TORONTO — When "Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker" was released for the Wii U back in 2014, it was an opportunity for one of the characters so often overshadowed by video game superstar Mario to get a piece of the spotlight.
Unfortunately for Captain Toad, his starring turn did not go as planned. While his delightful puzzle game was well-received by critics, the lagging sales of the Wii U meant it was largely overlooked by gamers.
Now the intrepid treasure hunter is getting another chance at stardom. With some polished visuals and bonus content, a new version of "Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker" for the Nintendo Switch is taking its place alongside other underappreciated Wii U titles getting a deserved second chance on Nintendo's popular console/portable hybrid.
The game follows Captain Toad and his friend Toadette — members of the diminutive but hardy mushroom people that populate the Mario universe — as they navigate a series of levels to reach the gold star at the end. Along the way they are challenged by obstacles and some classic Mario foes.
The player guides Captain Toad or Toadette through the levels, all wonderfully designed in the distinctive Mario aesthetic, while avoiding enemies and pitfalls. But unlike Mario, who can easily leap around obstructions and stomp on monsters who get in his way, Toad or Toadette cannot jump.
This makes navigating these levels a strategic affair, where timing and exploration are paramount. The right analog stick rotates the camera and is a crucial tool for revealing a stage's treasures and traps.
The Toads can pull plants out of the ground, which reveal coins to be collected for extra lives, or turnips to throw at enemies. The number of turnips in a level is limited, so the Toads have to be very careful and selective when taking out a foe. Occasionally, a pulled plant reveals an item like a pickaxe that can help destroy obstacles and enemies alike.
Because the Toads cannot jump, careful navigation is required to master the game's stages. Ramps, lifts and the occasional cannon can be used to send our heroes to their goal.
Some of the game's later puzzles have considerable complexity and difficulty, but the game never gets to the point where constant failures lead to frustration. While a dedicated player can plow through the game's three chapters fairly quickly, multiple playthroughs will be needed for those wanting to finish the game with a 100 per cent completion rate.
Each level includes three diamonds to collect. These will either be hidden in the environment, or require a met condition, like defeating a certain group of enemies, to appear. Each stage also presents the player with a unique challenge, like navigating the level without being spotted by an enemy, or collecting a certain number of coins.
Finishing a stage reveals a new game mode where players hunt for a tiny pixilated version of Toad instead of looking for the gold star.
The Switch version of "Captain Toad" polishes the original game's already charming visuals, but the biggest improvement over its Wii U counterpart is the inclusion of four new stages based on last year's hit game "Super Mario Odyssey."
The Switch has provided a good landing place for great Wii U games that deserved more attention when they were originally released. "Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker" takes its place alongside "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze" and "Hyrule Warriors," also enjoying a well-earned resurrection.
"Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker" is rated E for all audiences and retails for around $50.
Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press