Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U) Review
This is probably embarrassing to admit but I had no idea who Captain Toad was when Nintendo announced the game back at E3 last year. I just assumed they were putting out yet another Mario game but instead of Mario, we had Toad. You see, I never actually played Super Mario 3D World without friends so I was never able to actually play those levels. So I guess you could say I went into Captain Toad more sceptical than most would be. But there was still an air of scepticism around the game even for players who had experienced Captain Toad previously – just how would Nintendo expand these small bite size levels into an entire game? And more importantly, make it worth it? Pretty easily actually, but a good amount of that has to do with the price which feels just right.
Captain Toad is almost always adorable. It opens with an adorable predicament and ends adorably. It’s just a really cute game. Toad and Toadette are travelling throughout the “world” finding treasure. One day, they come across yet another treasure, a Power Star, but before they can take it away a bird named Wingo grabs it. Keen to have her treasure after (presumably) such a long expedition, Toadette grabs onto the Power Star only to be whisked away by Wingo. Understandably concerned, Captain Toad embarks on an expedition to find Wingo and save Toadette.
While the story in Captain Toad is not necessarily the reason why you’ll be playing the game at all, it does have a nice twist or so throughout the game. Said twist gets repeatedly used throughout the entirety of the game, but it’s still a nice way to superficially keep things fresh as you get further and further into Toad’s adventure. The game ends with a nice touch for fans of the Mario series too so it’s something worth seeing through to the end. But it’s by no means an amazing story.
The gameplay is where Captain Toad really shines, though and it’s testament to Nintendo’s designers that they’ve been able to accomplish so much in terms of level design working with such confined spaces. Each world, known in-game as a “course” takes the shape of a cube that can be rotated and manipulated with the touchscreen in certain circumstances. The aim of each course is to get from the beginning to the end, usually denoted by the Power Star, while collecting Super Gems along the way (optionally, mind you) as well as an undisclosed bonus objective as well.
Captain Toad is different to other playable characters in the Mario franchise. He can’t jump, for one – and instead must rely on either power-ups or turnips littered throughout the game world to defend himself. Not allowing Captain Toad to jump alone means the designers have had to be much more clever with how they think about the path players must take throughout the level too, and thankfully this sense of puzzlement is passed on to the player as well. You see, Captain Toad is more or less a puzzle game dressed up as a platformer. It manages to mess with what a player expects to see just by looking at a level by hiding things in nooks and crannies that can’t be seen without looking around the game world at strange angles.
And this simplicity and need to manipulate the environment is easily accounted for with the game’s controls – which are bound to be contentious amongst players. While Captain Toad can be moved or pull things out of the ground, a large majority of the controls are dedicated to manipulating the game’s camera. It sounds strange to do so, but it gives the game an almost Fez-like quality where a world must be examined from all angles to find all its secrets. It’s also worth mentioning here that these controls are controlled either by buttons or by the gyroscope in the GamePad – with no option to turn the latter off. We personally had no problems with this, but those of you who move more while playing may find it jarring.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker’s biggest hurdle it had to overcome was its legitimacy as a standalone title. On one hand, it’s been offered at a lowered price point presumably to compensate for the ever so slightly repetition or at least re-use of certain setpieces throughout the game. On the other, some might find it to be just a little bit too expensive considering what’s on offer here.
There’s typical levels which have Toad travelling from the beginning to the end of the level. There’s boss battles which are quite samey but really, have the same goal as the other levels. There’s on-rails segments where Toad has to aim his turnip cannon at objects of interest as he’s thrown through a bite size segment. But there’s not a whole lot of variability to the entire experience. Sure, the look and layout of the levels change from time to time but each level confirms to a fairly typical archetype and once you’ve played through about 70 of them (as the game offers) it becomes fairly transparent why the game was offered at a budget price point.
But I’m not criticising Nintendo for this. I am pretty happy with the Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker experience as a standalone one. It’s not long enough to outstay its welcome but I didn’t particularly want to play more when I was done with it – it was just done and dusted. The average player would get roughly anywhere between six and eight hours out of the main story modes, but collecting everything will easily take at least fifteen or so hours. In a feat rare for games these days, the collectibles in Captain Toad are pretty fun to collect.
And as you’d expect the game is very bright, colourful and vibrant too. Once again the choice to limit the design of each course to a small and confined area means that the game is able to look its absolute best in almost every aspect. While it does appear to be borrowing quite heavily from Super Mario 3D World, the game still manages to look good if not slightly better texture density due to the denser level design. The simplistic art style gives everything a crisp appearance too, it’s hard to put into words but everything just “pops”.
One of the things I know that I might be a little bit controversial in saying is that I found the soundtrack of Captain Toad to be rather forgettable. Most of the tracks themselves are familiar tracks that have either been lifted from Super Mario 3D World or presumably lifted from the same studio sessions. They’re cheery and catchy, but there’s nothing majorly new or interesting that adds anything overly unique to the experience. Toad and Toadette, while pretty quiet throughout the game, have adorable sound bites for their scant dialogue that help cement them as the lovable characters that they are.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is still a pretty hard game to accurately appraise. On one hand, it’s filled to the brim with clever puzzles and mechanics, some of which are underutilised. On the other, it re-uses a lot of assets and hopes you’ll forgive it since it’s available at a lower price point. Honestly? It’s a great package. There’s a lot to do and it never outstays its welcome. But it also holds a lot of potential as a concept – and I’m interested to see where the team takes things should they ever pursue a sequel. If you’re into something that requires a bit of thinking as compared to your typical platformer, check out Captain Toad, for sure.