Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Nintendo 3DS) Review

You can find this review in full at

Having originally released in 2014, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker presented a full adventure for this minor character first seen in Super Mario Galaxy after having featured in smaller levels of Super Mario 3D World. With largely favourable reviews, I find myself excited to see the captain on handheld systems, but most intrigued at just how he’s fit onto the 3DS. Is everything here, or have compromises been made? If you’re interested in the Wii U version of the game, you can check out our official review here.

Ready For Adventure!

The plot of Captain Toad is rather simple by nature. Toad and Toadette being avid adventurers, the first level of the game sees an excited pair maneuver through a simple level to collect a star at the top. As they celebrate, the giant bird Wingo swoops in to steal their finding, and with it, Toadette. In an effort to track down his friend, Toad sets out on an adventure of minute scale to find her. It’s cute; it does everything it needs to while ultimately doing very little. Captain Toad isn’t a game you’re playing for its deep narrative nor its storytelling, and its knowledge of this gives the game the room it needs to present what is ultimately the same plot three times consecutively and still feel fresh and unique. At the start of each new episode, you find yourself almost waiting for one of the pair to face an ill fate, forever destined to be apart.

It’s a Small World

Captain Toad keeps its graphics style true to the Mario series, putting forward a bright and inviting universe. Each level is a small world in and of itself, taking inspiration from Japanese sandbox gardens called Hakoniwa. Consistently putting forward a unique theme or challenge, I never found myself growing tired of this unfortunate mushroom man, despite his limited options. Unlike Mario, Toad can’t jump. Weighed down by his bulky backpack, he moves through levels picking things from the ground and throwing them, as well as interacting with certain clearly marked elements. This is where there are certain differences for each version.

In the Wii U game, you had both the TV display and the touch-enabled display of the controller to view and manipulate each level. This worked well, allowing for responsive and satisfying interactions with the world. The 3DS with its touch screen and stylus maps perfectly, both in function and feel. The touch screen gives the sense of interaction with the world buttons struggle to simulate, while the stylus gives a satisfying sense of precision. It’s a good system I’m glad to see is going strong with the 3DS quite impressively able to render the game scene on each screen. With them attached unlike the Wii U, it can take some time to adjust to the dual images side by side, but the period soon passes.

Although the 3DS version is the focus of this review, I’d like to mention the changes made here to map the game’s control scheme to the Switch. While handheld mode presents a largely similar experience, albeit in a sightlier clunkier manner thanks to the lack of stylus, the docked experiences has seen a few changes. With the lack of a readily accessible touch screen, docked mode users are forced to use a motion-controller pointer system for the same interactions. This largely means two things for the player; first, that each interaction feels somewhat less precise. This is to be expected with the floatier-feeling motion controls being a necessity. Were this a port for the Wii, the IR sensor bar could have gone some way in accommodating this downfall with its better precision, but with the limited options available for the Switch, I can understand why the controls have been taken the direction they have. Even if the more precise technology were used, the second problem may still exist—this being the pointer always being visible on-screen. It’s a bit of a shame to me it doesn’t hide itself if sitting on the edge of the screen. This is ultimately a minor complaint, but a noticeable one nonetheless. With the game running at 1080p on the Switch when docked, the game looks fantastic, and while the two points mentioned do detract from the overall experience, they in no way make it unenjoyable nor unplayable.

The Book of Toad

Levels in Captain Toad can appear simple on the surface, and for the most part, it’s because they are. You are tasked with moving the captain through a small world in a largely linear sense in order to obtain a star at the end. If you judge the game for this alone, and the puzzle design of getting from A to B, you would have a good game. Accessible with a mild and moderately easy to overcome sense of difficulty. This however is not all the game has to offer. First, you have gems. These aren’t a new concept to Mario games, often lurking out of the way, just out of sight, or just out of reach. They frequently find themselves just in the right place to taunt you—to entice you into looking beyond the linear path of A to B, and into the adventure found therein. You are expected to acquire some as you progress, levels being blocked at certain points behind gem barriers much akin to Super Mario 3D Land‘s large coins, but those requirements are always lenient to the degree of encouraging exploration without necessarily enforcing it.

Where the true joy of the game lies for me is in its bonus objectives; in particular their way of transforming the way you view and play some levels. My favourite of these comes early in the game with the sixth level: Shy Guy Heights. On the surface, you walk through a garden of enemies, throwing turnips and scrambling on as they chase you. The bonus objective changes the feel here in its entirety, tasking you with remaining unseen and forcing the captain into the role of a stealthy adventurer out to steal the Sky Guys’ treasures. At least that’s how it felt to me. While a lot of these objectives aren’t so creative, they often force you to look at the level through new eyes. Defeating every enemy with limited resources, collecting 70 coins where you barely hit half of that on your first play of the level, even clearing interactive stages in as few interactions as possible brings a smile to your face as you marvel at the brilliant simplicity of what you had just played. The joy of this game to me is how it is what you make of it. For a child wanting a fun and bright adventure, it provides in troves. For the older players wanting more, it ups the ante and asks what you sometimes feel to be obscure or downright impossible. Add to this an often tight time to try and beat, as well as the previously Amiibo-exclusive ‘Find Pixel Toad’ mode, and you have a complete and comprehensive Captain Toad experience. The only missing element is the pack of four Super Mario 3D World levels, replaced with a much better fitting Super Mario Odyssey-themed set. With the 3D World levels feeling like more of an easter egg than actual levels in the first place, I don’t feel this a great loss, but I can understand others being disappointed at content being removed, even if that which replaced it is in my opinion superior.

An Adventure For You?

Regardless of which system you look to buy this plucky adventure on, you will not be left disappointed. Aside from the longer startup time, I also find it great to say I noticed no difference between the game on old and new models of the 3DS handheld. This is a game for Nintendo players of any age, and on any system—one I cannot recommend enough.

Mario Tennis Aces (Nintendo Switch) Review

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Mario Tennis is a series of highs and lows. From the simple yet attractive narrative of its GBA iteration to the abysmal lack of content of the Wii U version, Camelot have been loved and slated by fans eager to enjoy a light-hearted take on the classic sport. After recent years of dwindling interest and mediocre releases, have they done enough to put this franchise back at the top?

Service Ace

Starting the game for the first time, you find yourself in the penultimate moments of a championship, Mario and Peach eager to thwart the combined skills of Bowser and Bowser Jr. The match ending as you might expect, a familiarly unfamiliar duo take centre court to announce their evil ways; enter Wario and Waluigi! Corrupted by a legendary racket, they visit the newly crowned champions, in the end tempting an unwitting Luigi to their dark cause. The stadium in uproar and a few choice whispers to go on, Mario sets out to right the wrongs of this wicked racket with Toad, his witty companion.

The story behind Adventure Mode isn’t necessarily thrilling, you need to gather five power stones and seal the evil of the legendary racket. It all feels rather arbitrary with little really tying the plot together. It’s not to say it doesn’t have moments to shine, these often found in dialogue between Mario and Toad, but these alone aren’t really enough to sell it as any kind of single player experience. If you’re wanting something like Mario Tennis: Power Tour’s RPG-esque feel and narrative, you’ll be left disappointed. Where Power Tour had a world to explore and people to interact with, Aces has an island traversable via a linear path. At each stopping point, you find a new event to remind you just how important tennis is to these people. It’s amusing and entertaining, but limited in scope. Camelot clearly opted to put a focus onto multiplayer aspects, this decision bleeding into the very essence of the game.

Return Ace

Coming into Mario Tennis Aces with around 12 hours of experience from the online demo, I felt relatively confident with the basic shots and had a good feel for the game. Where I struggled was in mastering the newer techniques; among these being Zone Shots and the particulars of blocking them. With Zone Shots, the gameplay is paused for a moment as you aim exactly where you want the ball to go, before launching it at an unparalleled high speed. If you try to hit it too early, your racket will take damage, it ultimately breaking if you mess up too many shots and losing you the match. With their speed and accuracy, they are ordinarily also rather difficult to hit, assuming your opponent aims well enough. To balance this, there is Zone Speed. This allows you to slow the game and watch where the ball is going, giving you the time you need to get to the other side of the court should you need to. Both of these require energy, something obtained by rallying and charging shots to your opponent, serving to reward accurate prediction and positioning on the court throughout the match.

These two additions with the five classic shots alone make for a game of reasonable depth. I’ve come across players who burn through Zone Shots in an attempt to keep you low on energy, and I’ve seen the opposite, conserving to allow them Zone Speed when they need it most. I find it really quite fantastic how well the game allows you to play it your way. It never goes any particular distance in pushing you towards a ‘correct’ style, instead presenting you with options and allowing you to experiment—Adventure Mode is the epitome of this idea. Where I see it disappointing as a single player experience, it stands strong in giving you a playground to learn. It’s specifically aimed to teach you the intricacies of each new element, forcing you to return Zone Shots to understand the visual cues, and pushing you into situations to utilise them yourself. Of course, there are a few more additions; Special Shots and Trick Shots. A Special Shot is simple to explain, it’s the big kahuna. Requiring a full energy bar, you can activate it to see a short character-specific animation. resulting in a similar experience to a Zone Shot. The difference here is that mistiming the return will break your racket entirely, in oppose to just doing damage. It’s a high-stakes shot that can be used to play on an opponents’ weaknesses should you notice them struggle to properly return Zone Shots. A Trick Shot is something a little more fanciful, acting as a means of covering a long distance across the court to return a shot that would have otherwise been impossible. If properly timed, you also gain energy from the shot; otherwise you can lose energy and create an opportunity for your opponent to counterattack.

Adventure Mode gives you a launching pad to learn each of these techniques naturally; be it fighting a boss or playing a short minigame, it’s difficult to avoid improving your fundamentals. It isn’t quite what I expected from the game’s core single player content, but something about its charming simplicity and childish humour had me gripped from start to end. I don’t feel there’s enough here to warrant a purchase if you know you’ll never play with friends nor venture online, but if you can look at it as preparation for either of those possibilities, you’ll get a good deal out of the experience.

Pick a Partner

The core of the game is to be found with others, be they your friends or a match made in the great clouds of Nintendo’s servers. There are a few areas to discuss here, both local and online multiplayer available, as well as split-screen for those willing to share a console. For playing with friends, you’ll usually find yourself in Free Play. This mode allows you to create matches to a set of customisable criteria. Many of the settings here are standard, but the play time option is particularly interesting. With Quick Play and Extended Play being the only selections, there is no way to have a full extended game of tennis with a friend. To elaborate on this, Quick Play sees you play the sudden death portion of a match, meaning the first player to seven points wins. Extended Play is a little deceptive. While you may think you’re getting an exciting game of back and forth wrestling for points and sets, you’re limited to a single set game. It isn’t exactly the definition of extended. While this isn’t necessarily something that bothered me, I can understand frustration in having to keep track of sets manually if an actual extended session was desired. Add to this the inability to set up functional tournaments with friends and it’s easy to be underwhelmed. All of this is possible, as long as you’re willing to pick up the slack left by Camelot. What makes this particularly frustrating is how far a few more options for customisation would have gone in improving this. It’s the kind of irritation I can see being fixed in an update somewhere down the line, but with no word of it yet, it isn’t something I’m expecting in the near future.

General online multiplayer is actually a joy from what I played. From the demo, there’s been a considerable step up in the skill level of players, and the general experience feels far more pleasant. When you hop online, you enter into a tournament. Each tournament consists of 32 players, meaning you need five wins to secure the championship. A small thing I find myself appreciating is how these tournaments are built, matching you up to a player at the same part of the tournament as you and filling in the blank spaces with their match history. This means you aren’t waiting for each of the 16 matches to end in the first round, instead allowing you to jump straight into another game. I don’t know whether this is something that’s been done before, but I couldn’t help but think it worth mentioning. If the new shots and play styles aren’t your thing, you can also enter into the Simple Class; tournaments here removing these features and putting an intense focus on positioning and fundamental shot types. It’s interesting to jump between the two and see just how different the game is without its additions. As a small incentive to get you online, you also unlock new characters for participating each month. These characters will be naturally unlocked over time for those who missed or chose not to participate in a monthly tournament, but I feel this a great way to keep players involved and active, giving them a month head start to play with new additions to the roster and possibly find a new favourite.

Game, Set and Match?

All in all, I don’t quite know how to sum up Mario Tennis Aces. It is undeniably the best tennis I have seen from the series, but I can certainly appreciate its multiplayer focus not being entirely appealing to some. If you’re willing to dive into what’s on offer both offline and on, you have here a well-polished and fluid experience you may not be able to put down. I’m incredibly happy to see the series take a step in the right direction again, and I hope Camelot can take a larger leap into a true single player adventure in their next release. Until then, I hope to see you online!