Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Review
Toad wears many hats (well, technically mushrooms). He’s been a kart racer, a baseball player, a tennis champ, a turnip tosser, a save point, and Princess Peach’s personal butler/slave. But he’s never had his own game… until now. In Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Toad and Toadette set off on their own capitalistic adventure, and it’s quite easily the most adorable thing you’ll ever play. But is a charming game a good one?
Treasure Tracker follows the established Captain Toad formula from Super Mario 3D World with a few notable tweaks. First off, the level design is superior to anything seen in Mario 3D World. Each diverse stage is a miniature Rubik’s Cube-styled diorama oozing with personality. From molten lava craters, to spooky mansions, to speeding trains and hidden mines, each world feels incredibly varied. The animations are equally charming, which you’ll undoubtedly notice when you see Toad shiver in fright or notice a bird land on Toadette’s idle mushroom cap. It’s the attention to detail that separates Captain Toad (and Nintendo, for that matter) from almost everything else out there.
At least he learned something from Mario...
In Captain Toad, exploration is fundamentally important; you’re a treasure tracker, after all. From the very first level, you’re encouraged to uncover each secret tucked away behind loose turnips, pesky Shy Guys, and secret boulders. It’s amazing how many minute details have been packed into the tiny landscapes, and uncovering all the hidden secrets is incredibly rewarding. While there is an end-goal to each stage, you’re encouraged to discover three hidden gems, which are used to unlock later levels. All of the stages have secondary objectives, revealed only after you complete the level. While some might argue that this structure is an unfair way to encourage second playthroughs and increase replay value, I disagree. I enjoyed trying to predict the stage’s secondary objective (by avoiding damage, searching for golden mushrooms, collecting all the coins, etc.) without knowing exactly what I was looking for. Doing so made those accidental “I got it!” moments as exciting as the “oh, so that’s what they were looking for” realizations.
The joy of exploration is closely tied to the game’s controls. Toad and Toadette’s movements may seem restrictive at first (you cannot jump and can only run by holding down the A or B button), but it works much better than it sounds on paper, mostly because movement is less crucial than camera control. In fact, much of the gameplay is spent shifting the camera to an angle that reveals a secret entrance or that last hidden gem (which can be done using the right analog stick or GamePad’s built-in gyroscope). Treasure Tracker is also one of the few Nintendo titles that utilizes the GamePad in innovative ways, such as with the touchscreen or microphone. There are even a few FPS-style levels where you fire mushrooms using only the GamePad screen. While not incredibly exciting, these added levels are a nice change-of-pace in an otherwise linear game.
At any time, you can zoom in on the action by pressing the X button, which can be helpful in tight corridors. Or, if you’re like me, you can zoom in to marvel at Toad’s delightful animations. Oddly, there’s no option to turn off the gyroscopic camera controls, but don’t let that be a deal breaker. I only used the control stick for camera movement, and I didn’t find that the GamePad’s gyroscope interfered with the gameplay at all.
Enjoy it. You won't see anything this adorable until the next Captain Toad.
My biggest issue with Treasure Tracker is its limited scope as a budget title. Don’t expect intricate cut scenes or varied boss battles. In fact, most of the boss battles repeat with only small degrees of change. Likewise, while the levels vary in design, they don’t in overall structure, so if you’re not a fan for the first few stages, you likely won’t enjoy the remaining eighty. Taken as a whole, Treasure Tracker feels inherently smaller in scale than most first-party Nintendo titles, and ultimately one that works better as a pick-up-and-play title. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a New 3DS Captain Toad exclusive using the second c-stick for camera controls. The gameplay is far better suited to a handheld; I’d love to solve a few of these puzzles on the train.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a title that gamers of all ages can enjoy, and unless you lack a heart, it’s impossible to ignore the absurd levels of charm on display here. At its core, Treasure Tracker is a fairly basic puzzle title, but the rich details, fantastic music, and engaging level design set it apart from practically every other video game on the market. Here’s hoping Captain Toad becomes a staple Nintendo IP; I can’t wait to see this duo strap on their backpacks and headlamps again in search of treasure.
Please note that the final score is not an average