i don’t often buy games on their day of release, but i wanted to support captain toad: treasure tracker for wii u, one of the few instances of new IP from nintendo that also for the first time features toad (or at least, a toad) in the title role. toad has had a long history: he was playable in super mario bros. 2 soon after his debut and reclaimed some spotlight as player 3 and 4 options in the new super mario bros. series. he reached a peak in last year’s super mario 3D world as both a playable character with his original unique attributes, and also as captain toad, a series of side levels that featured completely unique gameplay.
it seemed pretty obvious to everyone that the captain toad levels could and should be expanded into a full-fledged game, but it was surprising that nintendo chose to release treasure tracker as a full title instead of a shorter downloadable title. however, after playing through the game the retail release does seem fully justified. the game takes the original concept of the 3D world levels and expands them beautifully. the main premise is that captain toad can’t jump because his backpack is too heavy, and so he has to maneuver through levels by investigating the diorama-like levels by rotating the camera and stepping on switches, etc., as well as by having the player use the gamepad to rotate parts of the environment, tap movable tiles and blocks, etc. the game’s design cribs heavily from 3D world (almost every unique stage you can recall from 3d world seems to have an analogue here). but captain toad’s limitation (the fact he can’t jump) is the impetus for a full game’s worth of creative levels.
the game’s pace is gentle and fairly relaxing: new levels unlock in batches and you’re not required to beat them all to beat the game, so you can pick which ones you want to tackle. also, levels are untimed, letting you explore at your leisure. three gems are scattered around the stage, and once you collect them an additional objective (e.g. “complete the level without taking damage”) is presented. for the most part the objectives are nicely varied and worthwhile, and the compact stages are great for exploring since they’re small enough to investigate fully without it becoming tedious. judging how to maneuver can get a bit tricky since the stages are so dense (and having true 3D as the 3DS does would have helped), but the gameplay is rock solid and the presentation is up to nintendo’s high standards (although again, perhaps cribbing a bit too much from 3D world).
getting to see toad, a long-time favorite, shine in the spotlight is a big plus, and having toadette, another long-time favorite, join him is an even bigger plus. (there may be hope yet for a game featuring daisy and/or waluigi! haha.) the two are cuter and more adorable than ever, and although the story is paper-thin (as is typical with nintendo with games like this), it’s nice to see the return of turnip-throwing as a core mechanic, plus some new enemies and locales. although the game demonstrates the versatility of the gamepad again, yet again i found myself forgetting to look back up at the TV and ended up spending a fair chunk of time just playing on the gamepad itself (and once again off-TV play proves to be a very handy feature). and although it seems some people weren’t satisfied with the length, i thought it was perfectly fine: finding every gem and completing every objective is worthwhile, and some additional challenges and bonus levels unlock as you proceed through the game.
overall i enjoyed this game way more than i thought i would. although i had enjoyed the levels in 3D world well enough, i hadn’t imagined that such a full, fresh, and varied game experience could be built on the same mechanics. the game was so memorable and enjoyable that i was sorely tempted to put it on my list of favorite games of all time, but about 3/4 of the way through the levels i felt the game’s premise had played itself out, and i didn’t find many of the bonus stages to be very compelling. in any case, i’m definitely looking forward to a sequel, assuming the developers can come up with a unique new twist to the winning formula of this game. as it is, the game is a worthy tribute to a character who has been a key member of the mushroom kingdom since the original super mario bros. game.
adventure time with these captain toad: treasure tracker links:
– entry at mariowiki.com, which includes a list of the bonus levels
– review at nintendolife.com
– official site, which includes an official “toad brigade adventure kit” you can print out
– miiverse community