Toadally sufficient for puzzle enthusiasts
From the moment I played the Captain Toad minigame in Super Mario 3D World, I thought to myself “this would make a great downloadable title.” It seems as if Nintendo can hear my thoughts, because it did just that.
Priced at a budget level, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a natural expansion from the levels found in World, with more complex concepts and that same beautiful art style. It may not be enough to warrant full price for some, but for those seeking more Toad, it delivers.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Released: December 5, 2014
Don’t expect any meaningful exposition from Captain Toad, because it’s not here. Cutscenes clock in at 30 seconds at most, and there are only a few of them in total throughout the adventure. The gist is that the evil bird Wingo has stolen a treasure that Toad and Toadette have just located, and in her attempt to yank it back, Toadette is lifted into the air and taken. Toad embarks on an adventure to save her that basically just involves solving puzzles to progress, and eventually she will join him and return the favor.
While the story won’t win any awards, it feels like the first legitimate adventure for the duo, which should please fans of toads everywhere. No other Mario characters are jumping out and stealing the spotlight here — it’s just the two aforementioned characters and their thirst for treasure that fuels the game.
Captain Toad is a puzzle game at heart and using the power of the Wii U’s GamePad controller, involves anything from tactile controls to tapping, to microphone use. The concepts are pretty ingenious, including but not limited to: stunning enemies with taps, tapping to change-up platforms, triggering question mark or POW blocks, throwing turnips in first-person, and a lot more.
Each level is what I refer to as a miniature “fish tank,” allowing the player to scan, flip, and zoom in and out of the entire environment during an attempt to solve the puzzle. The objective in every stage is threefold: find three optional Super Gems, solve an optional objective, and locate the star to end the level. The optional objective is usually the toughest, involving side goals like “don’t destroy a bridge,” “stay in stealth mode the entire level,” or “locate a special trinket.” They aren’t revealed until after completing a stage, which gives incentive to go back and replay it — albeit in an attempt to give the game some padding since it doesn’t reveal the objective upfront.
Toad’s gimmick is that he can’t jump because “his backpack is too full” (aw). He can run though, as well as pull up plants Super Mario Bros. 2 style and use them to kill enemies, grab mushrooms to grow back to size should he get hit, use power-ups like hammers and Double Cherries to clone himself a la 3D World, and utilize a minecart with an infinite turnip supply to chuck at enemies. There are also a ton of different concepts like boost pads, donut blocks, and a mix of classic Mario objects and new surprises. The minecart bit is probably my favorite of the bunch, and the first-person viewpoint works in the game’s favor because it feels so unique. I would easily pay something like $10 for a game that consisted entirely of minecart levels. While there are boss stages and they are often the highlight of any given string of puzzles, they are basically just regular levels with said boss adding some extra chaos to the mix.
As a general rule the controls are pretty great, and I had little problem getting Toad to do what I wanted. If you haven’t played the Wii U a ton it can be jarring to go back and forth from touching and looking at the GamePad to looking at the TV, but after a period of time you’ll either get used to it, or just learn to use the pad entirely. The part I really don’t like about the controls is the forced use of the GamePad’s accelerometer feature, which can often be used accidentally while holding the pad. While it doesn’t get to the point of ruining levels consistently, it’s annoying in that I can’t turn it off completely, since I wholly use the right analog stick to control the camera anyway.
It’s clear that Nintendo had a therapeutic goal in mind with Toad, because even during some of the more difficult levels the game is far from stressful or aggravating. This is especially evident when taking into account that players keep whichever Super Gems were collected during the same run. In other words, there’s no worries if you get a tough to reach Gem then fall off a cliff, as long as you complete the stage eventually with the amount of lives you have left you won’t have to obtain it again. The game also tracks the highest coin run on top of all the tertiary goals, so it’s perfect to occasionally run through past levels again.
The stress-free nature can work against it though. After completing the game I couldn’t help but want more. While a lot of the mechanics in each level were a joy to see for the first time, after repeated play sessions some of them lost their luster, as the gimmick was basically a one-time thing. I even breezed through a few levels and roasted every goal on the first try, which led to the occasional bout of disappointment. While every new world feels fresh in its own way, there are a handful that are a half-measure when it comes to challenging the player.
In terms of content, there are a little over 70 stages to tackle, including some bonus 3D World remakes (for those who have a World save file), which lightly modify the level to accommodate for Toad’s lack of jumping. In essence these levels will take roughly 10 minutes to beat, and 30 minutes to completely master with all goals completed. There are also bonus stages to earn extra coins and lives, but those only take a few minutes and pop up sparingly.
As a result, even with the lower price-point, you may feel underwhelmed by what’s in the box if you don’t absolutely love solving puzzles. There is amiibo support of some kind planned for a day-one update, and you’ll find coverage of what that entails here at a future date — for now we’re in the dark.
Captain Toad is an experience that doesn’t attempt to really wow you, but instead delivers consistent puzzle experiences at a rapid pace. There’s more Nintendo could have done with it, but it is a puzzler in its purest form, and that will be more than enough for people who wanted more of the titular hero after playing the bonus games in 3D World.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]