Genre: Platformer, Puzzle
Year: 2014
Developed by: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii U, Switch, 3DS
Feeling Like: Good things…

This is quite a shift from playing as Lara Croft or Bruce Wayne.

I shouldn’t like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as much as I do, but I can’t help it. I’m addicted to all things Nintendo and I find smaller games a relief to play. Not everything needs to be a hundred hour epic RPG where you start out as a farm boy and end up killing God. Sometimes I just want to stumble around and find stars in nooks and crannies.

I like when games lean into their strengths. This game doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is; a tiny, beautifully crafted puzzle game that’s filled with charm and impossible to dislike. It rewards you constantly, makes you think enough to feel satisfied, but not hard enough that any kind of frustration builds. No level will take hours to complete, everything is bite-sized. It’s a cascade of delicious appetizers.

Instead of the typical acrobatic playground you’ll find in traditional Mario levels, here each stage looks more like a tiny snow globe or diorama. At first glance, they are very basic and straightforward. Captain Toad waddles very slowly and can’t jump. Doesn’t sound very exciting, right? But the genius in the game’s design is how maneuvering the camera in coordination with Toad will uncover secret after secret. Altering the angle may show you an entire section of the stage that was previously blocked, or invisible. Suddenly collecting three gems becomes more challenging than you would’ve ever thought possible.

It’s about as relaxing a platformer I’ve ever played. The pleasant accompanying music ensures you’re in the right mood. Dangers are there, but they’re not intimidating in the least. Move around, find coins, stars and gems and move onto the next level. Simple!

Apparently they made an updated version for both the Switch and the 3DS which is pretty great, as many players as possible should try this one out. The fundamentals were laid out in Super Mario 3D World, but it was clear that this was the type of mini-game worth expanding upon and so here we have Captain Toad in his own little adventure.

I liked the call-back of picking up turnips and throwing it at enemies. We haven’t seen that since Super Mario Bros. 2, have we? It’s also hilarious to let Toad fall off a balcony and land on enemies, killing them. How embarrassing is it to be killed by a falling mushroom man who can’t even jump?

I play enough action-packed games, whether it’s a hardcore action game like Devil May Cry or a shoot ’em up like Ikaruga that require immense concentration and lightning-quick reflexes. They’re some of my favorite games ever, but it’s refreshing to enjoy something like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker where I can just mellow out. Climbing ladders, timing movements, curiously wandering around are all easy and quick to do. It’s just a matter of digging around and being patient.

I could’ve done without the boss fights and I wish I’d gotten a chance to tackle some of the updated Switch stages, but I’m perfectly content with my experience as a little toad dude just sauntering around, falling on hapless enemies, dodging spikes and finding treasure.

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