Due to lockdown, I’m not able to game on the train at the moment, as I’m working from home. But to keep my routine intact for the good of my mental health, I’m still playing a 3DS game each day as though I was on the train. Which brings us to Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. This game has taken a long road to the 3DS, starting as a set of mini levels in Super Mario 3D World, then getting a full release on the WiiU and finally a port to the Switch and the 3DS.
Fire up the game, and you immediately get that warm and fuzzy Nintendo feeling that other developers would kill to be able to capture. The cheery tune that blasts out from the 3DS just shouts that this is going to be a fun ride. And from there, it’s straight into the first level with no long explanations or backstory. At the start of each stage, Captain Toad shouts “Time for adventure!” in such an enthusiastic way, it has become a bit of a catchphrase for me, much to the annoyance of my teenage children.
Each level is a small 3D world that is basically an obstacle course, filled with familiar iconography from the full history of the Mario games. You will find Shy Guys, Piranha Plants, POW blocks, even turnips from Super Mario Bros. 2. The primary goal is to reach the star that sits somewhere out of reach as you begin, but as you would expect, there is a lot more to it than that. Captain Toad has a very limited move set, he waddles around the level, can pull up items from the ground, and crucially has no jump button. The skill to completing each level comes from manipulating the environment to allow Captain Toad to reach his goal.
As well as collecting the star, there are 3 diamonds to find on each level, plus a secret goal that is only revealed once you have completed the level once. This may vary from “Collect 100 coins” to “Do not be spotted by any Shy Guys” and this adds another layer to each level. Reaching the star may be easy, getting all 3 diamonds may be tricky, but fulfilling some of the extra quests can be really head scratching.
Once you have completed a level, you then have a chance to play “Find Pixel Toad”. You start the level again, but hidden somewhere is a small pixellated Toad. and you have to find him and poke him with the stylus. He can be hidden in some fiendish places, with the blaring of a siren going off when you are close, which is as infuriating as it is helpful, but in a fun way. This extra challenge could be a whole game in itself, here it is thrown in as a fun little bonus round.
The levels themselves are the star of the show though. They are meticulously put together and are amazingly diverse. From grasslands to haunted houses to beach settings, they are works of art. There are even minecart levels and some larger scale boss levels to navigate. The 3DS does an amazing job with the visuals, considering this was a WiiU game. It looks stunning and it’s even more impressive when you consider that it is rendering each perfect 3D world twice, once on the top screen and once on the touchscreen. The controls on the touchscreen work brilliantly, you can rotate the world with the stylus and interact with objects by tapping them, all without obscuring your view as it is replicated on the top screen.
The music is also infectious, I have found myself humming the tunes hours after I have put the game down. The music combined with the bright visuals and the charm of the main characters just makes the whole game feel fun. There is a reason I love playing games like this to bookend my days, you can’t help but feel cheerful as you play them. They simply move my thoughts into a happier place and let me forget about what is going on around me.
So far I have completed Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 has replaced Captain Toad with Toadette, but the variety of the levels is still astonishing with new ideas being thrown at you all the time. I have also played the demo of the Switch version of this game, and while it obviously looks better on the more powerful console, the tighter controls of the 3DS make me glad that I have this version. The only downside is that there is some Switch exclusive DLC, but there is still plenty in this base package to keep me going.
All in all, this is a brilliant puzzle game that would keep anyone entertained for a long, long time. Each level can be completed pretty quickly which makes it perfect for pick up and play sessions as well, even if you are just having a quick explore to try and find that tricky third diamond. In fact I think I am going to have to have another quick go now, as the good Captain always says, “Time For Adventure!”.