Almost every character has had a spinoff title in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Luigi got his break back in Luigi’s Mansion, while Princess Peach had her own rather easy platformer on the Nintendo DS – Super Princess Peach. Bowser himself has been playable in multiple incarnations of Mario RPGs, leaving the only reoccurring character that’s not a generic villain yet to get their own game as Toad. What began as a fun diversion in Super Mario 3D World has blossomed into its own spinoff in the form of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. But is there gold at the end of this treasure hunt, or is it full of junk?
Like most Mario games, the premise is simple: Collect stars to advance through each map. Captain Toad’s quest begins with Toadette being incidentally kidnapped trying to hold onto a star that is swiped by new villain Wingo – a giant bird with a turban. Its slower pace allows the game to look visually appealing and smooth, making Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker a polished effort. Even though the gameplay is unlike typical Mario games, it fits in well with the universe and is utterly adorable.
Digging for treasure
These puzzle like levels aren’t particularly difficult to navigate. Toad can only move, warp through pipes, and have minimal interactions with certain objects; ensuring players aren’t intimidated by the sometimes complex looking levels. As a player, you also have to either touch on the Wii U Game Pad or blow into the microphone to activate platforms for Toad or Toadette to traverse. Enemies on the other hand act more like sentries than traditional Mario foes. Some levels, especially ones with Goombas and Shy Guys, turn the game from Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker to Metal Gear Toad! Stealth is rudimentary, but works well enough not to be a hassle. Damage acts just like the main Mario games, with Mushrooms acting as healing items if hit, meaning that the main concepts are instantly familiar to fans.
Breaking things up are the mine cart levels, which are by far the best mine cart levels ever! No more are we subjected to instant death states ala Donkey Kong Country, but instead an on-rails (I’m not sorry) first person shooter section where you throw happy turnips. The skill is to hit things with vegetables, rather than ducking behind cover, so it is a glorified shooting gallery; but it splits up the gameplay nicely.
What doesn’t work very well is the camera, partially because of the gyro controls that can thankfully be ignored in favour of the right analogue stick. The gyro controls make looking at the puzzle imprecise with the slightest movement taking the camera out of focus from where you want it to be. What the analogue stick can’t fix is that sometimes the level is uncomfortably sized, with the zoom button barely helping in certain cases. Obscured parts of the level also leave obtaining gems or hidden items to guesswork.
For glory and riches!
Each level upon first try may take a minute or two tops, meaning that the game ends up being a rather short adventure if you merely want to complete the game. However the quantity of side missions is what keeps Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker interesting. Obtaining each gem isn’t that much more difficult, but achieving the side-missions which include not getting detected by Shy Guys or finding the Golden Mushroom hidden in the level. Occasionally a bonus level will unlock, challenging you to collect as many coins as possible within a short time frame, sometimes requiring an item like the Pickaxe or Cherries; or to avoid shadow Toads chasing after you. They’re fun diversions, but these don’t reward you with much beyond score.
After the rather short three chapters, new levels do unlock that feature Super Mario 3D World inspired courses and remixes of previous found levels within the game. With the upcoming update for the Toad Amiibo figure, there is an extra mode coming that will increase the post-game options further, but it still feels rather light on content to justify even its lower-than-average recommended retail price.
For general ease and its short length, it’s somewhat difficult to fully recommend Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Running through the game casually won’t take very long, usually an afternoon for the more experienced gamer. But investing time into achieving all the side objectives, as well as unlocking the bonus levels with gems is well worth it as they include new gameplay experiences that are well worth getting into. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker has that Mario seal of quality, but also like the main series, seems to suffer a bit from a short run-time.