Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker came as a pleasant surprise when it was announced at E3, and it wasn’t just due to the fact that it’s the first game starring everyone’s favorite little Mushroom Kingdom royal advisor. The bits of gameplay we’ve seen and experienced emulate the same experience Toad’s levels captured in our 2013 Game of the Year, Super Mario 3D World, and as fun as they were, did they warrant a full retail game? Like the announcement, the game also came as a pleasant surprise.
What Is It?
Toad’s been in Mushroom Kingdom lore for about as long as the Super Mario Bros. series has existed, and while the little guy can be used in Super Mario Bros. 2 and Mario Kart, it’s always been as a supporting role. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker finally gives Toad the attention he deserves in what’s actually one of Nintendo’s most unique experiences to date.
If you’ve played Super Mario 3D World, you should be familiar with Captain Toad. Each world has a Captain Toad level in the game where the sole purpose was to collect the power star at the end of every stage, but they played differently from any Mario level. The premise of each level is what’s expected — just get to the end. But because of his heavy backpack, Captain Toad can’t jump or run very quickly, so he (and Toadette) will have to resort to other basic means to get through each level.
Why Should I Care?
Since there’s no jumping in the game, Treasure Tracker can’t really be categorized as a platformer, but the game still feels sort of Mario-esque. It takes a page out of the 3D Super Mario games by making the obtainment of the power star each world’s exit, rather than finding the flagpole at the end of the level. Then again, it also borrows ideas from the 2D games by leaving gems to collect in order to unlock other levels. The similarities in Mario games and other platformers come in the form of its visual clichés. You have your levels in the desert, levels in the snow, levels with lava, levels in space–odds are if you’ve seen it in a Mario game, you’re going to see it here.
Each of the game’s 70+ levels features three gems to collect, the level-ending power star, and a hidden objective that becomes known after each level is cleared. Some of them are rather unique. An earlier level requires you to finish it without making a certain bridge fall, while others continue to change the way you approach playing the game. Another level’s secret objective requires players to finish it without being seen by a Shy Guy, which gave the game a stealthy kind of feel.
Simple as it is, it just doesn’t come that easy. Despite how small each map can seem, there’s a lot of goodies in each stage not seen by the naked eye. Treasure Tracker, more than any Wii U game before it, really puts the Wii U GamePad to good use, and you really won’t need an actual television. Manipulation of the camera can be done using right analog stick, the gyroscope, and by swiping the touch screen. There will also be platforms and obstacles that will require you to also touch them on the screen as well as blow into the mic. This isn’t anything new for a Nintendo platform, but it’s always refreshing knowing the developers are putting its features to use. It’s questionable as to why the game didn’t make it on the 3DS though.
Like Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3D World before it, Toad can attack by picking plants and throwing them back at his enemies, and he’s not limited to that either. While you can’t jump on enemies, you have the option of falling on them from higher platforms, so it’s a nice alternative. Of course, not all enemies can be killed. Sometimes it’s all just about avoiding the issue and as you get further and in the game, timing really becomes key with the various hazards that increase the game’s challenge considerably as you progress.
The game also appears to have drawn inspiration from Metroid with its boss stages. While Toad(ette) won’t be able to fight them directly, the act of escaping is just as good. For example, the first fight has Toad escaping a reptile inside an erupting volcano. While it wasn’t overly difficult, the challenge of making sure you get all the gems before making your escape all feel quite thrilling. The other boss fights featured this same kind of experience with even more unique twists, so the curve balls the game threw at us were quite engaging. The mine cart and slide levels only add to the enjoyment this game comes packed with.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker isn’t your typical Nintendo adventure game, but at the same time, it carries the same brand of charm. Instead of running and jumping your way throughout the kingdom to stop Bowser from wreaking anymore havoc, you’ll have to pluck things out of the ground, avoid enemies, and use your smarts to find all of Captain Toad’s treasure.
It should take the average gamer probably a little more than six hours to complete the game’s more than 70 levels, and there are even a few more unlocked when the game detects a Super Mario 3D World save file. If you’re a perfectionist, playing through each level to find each jewel should be a nice challenge to aspire to, but it’s also quite frustrating that each level has a hidden objective, and if you don’t do it in the first playthrough, it might be a bit of a drag to play through it again. Either way, that only adds to the replay value because there are some levels where you simply won’t know what it is you have to do. But, you can always come back to them later.
The game’s weaknesses weirdly come from its limits in accessibility. While it’s cool that you have options to change the camera angles in various ways, you can’t limit it to one method. There are quite a few times where the gyroscope caused me to mess up, and it’s tough because there are a ton of episodes that require a lot of dexterity and hand-eye coordination from the player. The fact that I couldn’t turn the gyroscope off was rather annoying. It also makes the mine cart games harder to player than they should.
On top of that, with the more than 70 levels featured in the game, there’s no quick way to backtrack to one level. The game tells its story in the form of a storybook, and if you’re on page 60 or so on that story and you want to go back to level 20, you have to turn back 40 pages. There’s no quick select menu to get this done. It’s a nitpick issue, but considering previous Mario games have this option, it’s rather baffling to not have the option here.
I had my concerns about the game when it was announced, but after seeing that the Captain Toad levels in 3D World really only scratched the surface on the game’s true potential — which is fully realized in Treasure Tracker — I can honestly say it’s a great game. However, even though the game is priced at a slightly lower $40 compared to the usual $60, I can’t say the game is worth a full-priced buy. But, if you think of it as a 3DS game with HD compatibility, it’s easier to spend the cash. Still, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is just plain fun, and that’s really all anybody should want.