All hail the king.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a wonderful, charming game. It takes on the Captain Toad segments from the Wii U’s first original hit, Super Mario 3D World, and then expands upon them to create a full fledged game. While fears that what essentially amounted to short minigames best enjoyed in bursts may not be enough to sustain an entire game on their own are justified, they are also unfounded- Captain Toad is a fun, satisfying puzzle game, if relatively on the easy side, and on the whole, is recommended to all Wii U owners, even if it does have a fair few quirks and kinks that need to be ironed out.
In a lot of ways, Captain Toad seems to be very different than anything that EAD Tokyo has worked on before- the primary difference here is just how little mobility Captain Toad has compared to the Mario Bros. gang- he can’t jump, he walks slowly, and basically his movement is the basis for the game’s puzzles all on its own. There is combat, but it is entirely limited. But at the same time, it rings true to EAD Tokyo’s strengths- just like the Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D games, Captain Toad presents each new level as a fully self contained world, a diorama that is a delight to explore, like looking into a toy world through a window. The greatest puzzle in Captain Toad is the world you find yourself in in each level, and once you understand its compactness and its intricacies, and then work on unraveling them, it gives you the kind of satisfaction that few other games manage.
Each new Captain Toad stage appears to be almost laughably small when you first set eyes on it- a small box or a floating platform that fits entirely on your screen. But then you rotate the camera to take in the lay of the land, and the small world grows- there’s a hidden path! And what’s that in that corner, over there? It’s like when, as a child, you were playing with your Legos and your toys, and your imagination would let them grow in scale so that all of a sudden, they surrounded you and enveloped you, and you could get lost in their world.
Rotating the camera and getting a feel for the lay of the land is important, but it is also equally important to take stock of your immediate surroundings, and Captain Toad lets you do just that. As much as it is important to know what lies ahead, you need to be sure that you are not in immediate danger, and Captain Toad lets you do just that. It is a game that puts you entirely at the mercy of the world- with Toad’s limited range of abilities, you need to take advantage of the environment to get through to the goal in each level.
"It's like when, as a child, you were playing with your Legos and your toys, and your imagination would let them grow in scale so that all of a sudden, they surrounded you and enveloped you, and you could get lost in their world. "
Admittedly, this is not exactly difficult, at least for the first half of the game or so. As charming and fun as Captain Toad is, for the first half of the game, it is hard to ignore the distinct feeling that it is not entirely living up to its potential, since the puzzles and their solutions are rather easy, once you understand just how things work. Happily enough, the second half of the game significantly amps the challenge up, with some genuine mind twisters thrown your way.
Treasure Tracker is also one of the few games where I appreciated the usage of the Wii U Gamepad. While this is far from being a game that would only have worked on the Gamepad, it at least embraces the controller and makes good use of its functionality. As mentioned before, you are almost entirely at the mercy of the world around you, but you are not entirely helpless, since you can, to a limited extent, manipulate the world for yourself. The Gamepad screen lets you move objects, press switches, spin gears, and more, to either create or clear a way for you. It works well enough- too well, actually, in that most of the times, I would end up just ignoring my TV screen, and play the game on the controller entirely.
In so many other ways, Captain Toad shares similarities with Mario- you have the same kinds of power ups, the same kind of structure with levels and worlds, and the same kinds of hidden items (gems, in this case) needed to unlock future levels. It works well, and it lends a sense of comfortable familiarity to the game as well. Working alongside just how charming and cute Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker really is- this might be the cutest game Nintendo has put out in a while, and that really is saying something- you can’t help but snuggle at the smile that the game puts on your face.
All of this said, there are also a fair few problems with the game. It really is nothing serious or game breaking, but they are jarring and annoying enough to hamper the experience. Most of these problems are related to the interface and UI of the game (which comes as a bit of a shock, since recent Nintendo games have all done so well on that front)- for instance, there is no quick retry option in the menu for you to attempt the same level again, should you decide halfway through that something went wrong. It’s singularly annoying, and very troublesome, not to mention just outright baffling- how did Nintendo forget to include something as basic as this?
"Whether you are a child playing your first video game, or an adult coming back home, looking to unwind after a long day of work, and just hoping to lose yourself in the game's warm, relaxing atmosphere, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a genuinely good game that deserves a place in your library."
There is also the lack of a persistent stats tracker, which makes this game far more cumbersome than it should be. You see, each level has a mandatory objective, needed to progress, some optional side objectives, such as the gemstones, and then, it has an additional objective, unique to it- all of these need to be cleared to achieve 100% completion of that level, and all levels need to be 100%ed before you achieve 100% in the game itself.
Amazingly enough, there is no consolidated area for you to track this progress- the level select screen shows you what all you have achieved in each level, but having to scroll through over 70 levels, one at a time, to figure out just what you have left in what level, is annoying enough to discourage you from the idea of going for 100% completion entirely. It’s a shame, because Captain Toad begs to be replayed and re-explored, too.
Al of these problems aside, however, it still stands as a really fun, really charming game. And at a budget price of $40, there really is no reason to not get it. It might have its issues, it might be too easy, but it’s really universal in its appeal- whether you are a child playing your first video game, or an adult coming back home, looking to unwind after a long day of work, and just hoping to lose yourself in the game’s warm, relaxing atmosphere, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a genuinely good game that deserves a place in your library.
This game was reviewed on Wii U.
Charming, fun, satisfying, imaginative, whimsical, tons of replay value, great value for money, great use of the Wii U Gamepad
Very easy for the first half of the game, baffling UI issues and omissions that make no sense and hamper the entire experience
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a genuinely good game that deserves a place in your library.