If you own a Wii U and have an appreciation for adorable things and solving puzzles, then you’re in luck. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is going to be right up your alley.
Here’s the gist. Each level is a colorful diorama, a cleverly designed chunk of real estate that floats in midair. Scattered around, in nooks and crannies and on hard-to-reach plateaus, are three diamonds and a star. You play as Toad, the tiny sidekick who’s been hanging around Mario since the ’80s, and your goal in each level is to nab the star, plus as many diamonds as possible. In your way stand a variety of enemies, along with environmental hazards and tricky sets of levers, wheels, and pipes that open up new areas for exploration.
Although the game is set in the Mushroom Kingdom, Treasure Tracker would never be mistaken for a Mario game. That’s mostly because Toad isn’t the heroic type. He can’t jump or attack. He can’t put on a tanooki suit or kick koopa shells. All he can really do is run, walk, and pull up green shoots sprouting up from the ground.
Most of these sprouts are attached to coins, and just like in Mario games, you get an extra life for every 100 coins you collect. Pulling some sprouts gives you a turnip, which you can toss at enemies to knock them out of commission. Occasionally you’ll yank up a pick-ax, which you can use to clear out bricks to find hidden areas.
The main way you’ll discover secret locations, however, is simply by rotating the camera. You have full control over your view of the level, but since many areas are obstructed or carefully hidden, it takes some clever camera work to find the secrets. Rotating the camera can be done by either using the right analog stick or by tilting the GamePad. Using the analog stick works great, but I found the tilt function both impossible to use, and annoying whenever I shifted the GamePad. You can also press a button to zoom in, but on many levels the zoom feature puts the camera too close to the action.
My other main complaint is that I can’t fathom why this game even has “lives.” There’s no apparent reason for it, because losing all of your lives has virtually no effect. Lives here just feel like a relic from the past Nintendo hasn’t gotten around to eliminating yet. On the plus side, there’s no senseless time limit, like there is in Super Mario 3D World, so some progress is being made.
But any complaints I have are easily swept away by the game’s enormous amount of charm and polish. The levels are all cleverly designed, gorgeous, and packed full of things to do like collecting gems, racking up coins, completing level-specific goals, and finding hidden posters to peel off walls.
The amount of creativity crammed into this game is also astounding. Every level has some fun new feature that hasn’t appeared in the game before, helping to keep things fresh. For instance, you might find yourself controlling two Toads if you pick up a cherry, or you might have to blow into the GamePad’s microphone to activate a lift. You’ll encounter massive boss battles, mine cart levels, and even a substantial surprise if you have a save file for Super Mario 3D World on your system.
This creativity carries into the gameplay, and the different ways you can approach the levels. If you’re feeling frisky, you can play it like a standard action game and eliminate all the enemies you find. If you’re up for a challenge, you can play it stealthily, watching the enemies’ patrol patterns and making a run for it when their backs are turned. You can breeze through the game, or try to get a 100% clearance stamp on each one. It’s up to you.
Perhaps the oddest thing about Captain Toad is that it was made for the Wii U at all. Most first-party Nintendo games for the console have been ambitious big-budget affairs, like Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. This game, which retails for $40 instead of the usual $60, seems like it would have been more at home on the Nintendo 3DS.
On the other hand, filling out the Wii U’s library is a smart move on Nintendo’s part. The company needs to sell more Wii U’s, and it knows the best way to do that is to keep pumping out quality games for it. In fact, I’m glad to see Nintendo trying new things by offering Wii U games at a variety of price points, like they did with New Super Luigi U. I’d much rather pay $40 for a game like this than wait six more months for a $60 version with more levels.
Camera and aiming issues aside, just about every inch of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker exudes quality. It’s clear that very talented people made this game to bring joy to fun-loving gamers. If you like solving puzzles and exploring colorful worlds, Captain Toad won’t let you down.
Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed
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