So about a year ago Nintendo graced their struggling Wii U with Super Mario 3D World, and as expected it was critically lauded and hailed as one of the crown jewels of the console. And rightfully so because even the most jaded cynic would look silly trying to say that Nintendo don’t have a pretty good grasp on how to make a high-quality platformer.
But more important than any of that – important here meaning ‘relevant to this review’ – was the creation of Captain Toad and a series of puzzle and exploration-based levels that were included in one of the game’s side quests. The concept proved popular enough for Nintendo to take the idea all the way into a full game, and a year later we have Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
to show for their efforts.
The changes to the traditional Mario formula were fundamentally simple, but their impact was great. With the removal of your ability to jump, the Mario series’ usual precise acrobatics were replaced with a much more deliberate, grounded approach. Denied the chance to dispatch enemies with a good stomp from above, now even long-standing series cannon fodder like the Goombas become a much more pressing danger.
Instead, you’re now forced to avoid enemies as best you can, sneaking through the levels like a little mushroom-headed Solid Snake. Often the levels themselves will provide you with the means to defeat foes – either by providing you turnips to hurl at them or giving you higher vantage points from which you can not-so-gracefully drop down on them from as they still retain their weakness to attacks from above.
Finding ways to crush your enemies isn’t exactly the point of the game though, just one approach you can take to making things a little easier for yourself while you get on with your main goals – exploring levels, solving puzzles and collecting treasure. The level design is by far the strongest element of Captain Toad
and what really makes it the game it is.
The primary objective of each level is to reach the star at the end of the course which is all you need to progress to the next area. But playing this way will eventually lead to your progress being halted by barriers set up throughout the chapters. These barriers can only be broken by collecting enough crystals, three of which are tucked away in the hidden corners of each level.
The first chapter of the game will definitely lull you into a false sense of security and I could easily see people dismissing this as a kid’s game based on the ease of clearing these early levels. Even the imposingly large boss battles – pretty much obstacle courses disguised as battles thanks to your lack of offensive options – won’t give an experienced gamer a challenge at this point in the game.
The difficulty starts quickly ramping up once you move into the following chapters however, with levels growing much larger and more elaborate and hidden crystals becoming far trickier to reach in one piece. Later challenges will definitely test your problem-solving skills and most likely your patience.
There’s very little time spent on the damn near non-existent plot. Toad – who apparently can make himself a Captain despite a seeming lack of military or naval experience – and his Mario sports games regular partner and presumed girlfriend Toadette, are now explorers hunting for the age-old staple Mario collectible Stars.