Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for Wii U

Time for adventure!

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was something of an unexpected announcement at Nintendo’s 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo presentation. Ever since “The Adventures of Captain Toad” appeared in Super Mario 3D World, fans had been clamoring for the diminutive hero to have a full game based on the concept. In that regard, it’s no surprise that Nintendo accommodated, but how quickly they did so did catch people a little bit off-guard.

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When speaking of the Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World‘s review, I stated it was:

…a great way to earn green stars by taking control of Captain Toad, who must make his way through a small single-player obstacle course to obtain all three green stars located therein. The only thing is, he can’t jump due to being weighed down by his backpack, forcing you to think your way through. This includes using the GamePad’s gyroscope to maneuver the camera, which can unfortunately be a bit of a pain in this instance.

For better or for worse, all of this holds true in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. However, instead of constructs which appear as little more than obstacle courses in both aesthetic as well as design, each level is like a diorama of sorts, styled to give a greater sense of place than those found in Mario’s last 3D adventure. This results in much more varied backdrops, from ruins to a desert prairie town to ghost houses to a snow-covered train racing through the night. What’s more, each is presented with the lush detail seen in the environments scattered throughout Super Mario 3D World, too.

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Not only are the levels more varied, but the gameplay as well. Turnip-tossing a la the Nintendo Entertainment System classic Super Mario Bros. 2 is back, and serves as Captain Toad’s primary defense against the simple Shy Guys and Goombas which stand to thwart our stalwart hero in his quest for gold stars.

This also comes into play during certain levels in which Captain Toad takes off in a mine cart full of turnips, using them to bust blocks, gather coins and jewels, and of course, bop enemies in the head. In a unique use of the Wii U GamePad, the television continues with a standard view of the action, while the GamePad screen displays a first-person view.

Aiming is performed by either moving the GamePad around to adjust the reticule, or attempting to do so with the right analog stick. However, unless you’re willing to stand up to move the GamePad around by turning your whole body, you’re not going to get much out of the motion controls, and are better off sticking with the right thumbstick.

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Truth be told, my biggest grievance with the game would probably be how the camera was implemented (Second biggest: Getting hit doesn’t allow you to run through enemies while flickering as playing nearly 30 years of Mario games has taught me to do). Unlike some 3D Mario games– Super Mario 3D World comes to mind– you actually have a lot of camera control. Thanks to the smaller diorama-esque stages, you can swing the camera a full 360 degrees in most cases, as well as up and down to such a degree that you view things from a side or overhead view.

However, if you’d rather stick to manipulating the camera through the right stick alone, you unfortunately have no option to disable the motion controls for regular levels. It’s only a problem if you’re moving around a lot, but it can still be a bit of a nuisance. Similarly, the X button allows you to zoom in on the action, but in many cases, I found it too close for comfort, while zooming out would sometimes take me too far; there wasn’t really a very good in-between.

The GamePad also displays the same action that’s happening on the television most of the time, save for the aforementioned first-person portions. That said, there are also certain stages and obstacles which require you to touch certain objects on the GamePad screen. It might just be me, but when I’d get caught up in such situations, I’d find myself forgetting to look back at the television. In that way, along with the first-person bits, it almost feels as though the game was meant to be played on the GamePad screen instead of the television, which practically becomes surplus to requirements.

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Contrary to the version seen in Super Mario 3D World, there is a lot more to do here beyond simply reaching the goal. There are treasures scattered all about, including coins, mushrooms, and– in most cases– three Super Gems to collect, which act similarly to the Stars found in many a Mario game, allowing you to progress when so many have been collected.

Besides the turnips and mushrooms, some stages feature other items for Captain Toad to use to his advantage. Double Cherries make their return from Super Mario 3D World for when one Toad isn’t enough, and Super Pickaxes can sometimes be found to break through stronger blocks and tougher foes to something of a techno remix of the Invincible Hammer theme from Donkey Kong. It’s a nice touch, to be sure.

In addition to returning to find that one Super Gem you might have missed, many (if not all) levels also have a secret goal to achieve. There’s a chance you might do it before completing the level the first time, but in case you don’t do so, it’s revealed upon completion, giving you further cause to challenge yourself.

One other thing to note is that there is something of a treat for those who have Super Mario 3D World save data on their Wii U’s, as it unlocks a series of bonus levels which include modified versions of some levels from that game for Captain Toad to venture through. However, you’re going to need a lot of Super Gems to open each level.

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While I want to say that this is a solid recommendation, there is one thing those interested should be aware of: Possible motion sickness. As noted, there is a lot of camera movement throughout the game, nearly all of it driven by the player, and some people aren’t able to handle the constant shifting and turning as well as others. While I was unaffected, my wife wasn’t able to keep up with the game for too long as a result. So if this is a problem for you or someone you know, be mindful about it going in.

Basically, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is everything you know and love– or don’t love– about the mini-levels which inspired it from Super Mario 3D World, blown up to a larger scale to be its own worthwhile title– just like we wanted. It’s solid, fun, and makes you think.

There is quite a bit of content to go around here, too, with over 70 levels– that’s as big as some Mario games (and bigger than others). There are all sorts of neat touches throughout, like Toad shivering in cold weather, or invisible coins being revealed according to whether or not you’ve turned Captain Toad’s headlamp on or off. It’s clear that a lot of love and detail went into making this game.

All this, and there’s still amiibo functionality to come, though we have no idea what they’ll even do yet.

It’s been just over 20 years since a Toad last starred in its own game, and that one– Wario’s Woods— didn’t even have their name in the title. That said, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a fine way to establish their place in the spotlight, and hopefully we’ll see more out of these little guys before too long.

captaintoadpkgsmCaptain Toad: Treasure Tracker was released for the Wii U on December 5th, 2014 at a price of $44.99.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.