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Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Nintendo 3DS)By JunkSnail At 11.07.2018 14:47

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For those unfamiliar with the original release, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is based on a mini-game from its Wii U sibling, Super Mario 3D World, which sees the titular captain traverse a multitude of small, puzzle-box style levels that can be viewed from any angle. It's half-platformer (albeit without the ability to jump, thanks to Captain Toad's heavy backpack), half-puzzle game, and is brimming with the Mario series' trademark quality and polish, as noted in Cubed3's glowing review back in 2014.

Each self-contained stage is fairly small, but that's not to say there isn't a real wealth of content on offer here. Not only are there over seventy levels - each with their own gimmick, so nothing ever really feels repetitive - but each has three gems to find, a bonus challenge that unlocks upon completion, and even time trials once the game has been beaten. The main game itself may have a playtime firmly in the single digits, but an attempt at 100% completion will doubtless double this, and thankfully there's so much variation between the levels that boredom never sets in during this.

Between the levels themselves, no opportunities have been wasted in designing the puzzles on offer. Early stages may be simplistic but they give way to some particularly fiendishly planned ones that use every facet of the console; touchscreen cogs and microphone-controlled moving platforms may seem at first somewhat opportunistic, especially given the original game's status as an early-game Wii U title, but they do undeniably keep the action diverse. Panels that dip in and out of walls following a press of the touchscreen add an extra dimension to the brainteasing, whilst boss battles and on-rail shooter levels bring an exhilarating reprieve to the more stumping levels.

The base gameplay remains completely unchanged for the 3DS port and, although it all works perfectly well, there has admittedly been a bit of a bumpy ride for some of the game's mechanics. It's immediately clear that the game was designed with the Wii U's GamePad in mind, and very little allowance has been made for the different control scheme that the handheld offers - with no proprietary second analogue stick on the original model, players are left stuck with the D-Pad or the touch-screen to move the camera, meaning there's no comfortable way to move both Captain Toad and the viewpoint at the same time, frustratingly slowing down the action.

The translation of the game as-is also means that there are real issues with the screen size here. While the graphics have survived the leap - a particularly impressive feat thanks in no small part to the original's crisp, clear style - with very few noticeable frame-rate drops, save for in the most CPU-intensive stages, it's a naïve move on Nintendo's part to assume that Treasure Tracker would look as slick on a much smaller screen. Even on the XL models, small objects are all-but-invisible, and there are only three camera zoom levels - 'so far away that nothing can be seen,' 'too close to see any obstacles,' and a third, which inexplicably zooms in so far on Captain Toad that the game is unplayable. It's not impossible to work around these visual shortcomings, but they do make the game feel less well-crafted than its Wii U and Switch siblings.

Then there's the issue of the new levels on offer, based on Captain Toad's latest appearance in 2017's Super Mario Odyssey. Unlocked after beating the main story (or by scanning in one of three Odyssey amiibo), there are four on offer, each centred around a different one of the game's kingdoms. They are some of the best designed of the entire bunch - the Desert and Metro Kingdom levels in particular are lengthy, multi-layered puzzles that retain Odyssey's feeling of genuine exploration - but, sadly, these extras are over far too quickly, especially as they represent the only helping of fresh content in the port. It's especially disappointing as these come at the expense of four bonus levels from the original Wii U version of the game: a collection of stages based on Super Mario 3D World. While these stages were far from a highlight in the original (in fact, they were among the slowest and dullest), it's still frustrating that the developer didn't see fit to retain all of the original content.

It's fair to say, then, that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker doesn't quite feel as tightly-wound here as it did at home on the Wii U. That isn't to suggest that newcomers won't be overjoyed with the passion poured into this production - Toad's saccharine charm is abundant even in a smaller resolution - but it's far from the ultimate version. When the Switch version offers the same game, with the same added bonus of being handheld, but with better controls and clearer graphical fidelity, it's difficult to recommend this small-screen port, but those without any other option would be doing themselves a disservice to pass up on this adorable hidden gem from Nintendo's now-obscured past.

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Final Score
It may not be the ultimate version of the game, but a smaller screen doesn't obscure the genius behind [i]Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker[/i]'s meticulously-designed, charm-packed puzzles. It's an astonishing feat to have fully translated this complex console game to a handheld with all the bells and whistles intact, and despite a handful of technical shortcomings, it's still just as adorable and joyous as it was three years ago. The home consoles may offer a more convenient, well-polished version, but 3DS owners could do a lot worse than to delve into the captain's trials in handheld form.



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