Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for Wii U
Delightful. There we go, delightful. That’s Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker summed up in one word. Although it can’t compete with the sprawling majesty of the main Mario games it is spinning off from, it isn’t trying to. This is a game which knows what it is and is a boiled down example of what makes Nintendo so great.
As you might expect, there isn’t really a plot. Captain Toad and Toadette are adventuring for treasure when Toadette is carried away by the evil bird Wingo. Captain Toad sets out to save her, recovering treasure along the way. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, with Captain Toad and Toadette either being endearing or irritating based on your general outlook on life.
Captain Toad expands on the mini-levels in Super Mario 3D World through around 70 new stages. For the uninitiated, these Captain Toad levels involve making your way through a series of short levels contained within a box. You must rotate the camera manually to see where you are going, either using the right stick of the motion controls in the Wii U gamepad. Each level has the ultimate objective of a star, with three treasures to be found along the way, as well as a secret objective revealed when the level is first completed. Captain Toad can’t jump and he moves quite slowly, making even foes such as Goombas slightly formidable. Thankfully, Captain Toad can defend himself by plucking turnips from the ground and throwing them Super Mario Bros. 2 style. There are also the odd levels which involve mine cart and turret sections, which shift the camera to first person as you fire turnips at obstacles. It may not sound like much and on paper it’s all very simple, but Captain Toad is never less than completely compelling.
One of Nintendo’s trademarks is its ability to use familiar mechanics in utterly unfamiliar ways, through ingenious level design. Although you’re not really doing much different in each level, it always feels fresh and new, with some clever puzzles. For example, there are words based around the timed level switches we’ve been seeing since Super Mario Galaxy and worlds where platforms can be raised and lowered with a tap on the touch screen. There are worlds which focus on stealth, some on reflex and action and some on puzzling skills. You rarely feel like you’re doing the same thing twice, which for a game with such simple mechanics is a real accomplishment. I could have done with a bit more for the money I paid; although it is at a slightly lower price point, it’s still a rather light experience. There’s an attempt to extend the game with the optional challenges revealed at the end of each level, but this does feel like a way to artificially extend the experience.
Captain Toad looks basically the same as Super Mario 3D World, aka unbelievably lovely. Everything is smooth, fresh and charming, running at a delightfully smooth frame rate. The music is chirpy and catchy as would be expected. Really, praising Nintendo games for their technical excellence has become par for the course. In an industry prone to releasing glitchy unfinished messes of games too early, Nintendo are one of the few companies left that you can really trust to deliver.
This is pretty much exactly the game I thought it was going to be, but that’s ok because I thought it was going to be pretty great. If the worst I can say about a game is that it left me wanting more I suppose it can’t have done too badly. Captain Toad, although technically released in 2015 in Europe, nevertheless feels like a nice way to cap off what has been a good year for the Wii U.