Sunday, August 19, 2018

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (NSW) Review

We go from a game that debuted on the Wii and received a port on the Switch, to a game that originated on the Wii U and got ported to the Switch as well. It's Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and as I didn't want to shell out money for both the Switch and 3DS versions of the game, I'm reviewing the Nintendo Switch build exclusively.

Oh, Captain, My Captain!

Once again, dear friends, we've come to a Nintendo Switch game that already saw its debut on the Wii U, Nintendo's ill-fated console. While it's no wonder why Nintendo wishes to get its Wii U software out to more players by putting it on the Switch, in many cases, the additions (or lack thereof) don't really justify double-dipping. (Unless you're a sucker for playing games on the Switch like me, of course.) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the latest Wii U game to get a Switch port, and with it comes a new co-op mode and a quartet of levels based off of Super Mario Odyssey. For those who have already played the Wii U original, do these new additions make the case for double-dipping on the Captain's adventure?

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker plays out in a miniature diorama-like levels, which can be completed in less than five minutes each. In these levels, the objective is to reach the Power Star located in every level, usually involving interaction with the environment, avoiding enemies, and figuring out how to maneuver through the stage to progress. For instance, you'll spin wheels to turn platforms to make a way for Captain Toad to get across, and you'll touch special platforms to slide them around.

Unlike Mario, Captain Toad does not have any "super" jumping ability to him. Instead, he needs to climb hills, ladders, ride in pipes, and scale other height-bestowing objects in order to reach higher locations in levels. He can then drop down to new parts of levels, which is a mechanic that is used generously in Treasure Tracker.

Captain Toad also doesn't have much bark to his bite. In fact, he doesn't really have either! I mean, look at that cute face, how could he possibly have any anger behind that!? Regardless, what I'm referring to here is that Captain Toad cannot directly attack enemies. His method of dispatching foes is plucking and picking up turnips and proceeding to chuck them at enemies in his way. Sometimes pluck-able spots will house coins, Mushrooms, or other items inside them as a bonus instead of a turnip. The Mushroom is used in traditional Super Mario fashion, having Captain Toad restore himself to full health if he has taken damage.

Let this be a lesson to Captain Toad: Never trespass on Shy Guy territory.
There are over 70 stages within Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, 65 of which are in the main story, which actually brings one other playable character into the mix outside of Captain Toad. These stages run the gamut from flower gardens, raging locomotives, mine cart rides down mountains, desert ruins, fiery volcanoes, beach-side excursions, snazzy pachinko boards, Wild West towns, and even some boss stages to enjoy. The levels after the main game consist of retreads through past stages where you must gather and carefully transport the Toad Brigade to a Power Star, as well as other stages where you must avoid a shadowy, dangerous doppelganger who follows your every movement.

Not the most inviting forest around, but the treasure's ready for the taking all the same!
Each stage has three diamonds to collect, and these are at many times hidden well. It wasn't uncommon for me to have to return to a previous stage just to track down a diamond that I was so unobservant that I missed on my first run. The diamonds in Treasure Tracker don't necessarily require you to nab them all, but you can find your progress gated by levels that require a specific amount of diamonds to unlock. However, they're so much to collect, offering rewarding exploration from doing so, that would be a shame to miss out on them.

Ah, coins, diamonds, and Power Stars... a treasure tracker's delight!
In addition to diamonds, each level has its own secondary objective apart from collecting the Power Star to achieve. Unlike many of the diamonds in Treasure Tracker, these objectives are completely optional, simply bringing more replay value to players who wish to complete them. These can range from finding and collecting 150 coins in a level, to discovering the location of a Golden or 1-Up Mushroom, to beating a level without being detected by a Shy Guy, and to defeating all enemies within a given stage. I found myself loving going after these objectives, as many times they made me play levels in far different ways than I initially approached them. On a lot of occasions, these secondary objectives highlighted the spectacular level design displayed in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

This particular stage's secondary objective is to hit as few P-buttons as possible.
Originally in the Wii U version, free DLC made it so you could use a Toad amiibo on the Wii U GamePad and play a hide-and-seek game with Pixel Toad in each and every level. Instead of requiring a costly amiibo this time around, the Nintendo Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker already includes these Pixel Toad hunts immediately. All you have to do is beat a stage once to unlock the Pixel Toad hunt in that level. These hunts have you navigating the levels like you'd ordinarily do, but instead of reaching a Power Star, your goal is to find and "click" on the Pixel Toad hiding somewhere in the level, usually on an out-of-the-way wall or floor somewhere that takes some work getting to.

Speaking of clicking, touching, and interacting with aspects of the environment, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on the Switch features some curious control additions. For one, when playing in docked mode, a cursor is always planted firmly on the screen. You use it to click on items in the environment that can be interacted with. Meanwhile, when in handheld mode, you can use the touch screen as always to move platforms and the like, but it's also how you spin wheels, too. The problem here is that when running across a wheel that you can spin, the transparent graphic for spinning the wheel pops up right in the center of the screen, taking up lots of screen space. It also stops Captain Toad right in his tracks. This can result in running from an enemy only to stop to a dead halt when you cross the wheel spinner, thus taking damage. I question why the option to confirm you want to use a contraption wasn't included instead of it just occurring automatically. It's quite a vexing oversight.

What are YOU looking at, fire-breath!?
In the more pleasing department, the Switch version comes with two exclusive features compared to its Wii U original: a cooperative two-player mode and a handful of Super Mario Odyssey-themed levels. The cooperative multiplayer isn't as spectacular as having two Toads explore and meander around levels together, but instead it's meant to be shared with a more casual player of video games. The second player can poke and prod both enemies and the environment, as well as situate the camera for the player controlling Captain Toad. This, of course, requires some excellent teamwork and communication skills in order to keep Toad from meeting an untimely end.

Meanwhile, replacing the Super Mario 3D World bonus levels of the Wii U game (which is a positive thing, as those levels weren't a good fit for the original game due to being directly carried over from 3D World) are brand-new Super Mario Odyssey levels based in Fossil Falls, Tostarena, New Donk City, and Mount Volbone. The middle two levels are full-fledged exploration and puzzle-based affairs, while Fossil Falls is a mine cart level and Mount Volbone is a race sequence. There is pleasant variety, but completing these levels 100% with all diamonds and bonus objectives completed doesn't take very long.

Looks like we have some afternoon congestion with a mad Hammer Bro blocking the intersection.
If you're holding out hope that the Nintendo Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is worth picking up if you've already exhausted the Wii U game, then I have some unfortunate news for you--it's really not. Well, I add a caveat to that, and that is unless you're like me and enjoyed the original so much that you just want an excuse to experience the game all over again on a system that works without needing a giant, unreliable Wii U GamePad. Otherwise, if you don't mind sticking with the Wii U and/or have no desire to buy what amounts to the same game again for full MSRP, then you're better off saving your hard-earned money. That said, for those that have never played the game before, this puzzle-platformer is simply put (and get ready to groan), a "treasure" you need to play.

[SPC Says: B+]

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Go Vacation (NSW) Review

Rather than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a vacation, SuperPhillip Central spent a fraction of that for Bandai Namco's Go Vacation on the Nintendo Switch for its review. See why this activity collection is worth your time and money.

A perfect game for a summer "staycation"

The original Go Vacation released on the Wii way back in 2011, and out of all of the games from the Wii era that I expected to get reincarnated in HD, Go Vacation was certainly not one of them. That said, I can't say I'm disappointed, as Bandai Namco's answer to Wii Sports Resort was one of more thrilling and enjoyable games of its type on the system. Perhaps a little too ambitious for Nintendo's under-powered system, but enjoyable nonetheless. Now, Go Vacation makes its grand return from the Wii to the Switch, offering new bonus features and the same party and family-friendly gameplay that the original brought to players. Is this the type of vacation you'll have fond memories of or recurring nightmares over?

Go Vacation starts you off in style with a skydiving descent to Kawawii Island.
Go Vacation provides players and their custom avatars (either Go Vacation models or their Miis) a ticket to Kawawii Island, home of four resorts that can be fully explored as they're unlocked one by one through filling out your stamp book. This stamp book is filled as you participate in the various activities that each resort has. Alongside completing activities, each resort allows you to traverse it by foot or by one of its many means to get around, such as the Marine Resort's Marine Bikes and ATVs or the Mountain Resort's horses and off-road vehicles, for instance. Outside of finding each activity a resort has to offer, there are plenty of places to exercise some excellent exploration--from chatting with the locals, taking photo ops, finding treasure chests in each resort, and taking photos of the wildlife for your collection.

Wave Race this is not, but Go Vacation's Marine Bike races are still riveting all the same.
The activities in Go Vacation run the gamut of things to do, and while the game leans more towards "quantity over quality", a great number of the activities in the game are winners. There are races and time trials across a plentiful amount of vehicles and things to ride, such as marine bikes, ATVs, Ridge Racer-like vehicles, rally cars, horses, kayaks, snow tubes, snowmobiles, and much more. Then, there are non-race activities such as tennis, beach volleyball, skydiving, mini golf, table hockey, scuba diving, paragliding, and many more. Most activities have several different modes to them, such as horseback riding that contains both races and a mode where you collect as many coins as possible within a time limit, or snowboarding that has you pull off as many successful tricks as possible either in halfpipe or grinding form.

It's another day at the beach for my partner and me as we challenge these AI scrubs to a game of beach volleyball.
When starting out an activity for the first time, Go Vacation defaults to the easiest control method available. What I mean by this is that in tennis, for instance, your character moves automatically to the ball with your job merely being to swing and select the appropriate shot with the right timing. However, once you complete the first stage of the mode and return to it again, you have the option of free-roaming and whether or not you use traditional controls or motion-based controls.

When first playing tennis, your character moves on his or her own.
It's not until you replay the activity that you get the choice of full movement.
The latter controls were pretty much a requirement for the original Wii version of Go Vacation, so it's nice to see an option here. That said, some activities like performing certain tricks in skateboarding, for instance, still require you to shake the controller to pull off a trick, or in the case of bailing, motion controls are required to get back up.

Activities in general are easy enough to learn regardless of what type of controls you're choosing to use. In case you forget what each button does or how to perform a certain maneuver, you can pause the activity at any time and enter the "How to Play" menu, which is a tremendous help for those who aren't as familiar with playing the Switch or playing video games in general.

In ATV races, you'll certainly be using the "All-Terrain" part of "All-Terrain Vehicle."
Completing all of the stages in a given mode in a given activity of Go Vacation rewards you with experience points that has you gaining levels. Each level you gain grants you a key to unlock one furniture set of your choice to customize your villa in an Animal Crossing-like way. You have multiple rooms to work with, multiple house designs at your leisure, and you can share your creations online for others to "heart" or "like" depending on how impressive your creativity shines. I found myself absolutely addicted to plopping down furniture in such a way to make my villa the envy of the block.

A nice aspect of Go Vacation is that any activity you've already played is available to select from the main menu without the need to enter a resort, track down the character who hosted the activity, and then play from there. Being able to choose from the main menu cuts out a lot of the hassle that would otherwise be given to players. One unfortunate aspect of this, however, is that if you want to jump in to any activity you want right at the beginning of Go Vacation, you cannot do that. You have to play most activities within resorts in order to unlock them in the main menu. Did your friends really want to try out rafting ASAP? Well, sadly, you have to unlock it first, and that's in the last of the four resorts that unlock within your Go Vacation experience.

Bust out your inner Tony Hawk in the Grind Master activity.
The Switch version of Go Vacation adds remastered textures, but all in all, the game is very much underwhelming in the visual department. It's literally a higher resolution Wii game and not much more. Also included in the Switch version are daily rewards in the form of new furniture, gear, clothing for your avatar, and new dog breeds to pal around with on Kawawii Island. During play on resorts, sometimes a plane will arrive overhead and drop some cargo in the form of a present that can be collected for a special reward. This feature is also exclusive to the Switch version. By far, though, the thing that makes the Switch version so special compared to the Wii original is something that I've already touched upon in this review, and that's the option (well, for the most part) of choosing between motion controls and traditional controls.

Though, speaking of controls, it's a bit bewildering that the right analog stick isn't used in the game for camera control. Instead, you have to hold a shoulder button and use the left stick to move the camera around your avatar. This was how it worked in the Wii version, if memory serves correctly, so it's like Bandai Namco just brought the same control scheme to the Switch game despite an opportunity to change things up for the better. I wouldn't say it's lazy, as it's more of an oversight that I wish would have been rectified now that the Switch controller has more buttons and inputs to it.

Paddle till your heart's content as you ride the raging river of the Mountain Resort.
Multiplayer is strong in Go Vacation, whether you're playing with someone who has never picked up a controller before, someone well versed in gaming, or anyone in between. You can not only play any activity together with up to four players, but you can also explore Kawawii Island's four resorts together as well. All of this can only be performed locally with no online play to speak of, save for ghost data of other players to compete against once the credits have been viewed. Still, if you've got family and friends nearby who like a good time, Go Vacation will give them just that.

Go Vacation succeeds at bringing a compilation of appealing activities and events, as well as some truly engrossing exploration to the Switch. It improves on the Wii original while offering plenty of new content to make a second look at the game worthwhile. While this particular vacation won't replace a trip to the Bahamas or Italy, it is cheaper than a round-trip ticket and won't put you at risk for a nasty sunburn.

[SPC Says: B]

Sunday, August 12, 2018

An Update from Yours Truly on SuperPhillip Central

Hello, everyone! Long time no see (other than last night's Review Round-Up)! If you've been wondering where I've been hiding for these past few weeks, I actually haven't been hiding at all! In fact, I'm happy to announce that I have a new freelance writing gig at TouchArcade for its Switch news coverage! You can check out my SwitchArcade Roundup articles that I've written so far here.

At any rate, I want to talk about the future of SuperPhillip Central. It's been hard trying to find time to write for TouchArcade, play the games required of me, and do this site all at once. However, I'm still in the process of getting accustomed to my new schedule and hectic life now. Despite this, I want to continue to provide articles, features, reviews and all other kinds of content on SuperPhillip Central to keep this site booming with its current momentum.

Thus, I wish to offer this promise that I will continue to write for both SuperPhillip Central and TouchArcade as long as possible and as long as it makes sense for me to continue doing so. I don't really make any income from SPC, as the ads on the site don't do anything but clog up the page with Best Buy promotions and sales (at least for me anyway) instead of offering a small source of income.

This is why I have revived my Patreon for the purpose of being able to better support myself. You can find details about my situation at my Patreon page here.

Thanks, everyone, and stayed tuned for some special reviews all month long! Now, back to business!

- Phil

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Review Round-Up - July 2018

Have an appetite for a fast-paced, thrilling party platformer? Then, taste the Runbow!
July was a month that turned out to be dedicated to games from indie developers, and you gotta love it when there isn't a stinker in the bunch for an entire month of reviews! This special month began with Runbow, which brought colorful razzle and dazzle to the Switch and PlayStation 4, getting an A-. Alongside that A- was Yoku's Island Express which got the same letter grade of its own, having these two games be SuperPhillip Central's Games of the Month!

Following our GotMs was Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (B), which delighted with its expansive, mystifying world full of materials to collect and characters to help out. 20XX (B+) brought Mega Man X-like action in roguelite form to all major platforms as well as SuperPhillip Central. Finally, two iOS games received Switch ports, both featuring flight: Picomy's charming Heroki (B) and N-Fusion Interactive's mission-based Air Mail (C+).

For even more reviews, check out every past game critique from SuperPhillip Central in the SPC Review Archive, sporting over 830 reviews.

Have a ball with Yoku's Island Express, joining Runbow as SPC's dual featured games of the month!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Air Mail (NSW) Review

Kicking off your new week with a new review, Air Mail previously launched on iOS devices all the way back in 2012. Now, Air Mail makes a landing on the Nintendo Switch. Let's take to the skies and see how this enhanced mobile game fares on Nintendo's console/handheld hybrid with the SuperPhillip Central review!

Score some frequent flyer miles

Air Mail originally released on iOS in 2012. In gaming years, the game is considered ancient. Now, like many mobile games, Air Mail has now touched down and landed on the Nintendo Switch. With vastly improved visuals and analog controls available, do these changes make the pricing discrepancy of the mobile and Switch versions less of a shock to the system (and the wallet)?

There are three main modes within Air Mail, the first being the campaign, told through cleverly done, semi-animated scenes. The characters you come across in Scoop's adventure are fully voiced, giving you a briefing before each of the game's 25 missions. The actual variety of the missions leaves a good deal to be desired, offering very similar "go here, fetch this, bring it back to a specific location, and then land" objectives. It isn't the latter half of the game where Air Mail presents more challenging missions, such as having Scoop fly his plane through a war-zone, evading enemy bullets that can take him down, or collecting a specific number of diamonds or fruit before landing.

Don't mind Scoop here--he's just enjoying the sights of Domeeka.
What would otherwise be breezy missions to complete are made more challenging (though, slightly so) with Air Mail's point system. Depending on how well you perform during a given mission, you earn points that add up to a score out of 100, with obtaining 95-100 points presenting you with a five-star ranking on the mission. In order to do well, you have to fly with precision--hitting the absolute center of rings, or picking up cargo from the ground perfectly--as well as complete a mission quickly enough and without taking too much damage. In addition to just scoring well on missions, the campaign mode also has 25 Golden Monkeys, one in each mission, to find as a fun, optional task. Doing so will unlock one of Air Mail's seven or so paint jobs for Scoop's plane.

Look out below!
The mode to unlock the majority of Scoop's plane's paint jobs, however, is Explore Mode, a much more easygoing, exploration-based flying affair. Locations unlocked via the story mode allow you to fly around them, spotting points of interest and collecting one of 20 scrolls in each locale. In doing the latter (specifically collecting all 20 in a location), you unlock a brand-new paint job for Scoop's plane. Most scrolls are simple enough to find, but others require some fine sleuthing to uncover.

You may have 16 out of 20 scrolls, Scoop, but those last ones are always the hardest!
Finally, the last mode is a Time Attack mode, which pits you against the clock to perform one of two basic tasks. This is all the while being on the lookout for clocks that extend your time, allowing you to aim for an even higher score. Some Time Attacks have you flying through as many rings as possible before time runs out, while others have you nabbing cargo from ground or sea level and delivering it to its proper location, again, while the timer is ticking. This mode is rather fun to play in order to improve upon your highest scores, but if you're not the type of old school player who enjoys doing such a feat, like in the arcade days, Time Attack might leave you twisting in the proverbial wind.

Hopefully, this means that Scoop's future is bright,
because he'll definitely need to wear shades to battle this sunrise!
Air Mail is not a combat-based flight game. Scoop's plane has no weapons to speak of, except his own plane, used to collide into support cables holding up the nefarious Verakai forces' airships and precious cargo for some story mode missions. Flight is easy to control, but it's also incredibly simple. There aren't any barrel rolls or loop-the-loops to come from Scoop's plane. Instead, you have the analog stick to pilot the plane (which the controls can be inverted, if you prefer), ZR to accelerate and to take off into the wild, blue yonder, and ZL to brake and to get ready to land.

The titular air mail of... well, Air Mail!
I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the graphical improvements of Air Mail's Switch version compared to the mobile original. Not only has the graphical fidelity improved, but so have building and environmental textures. The dynamic lighting is a sight to behold, delivering some beautiful vistas and scenes on display. Sometimes I would get lost in the plentiful sights that I'd forget about forgo doing the current mission in the campaign. It's a bit astonishing to think that Air Mail was a mobile game from 2012 considering how great it looks on the Switch today in 2018.

Even unfriendly skies don't scare Scoop.
That said, Air Mail doesn't really rate highly when it comes to delivering a challenging experience, and in addition to that, the mission variety could stand some more mixing up. While not a crash-landing, Air Mail on the Nintendo Switch has first-class pricing for economy class gameplay, making it a little tough to recommend for those with access to an iOS-compatible device Otherwise, maybe you'll want to take flight with Air Mail's Switch version.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by N-Fusion Interactive.


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