I hate Captain Toad. Not the game, you understand – that’s excellent (and more on that in a minute).
No, I hate the character, because he reminds me of the terrifying 1980s mushroom marketing board adverts from the telly, where a platoon of marching fungus guys would sing "Make room for the mushrooms!" while stomping ever closer.
For the disgustingly youthful amongst you, I should explain this was an effort to encourage people to put more allegedly delicious mushrooms on foods.
You know: like on pizzas, in cakes, in big mouldering piles all over a roast dinner, and probably in cups of tea as well. Mercifully it wasn’t a suggestion you ‘make room’ by taking immunosuppressants to render yourself a thrush-addled leper, but then the mushroom ‘troops’ on the advert looked fairly militaristic so WHO KNOWS WHERE IT WOULD HAVE ENDED?
In light of that potential mycelium-based coup it’s probably just as well everyone ignored the request on the basis mushrooms just taste vaguely of dank cellars and potting compost, and are thus horrible: no one in their right mind really wants the ones that are already there, let alone wanting to make room for extra ones. What? Oh yeah, I’m supposed to talk about the game, aren’t I?
Like many a Switch title, Captain Toad started out life on the Wii U. But as only about 7 people accidentally bought the beleaguered console while drunk, then hid it in a hedge out of shame without getting any software for it, Nintendo have sensibly realised they can re-release the game and it’ll be new to more or less everyone. And that’s grand, because Captain Toad is a bit of alright.
A spin-off from the bonus levels found in Super Mario 3D world, Captain Toad sees you guiding the bulbous-headed dude around a bunch of mostly small, rotatable levels, collecting stars and coins and stuff as you go.
This revolve-o-tron mechanic is the key to the whole game, as all but the simplest stages have plenty of hidden tunnels, lifts, doors and the like to navigate that you’ll only discover on closer investigation of the whole stage, not just the view from the front.
It’s also essential to your progression because, despite how it looks, Captain Toad isn’t really a platformer as we’d usually know it.
Why? Well unlike Mario, Toad has crippling sciatica (a heavy backpack) so can’t jump; circumventing this physical rubbishness means you have to find him a walking route to his goal – a bit like when you’re out with your Nan in her scooter and you have to go round and round the access slope to get out of Lidl, rather than forcing her to ‘off road’ down the steps like you did last time when she ended up dropping all her pickled onions and gin down a drain.
This means every level is a sort of little 3D puzzle box to solve. You’re not entirely helpless though, as an onscreen cursor is used to activate things around your fungal adventurer to aid him as he goes.
Or, in 2-player mode, a friend can irritate the hell out of you by taking control of this cursor and not listening to a bloody word you say about where they need to point it.
Because the game comes in these bitesize chunks it’s a perfect fit for the Switch – you can bang out a lot of levels at home, or drop in for a quick play on the move.
For a bit of variety there are also on rails levels (in this case, literally on rails as you’re in a minecart) where you’re hurling turnips FPS-style, and bonus collectables where you have to search every level for a tiny ‘pixel toad’ character – and some of these are absurdly well hidden.
You might think all this plodding about sounds fairly uninspiring, and it probably would be in the mitts of some developers.
However, as we all know Nintendo can’t help but rub their ‘magic musk’ all over their games, and Captain Toad is as aroma-sodden as you’d expect. It’s full of delightful little touches, hidden secrets and clever mechanics that’ll bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded gamer.
Sure, it’s not going to do anything for the occasional criticism that Nintendo just make games for kids, but then it’s worth recalling that the sort of person who says that is usually a joyless blancmange who probably smells a bit funny from spending too long indoors playing some intense, grim online shooter.
And there’s the delicious irony – they’re probably riddled with fungal infections like athlete’s foot, whereas Captain Toad is infectious simply because it’s clever, fun and charming. That, and the cartridge comes covered in mysterious spores. Oh mama! It’s the mushrooms again!
SCORE: Toads (loads) out of Mush (much)