it just doesn’t work. Portable mode may be rendered at a lower 720p, but it’s still a much less distracting way to enjoy each level.
Aside from a few irritating decisions, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on Switch is looking to be another solid Wii U port. The graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is as solid as ever, the extra Odyssey levels, and the two-player co-op give this plenty of reason to shine on the new system. The inescapable and clunky blue pointer in TV mode is certainly a blemish, but when player portably, this is one seriously smooth experience.
What did you make of our Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker preview? Will you be adding this port to your collection? Share your thoughts below...