Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo Group No.2, 1-Up Studio
Platform Reviewed: Wii U
Release date: 03/01/2015
From the moment the announcement was made that we would have a game dedicated to the charismatic little fellow, I was eager to give Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker a go. For me, the Toad levels were one of the highlights of Super Mario 3D World and proved to be a welcome and satisfying change of pace. Charming and delightful perspective puzzles, where the goal was to navigate small maze-like arenas in search of an increasingly elusive star. Setting out to plunder the Mushroom Kingdom, Toad is accompanied by Toadette. The game is their relentless pursuit of treasure, but is there enough on offer to warrant a full release for the likeable duo?
The first thing to strike you is just how beautiful the world looks. Just like a Pixar movie, each character model feels solid and saturated in colour. Personality oozes from every screen with such whimsical charm. Every asset is perfectly placed and it is an absolute pleasure to explore every level, which is something you will be doing a lot of.
As previously mentioned, the objective is to navigate the many pitfalls and traps of each level in order to reach the star, but there is more to it than that. In order to progress past certain chapters, a set amount of gems need to be found, there are a maximum of three in each stage and it can prove quite tricky to find them all, particularly later on. You will often find yourself re-visiting stages just to collect these gems. There are also challenges specific to each level, whether it is to complete a stage completely unseen or unscathed or to collect a set amount of coins, they can be quite imaginative and very tricky, especially as you progress.
Understanding the layout of each given stage is a must and either by moving the right control stick or using the gyro inside the Wii U pad the camera can be moved in almost any direction. The movements are smooth and effortless and the camera glides and swoops with relative ease. It’s not perfect however, not being able to disable the gyro can cause sudden camera movements if you move the pad abruptly. It’s a shame, but due to the fact the gyro is needed for certain levels it is somewhat understandable.
All the charm and bright colours would be a loss if the level design wasn’t up to the job and thankfully Nintendo have excelled themselves once again. Whilst most of the stages are relatively short, the attention to detail and the sheer amount of variation on offer is quite staggering. From haunted castles to infested gardens, runaway mine cars to caves flooded with lava, the Mushroom Kingdom is well represented with all its wonderful diverse landscapes.
The Wii U controller’s features have been well implemented without feeling overused. Whether you’re tapping the screen to move blocks or freeze enemies, blowing on the mic to raise platforms, or spinning around the room whilst aiming from cannons. The arrangement of the levels means it never feels like a gimmick and it is an excellent way of making each challenge feel fresh.
Some familiar power-ups also make a welcome appearance, for some unexplained reason, Toad has lost his ability to jump and our heroes will need some help if they are to pillage the land successfully. The ever present mushroom is on offer for those who have been shrunk due to taking damage, the old two hits and your dead mechanic is alive and well. There is a mighty pickaxe – for when the need to smash blocks becomes absolutely necessary. My personal favourite is the double cherry, which duplicates whoever collects it. The goal here is to navigate the maze whilst controlling multiple incarnations to reach a platform which is only activated when a set amount of characters are standing upon it.
Like the perfect guest, Toad does not outstay his welcome. With 64 levels and some bonus ones for those who may have a save file of Super Mario 3D world on their Wii U, there is just enough content on offer to hold your interest. It will take roughly six hours from start to finish, more if you collect every item and pass every challenge, and this feels long enough. The difficulty has been perfectly paced and despite a few moments of frustration, there is genuine satisfaction to be had, especially when you reach that gem that first looked impossible.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is another example of why Nintendo, when they get it right, have that certain something, an X-factor, which makes their games feel special. Creative level design, confident and bold presentation, wonderful composition and familiar much-loved characters are all handled with such care and expertise that is difficult not be charmed by them. Whilst the price point maybe a little too high and the main menu is a little drab there is still plenty of the magic here that makes Toad a welcome addition to anyone’s collection.