If there’s ever been a longstanding character in the happy, go-lucky world of Nintendo that’s deserved his own spinoff, it’s Toad. The quirky little mushroom man has largely been playing third fiddle to the likes of Mario and Luigi, but now he’s finally able to step into the limelight with a brand new title called Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The game features the same charm of the longstanding Super Mario franchise, but this cutesy installment is a little short on content for game-hungry Wii U owners.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker doesn’t play out like standard Mario titles, and is instead based off of the miniature puzzle-based stages scattered throughout Super Mario 3D World. The original stages that threw players into the role of Captain Toad were so well-received and popular that Nintendo decided the headlamp-wearing hero deserved his very own game.
Unlike many traditional puzzle games, this Treasure Tracker often puts the main protagonist (either Toadette or Captain Toad depending on the level) in a diorama-inspired stage that requires users to reach a star by overcoming various obstacles. The real fun comes from the fact that Captain Toad is unable to jump because he’s weighed down by his enormous knapsack – thus hopping and skipping through areas isn’t an option. Instead, players must rely on a combination of switches, items and other tools to get out of each stage safely and with treasure in tow.
One core mechanic that comes with basing a majority of the stages on dioramas is the camera control. Looking at areas from different angles will show players new ways to overcome obstacles or find some very well hidden treasure. Camera control has always been an important aspect in any 3D title, but it’s implemented in Treasure Tracker in a way that makes it feel like more of a gameplay mechanic than an expectation. This can be frustrating at times, but being able to simultaneously control the camera and Captain Toad proves to be a fun endeavor.
The game also does a good job at throwing different scenarios into the mix to keep play sessions feeling fresh. A particular variant are the mine cart levels that place users into a first-person view of the action on the Wii U’s GamePad – suffice to say, these portions are eerily similar to Pokemon Snap. Making stellar use of the gyroscopic capabilities of that controller, it stands out as a welcome change from the meat of the puzzle gameplay. Meanwhile, boss battles also offer a fun and frantic way to play, but the problem with both of these different level types is that there are simply too few of them.
It should also be noted that each and every stage is oozing with charm. Everything from the cinematics to the layout of each stage will immediately draw fans into the world that Nintendo has created for the game’s title character. The same level of shine that made the aforementioned Super Mario 3D World stand out as a brilliant platformer has been applied to every facet of Captain Toad, but there just isn’t enough to actually explore.
The truth is that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker isn’t a very long game and the overall difficulty will have experienced gamers tearing through it in just a few short hours. Whether collecting all three of the diamonds scattered throughout each miniature world or completing an optional side challenge, there are very few difficult portions to be found. Since it’s easy to obtain all of the collectibles within one or two playthroughs, there isn’t a whole lot of replayability either – with the exception of a handful of unlockable bonus worlds.
Taking Captain Toad to various areas from or inspired by Super Mario 3D World, players can snag a green star (and an extensive number of coins) after charging through the main campaign. This makes for a nice distraction, but there isn’t nearly as much heart put into these worlds as what can be found in the core game itself – making these bonus stages a fun but lacklustre distraction.
Despite being short on content, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker creates an atmosphere that’ll keep players smiling throughout. The levels may not be overly challenging after a few minutes of deliberation, but there are so many memorable portions in the title that it’s easy to get lost in the tiny worlds that Nintendo has created. The end result is a discounted game that gives Toad a fun, albeit brief, spin-off that’s hard not to enjoy.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker will be available exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U on December 5, 2014 in North America and January 2, 2015 in Europe.
Follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.