Like many, I missed out on the original release of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on the WiiU and was looking forward to its inevitable release on the Nintendo Switch. My exposure to the title was minimal, but it looked like a charming puzzle game with all the trappings and polish of a typical Nintendo release. After consuming each and every puzzle that the game had in store for me, the title ended up lacking in one crucial way; it just wasn't as fun as I wanted it to be.
Captain Toda: Treasure Tracker is in a lot of ways like a Rubik's Cube. Many of its 80+ levels are set up via a cube-ish shape that you are spinning around to see how each of the puzzle elements work. Granted, there are levels that break away from this template, like those that require you to run along crumbling paths, but they are a fairly rare occurrence. You control Toad and/or Toadette as you attempt to figure out how to not only track down the puzzle's three gems, or how to complete the special objective, but how to locate each puzzle's exit. You may need to pull a platform in a certain direction, activate switches to raise or lower the water, rotate valves to alter the level itself, or track down a hammer to bash away block after block.
While some of the puzzles left me stumped for a considerably longer time than I care to admit, many of them were incredibly simple and felt lacking when compared to some of the others. After a few dozen puzzles in, the variety in puzzle mechanics started to slow down and several ideas started to repeat themselves far too often. For every level that seemed to have a very intricate puzzle design that clearly had a lot of thought put into it, there was a half dozen that felt lazy in their approach and lacked any real challenge.
There was one interesting mechanic where you would clone Toad in an effort to step on multiple switches or other elements where a clone would be useful, but these puzzle ideas rarely showed up that often. Equally as infrequent, were the Mine Cart levels where Toad would sit atop a mine cart loaded with white radishes ready to toss at coin blocks, gems, or the variety of enemies you would have in range during your ride. While this mini-game of sorts didn't really have much in the way of any actual puzzle mechanics, it stood out to be one of the best additions to the game and a nice break from the puzzle solving gameplay.
While it's usually rare for a puzzle game to have any sort of story attached to it, there is one here and it's extremely shallow. At the start of your adventure, a giant bird swoops up Toadette and flies off with her. Upon completing that adventure, you retread on the exact same story yet again albeit with Toad getting swooped up and Toadette instead heading out to the rescue. Occasionally you'll have short animations of the story progressing, but none of these moments really felt engaging or something to keep me going.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is ideally made for the touchscreen capabilities of the Nintendo Switch, but playing it in docked mode is still possible due to a pointer system. By using the gyroscope features of the various controllers compatible with the Switch, you'll move the cursor around to interact with certain elements of the game. While this does allow you to play the title on a big screen TV with a Pro Controller, which is my preferred method of play with my Switch on the TV, it felt clunky and felt added in solely to allow the title to be played while docked. That being said, the use of the Joycon controller does allow for the pointer system to function a bit more as intended, but frankly, playing Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker while handheld is still the best way to go.
Those touchscreen elements contribute to pushing blocks around in the environment, freezing nearby enemies by touching them, and spinning valves to traverse the puzzle environment. While there are far more than just those examples, those tend to be the most used here. While you can touch enemies to freeze them in place, you can also bring in a second player to toss out some fresh tomatoes that will eliminate the enemies altogether. The co-op nature of the game feels incredibly hollow and I feel sorry for those purchasing the game looking for some co-op puzzle action because you will not find that here. The best your partner can do is to clear the way for you rather than contributing to any of the puzzles elements apart from commenting on possible puzzle solutions.
If you've played through the original release on the WiiU, you'll notice that a few levels are missing and a few new ones have been added. The Mario 3D World set has been replaced with Mario Odyssey themed levels and it's unfortunate that those levels couldn't have been brought in alongside these new additions. While I can understand the need of pairing them along with the platform they are on, ie: the WiiU, it makes very little sense to just remove them entirely. The Mario Odyssey levels pull from a few of the more notable locations from the inspired game, but overall these levels can be completed in well under 20 minutes.
While charming in its execution, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker doesn't quite succeed past its mini-game rooted beginnings. In small bursts, the title can show some real promise, but eventually, it starts to slow down in the variety that games like this need to have to remain interesting. There are plenty of good concepts here and some solid puzzle ideas, but it is very rare that these elements remain interesting or engaging throughout the entire puzzle-fused expedition.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was purchased by the reviewer.
All Screenshots were taken on a Nintendo Switch.