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.

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