Chances are very high you may not have heard of the Tad the Lost Explorer movies. Positioned as a light-hearted computer-animated Indiana Jones for kids, they’re adventures starring a clumsy wannabe archaeologist, Tad. The franchise is big in Spain but relatively little known elsewhere. There are currently three movies in the series and, for the most part, they’re rather charming and amusing throwbacks to the sort of pulpy globetrotting adventure we just don’t see much of anymore. They’re also legitimately funny in just about all the right spots.
Tad the Lost Explorer: Craziest and Madness Edition on the Nintendo Switch is based on the third movie in the series, Tad the Lost Explorer and The Emerald Tablet. For the most part, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material and a throwback to the sorts of licensed games we also haven’t seen much of lately. Which in itself can be either a blessing or a curse depending on your fondness for them.
Lost in translation?
Tad the Lost Explorer places you in the shoes of the titular intrepid adventurer and, occasionally, his friends, as they rush to secure the legendary Emerald Tablet before it falls into the wrong hands and brings about all sorts of nasty stuff. Oh, and you have to use it to undo a spell cast on your pets and your faithfully annoying sidekick, “Mummy”.
The game tells its story through a mix of CG cutscenes, narrated comic panels, and plenty of in-game cinematics. While the game is fairly faithful, it does take some liberties with the story to invigorate the gameplay, such as justifying patrolling enemies and a boss fight. It does expect you to be familiar with the franchise, or at least have seen the last movie, as there are no character introductions or any background information dumps to bring newcomers up to speed. To be honest, if you aren’t familiar with the movies, you’ll be missing out on some of the game’s attempts at humour and charm.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from what is either really poor translation, or just bad writing. The tone and style of the comic panels fit the movies well, especially with the voice actor for Mummy narrating, but the in-game dialogue more often than not had me having to re-read sentences more than once just to make sure I was getting the gist of what was been said. Often, it felt as though some of the dialogue had simply been dropped into an online translator.
Explore the past like you did in the past!
Gameplay-wise, Tad the Lost Explorer is a dip back into gaming’s past, taking its inspiration from the side-scrolling platformers from the 8- and 16-bit era, such as Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers or Duck Tales. This 2.5D side-scroller, which features fairly accurate character designs, will have you running, jumping, performing, and infrequently puzzling across a variety of levels that slowly grow in size, more so than in complexity.
There’s some infrequent combat using a deadly rubber chicken – an in-movie joke, of course – and a plethora of traps, spikes, and slowly moving animals to avoid. Occasionally, the game will swap Tad out for another member of the cast and each comes with their own special moves. Sara can double jump, Ramona (Ra-Amon-Ah) can float and rewind the state of specific objects, while Mummy can quickly disguise himself as a museum piece for rare stealth sections.
There’s a floatiness to the jumping that generally helps with the platforming but, at times, can also be a hindrance traversing smaller platforms. It’s easy enough to get to every corner of the level, on the hunt for collectible brushes, postage stamps, and relics waiting to be discovered. That said, there were also some moments when the controls weren’t as responsive as they needed to be, and I encountered one section in which things weren’t triggering correctly until I rebooted the game and restarted the level from the beginning.
Of course, Tad the Lost Explorer is aimed at kids and, as such, is incredibly easy for any veteran of the platformer genre. Even with a one-hit kill system, it requires a very low level of skill and incredibly generous checkpoint saves to ensure that death is never an obstacle to progression.
For fortune and glory!
There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before or will be unable to handle, but brevity makes the game’s lack of innovation more acceptable. That said, I can’t help but feel that considering the source material, there’s a wasted opportunity here to make something more ambitious and engaging rather than a typical tie-in product. Another potential issue is the low resolution on the Switch, which results in character models looking rather fuzzy up close. From a distance during general gameplay, it’s fine, but there are moments when the resolution dips and gives everything that blurry look.
Now aside from those niggles, Tad the Lost Explorer: Craziest and Madness Edition is still a competent and engaging platformer, with a focus on pleasant, if not particularly challenging gameplay. For fans of the movie, it might be a nice add-on to the existing franchise and a good way to get younger gamers into platformers. For older gamers, you get to indulge in some nostalgia for games of yore without the frustration.
Tad the Lost Explorer: Craziest and Madness Edition was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC and PlayStation 4/5.
Tad the Lost Explorer (Nintendo Switch) ReviewTad the Lost Explorer (Nintendo Switch) Review
- Simple gameplay
- Easy enough for children or casual gamers
- Adapts the movie fairly faithfully
- Blurry visuals on Switch
- Some bugs need polishing out
- Plenty of wonky writing and translations