Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Posted 01 Dec 2014 at 21:36 by Jonathan Stanley
When you think about what makes Nintendo titles so special, so different from their competitors over the years, you think of charm, character, fun, and a sprinkle of Nintendo magic dust just for good measure. It's safe to say Captain Toad: Treasure Trackers embodies all of those characteristics, fleshing out its simple but effective puzzle mechanics in a game you'll look forward to playing right from the simple but delightful toot on the opening screen all the way to the end of chapter three and beyond.
If you played last year's excellent Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, you'll be instantly familiar with the concept behind Treasure Trackers. If not, then what were mini games in the aforementioned title have been fleshed out into a full game that involves you controlling Captain Toad around a series of levels attempting to collects gems and, ultimately, stars, to advance to the next world. The catch is, Toad can't jump. So it's up to you to navigate and rotate the map using the analogue stick or the GamePad itself to work out just how to get our Captain from A to B, often via C, D, E and however else you like as well; avoiding obstacles, enemies, traps and working out puzzles to prove that Toad can indeed be the hero he has often dreamed of, but his courage has never allowed him to be.
There is a story wrapped around these imaginative levels involving a kidnapping and a menacing looking bird called Wingo with a penchant for shiny things like, oooo, stars! Which sets Toad out on his path of discovery. What follows is a master class from Nintendo in tight, fun and dynamic level design. I can't think of one single level I didn't enjoy, with each one offering a beautiful aesthetic in line with 3D World's Mario Universe, including pause menu and in game HUD design, and some incredibly catchy and fun tunes. That really sums up the game, it's just fun, so much fun that I mostly played it with a smile on my face (apart from the odd frown when a puzzle presented itself) and found myself whistling the tunes and smiling just thinking about the experience.
The game is really good value for money as well, packing a lot in to a title which, a quick search on Amazon suggests, can be bought for £30. I encountered the end of game credits after three hours worth of play, however I've played Nintendo games for too many years to know that's not the end of what's on offer, and sure enough that was only the tip of the iceberg. The game is set up into different 'books' as it were, and this first one took me the said three hours, collecting all stars and gems from it. This then unlocked a second book, and after that a third book as well. Completing all three of these books with all stars and gems took me about twelve hours in total, at which point I was satisfied I'd seen enough from Treasure Trackers and was happy with what it offered.
But that wasn't it!
I've been intentionally vague about actual levels as it really is an experience best served up fresh and uninformed, exploring these tiny domains yourself and enjoying the satisfaction of seeing what Nintendo has cooked up next. All I'll say about the end of the game is, if someone had videoed my reaction to the end credits and what came after, I would have been smiling through it, followed by a toothy grin, then maybe a solitary 'Ha', next up a nod and smile for a 'job well done', followed by confusion, then a smile again, bigger smile, I can't believe it smile and finally laughing, genuine laughter at the ambition, audacity and ingenuity of this game.
Completing each book also opens up a time trial option of each level, seeing how fast you can get to the star can be a challenge, especially when it's a five second limit. There are also coin grab stages and other bonus bits thrown in to round out the package, and it's clear that Nintendo has put a lot of effort into what could have been a quick release.
Having said that, there are gripes. My preference was to move the camera using the analogue stick, and this was because physically moving the GamePad around felt cumbersome and not quite as responsive as I would like. In the mine cart stages when you go into a first person mode and shoot turnips this became more evident as. I play with the GamePad facing downwards, like most people I'd imagine. This is then set as the default start position, so by the time you've waved the pad around trying to get the correct angle to shoot, half the level has been and gone. It's by no means a deal breaker and a quick use of the analogue sticks makes it easy to forgive and forget, but it sadly once again shows up that even Nintendo has not mastered their own hardware, save for the as always brilliant off-TV feature.
The difficulty was also an issue for me, namely as I felt I breezed through the game fairly easily. Barring a few five minute head scratches, I found it fairly easy to complete each level with star, three gems and the bonus objective all done before moving onto the next level. Nintendo has been masters of presenting a cute and cuddly game which you can complete fairly easily, but if you go further you can find some rock hard challenges that only seasoned gamers would dare attempt, so it's disappointing that this title seems to cater only for the easier route.
And finally, although this takes nothing away from the game itself, this would have been a perfect Christmas game. Possibly THE perfect Christmas game. A morning on Smash, Christmas dinner, the Queen's speech followed by Captain Toad would have been nigh on perfect. As it is, Christmas 2014's loss is New Year 2015's gain, and it will be an absolute gem of a title to get you through those back to work, already failed New Year's resolution blues.
Captain Toad: Treasure Trackers is incredible fun. But we all knew it would be anyway. A few niggles and an annoying release date do nothing to take away from the fact this is Nintendo charm and polish in one glorious little mushroom man. Set aside some of your Christmas money and see in the New Year in style, you won't be disappointed.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Much like Toad himself, this game is a bit short side but full of charm. It's the kind of title that perfectly captures the Nintendo magic.
Tight level design
Full of character and style
Poor Game Pad integration
Difficulty level set to low
Not wrapped up under the Christmas tree