It’s always been a bit of a difficult console to talk about the Nintendo Switch. It’s not in tune with Xbox and PlayStation when it comes to console eras, and its major releases are almost always exclusives. It has arguably the most critically acclaimed game of all time in Breath of the Wild, but also has a reputation for being more of a casual console, which is borne out by its mostly leisurely repertoire and sale to the masses. Considering it typically has shorter games that are less technically polished than its hardcore competitors, it also sells games at a hefty price tag and, more importantly, has a well-deserved reputation for never lowering that price. If you want a game on the Switch, you have to pay a premium. That means its hidden treasures usually remain hidden, and that means far too few people have been charmed by Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
Captain Toad was originally released for the Wii U, but that’s an even harder console to talk about because nobody bought one. Several ports from the Wii U received extra life on the Switch, but unfortunately Captain Toad wasn’t one of them. Treasure Tracker uses very small, almost claustrophobic levels and stuffs them with all sorts of secret wonders. The basic goal is simply to get to the end, and the first few levels don’t require too much thinking. In later levels, however, you will not only have to move Toad (or Toadette) but also the camera itself to uncover new paths to explore. It’s very reminiscent of the 3D puzzles from Kula World, another game that apparently nobody but me has ever played.
I recently played Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, and it got me thinking about Mario titles in general. The Switch has been one of the worst consoles for the more generic Mario spin-offs; While Mario Kart 8 is a huge success, the various party, sports, and olympic games were all relative disappointments compared to what came before. Tennis Aces, one of the earliest, is still clearly the best and even that isn’t an all-time classic. However, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a top five contender for console and, I recently argued, should be the blueprint for future spin-offs. Captain Toad Treasure Tracker isn’t quite as good as Luigi’s Mansion, but it deserves plenty of credit for offering a creative enjoyable time with the Mario license.
What makes Treasure Tracker so good is taking recognizable levels from Mario (dating back to Donkey Kong and Jumpman) and reimagining them in a way that makes them feel grouped and clean at the same time. It condenses levels or even entire worlds into a cramped, intricate space, but it never feels busy or cluttered. It’s a fun game of a game – there’s so much here, but it all works, it’s all necessary. It’s a very short game, and combined with the fact that it’s a B-Tier Mario spin-off, a Wii U port, and the Switch’s pricing, it means that not enough people are into the Tried to ride the rollercoaster, but they’re missing out.
The problem with these kinds of Switch games is that they either have to be brilliant or they’ll be ignored. PlayStation and Xbox games fall in price over time, plus they’re added to PS Plus or Game Pass, but Nintendo games rarely get a second wind. I’m fortunate that every game I buy can be turned into juicy content because I’m less of a human than an automated machine that generates clicks, so I’m able to try out some Switch titles that normally would have passed me by . Captain Toad wasn’t one of those titles, but the content comes at the end for all of us.
The Switch is hugely popular and has delivered a handful of games that have made it into the “must-play canon,” but it’s also littered with underrated and underrated titles that deserve some sort of second wind opportunity, to which not only people wait forever for a little discount. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is one of the hidden gems of the Switch, but it’s a shame it’s in such rich company.
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