I’ve always said that Toad was an underappreciated Mario character. Toad has been around since the very beginning, from telling Mario that Peach was in fact in another castle, to joining the Mario crew for friendly games of Tennis and Kart Racing, he’s always been a vital cog of the Mario franchise, and (unlike Waluigi) deserving of his own standalone title. Becoming another great game pilfered from the corpse of the Wii U (rest in peace, sweetheart) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an action puzzle game centering on Captain Toad and Toadette and their escapades through a vast array of gorgeously colourful and diverse diorama-like levels. Each level offers up its own challenges and gameplay mechanics, and despite the levels never reaching a crazy level of head-scratching difficulty, Captain Toad offers a remarkably tight and enthralling adventure from start to finish.
Upon launching the game, you are immediately thrown in to a tutorial level, and after being introduced to the controls, you make your way as Toad alongside Toadette, toward a glistening Power Star. Toad and Toadette rejoice in glee at the acquisition of their latest find, however their happiness is short lived, as Toadette and the Power Star are quickly whisked away by an enormous bird named Wingo (because birds), setting the scene for Captain Toad to journey off to not only search for an abundance of Power Stars, but also track down and rescue Toadette. As to be expected from a Nintendo title, the story on display isn’t at all deep in any regard, and really serves only to be the overarching reason as to why Toad embarks on his quest, and I’m cool with how it’s executed. Captain Toad prefers to not invest in story, instead putting all the attention towards the gameplay, and thankfully, the game is a treat to play. Besides, I can’t say I’m dying to discover the lore of Captain Toad, although that’d be kind of sweet wouldn’t it?
Wingo is here to ruin your day
As mentioned previously, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an exceptionally fun game to play. The premise is decidedly simple, as Toad or Toadette (dependant on what levels you’re playing), your goal is to reach the Power Star located somewhere in the level, and collect the optional three jewels per level. The ‘optional’ gems are sometimes required to unlock certain levels, but they are often so easily found that you probably don’t need to backtrack to prior levels unless you have been actively ignoring them. As the game progresses, leaving a level with all three gems is less of an occurrence however, with a difficulty spike in locating treasures that I appreciated.
Stripped from Toad’s repertoire in Treasure Tracker is the ability to jump, turning bite-sized levels that could be scaled in mere seconds with a jump into mini puzzles that require calculated thinking. The lack of a jump also dramatically changes enemy encounters. A simple jump to take out a Goomba or Shy Guy in prior games is no longer an option, meaning that alerting an enemy of your whereabouts leads to a frantic dash to safety. Toad isn’t completely helpless from enemies however. Toad can pluck turnips from tufts of grass to hurl at enemies, while the Super Pickaxe power-up serves as a quick fix to mowing down a multitude of foes, as well as to break down the otherwise impervious big brick blocks. Toad’s lack of ability to jump is always jarring, especially in the presence of enemies or a ledge just out of reach, but it’s how you cope without these luxuries that makes Captain Toad’s levels such an interesting task to complete.
The lack of a jump can make enemy encounters a tad stressful
Despite being simple in design, the process of traversing through the game’s more than 70 levels is particularly enjoyable and feature varied levels of difficulty. Some levels feel insanely simple, while others had me puzzled for a few minutes before realising what needed to be done, an act that quickly filled me an incredible sense of achievement. The odd minecart level among the usual diorama level is also an enjoyable albeit short departure. There are even a couple of boss fights throughout the game, which involve both running away and completing level puzzles under duress, and attacking with whatever is at your disposal.
Each level in Captain Toad has an additional task that if completed will net you a nice red tick in the check box on the page of the level in Toad’s journal. These tasks range from objectives such as collecting a certain amount of coins or locating the stage’s Gold Mushroom. If a level is 100% cleared, you get a large crown stamp on the level page. Each level also has a hide and seek with Pixel Toad mini-game you can play after beating the stage once. They are quick levels in which you must find and interact with the Pixel Toad hiding somewhere in the level. Succeeding will net you a Pixel Toad stamp for that page. Overall there is a decent amount of mini objectives to achieve in each level, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frantically trying to get all the stamps for each level page.
Nothing better than celebrating the defeat of a formidable foe
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker does have a couple of minor issues however. The first problem I have with Captain Toad is the overall lack of replayability. Yes, I did just gush about my obsession with adorning each page of Toad’s numerous journals with all the stamps, but other than that, there isn’t any reason to return to Captain Toad’s levels. Star and gem placement is always the same, and the Pixel Toad, despite being something that wouldn’t be too difficult to randomise, is shockingly always located in the same space. It’s a shame that the opportunity to implement more replayable levels wasn’t implemented, as only one solution to everything essentially renders a level pointless to play again post-completion. Another issue arises in the games difficulty, or better yet, the lack thereof. I only died a handful of times throughout my playthrough, and only in a few places did I ever feel like death was coming or that the puzzle was difficult. Treasure Tracker’s lack of difficulty isn’t particularly bad per se, I was more or less just hoping for a bit more of a challenge.
It sucks that levels aren’t overly replayable, BUT CHECK OUT THOSE STAMPS!
If you happen to own some amiibo figures (or 75 like me at the time of writing this review) Captain Toad Treasure Tracker does include some amiibo features, varying from cool to basically pointless. If you scan the Toad amiibo, you are granted an invincibility mushroom that makes you impervious to enemy attacks for the entirety of the selected level, an item that is so overpowered that it makes the game which already has an overall low level of difficulty ever easier. I’m all for items like these being implemented for players that struggle and need to use them, or as a tool to let kids experience a game they may otherwise struggle to grasp, but to have that item tied to an amiibo is utterly bizarre. Other amiibo scanned grant you with 1-Up Mushrooms, but in a game where deaths aren’t in abundance and you’re given numerous 1-Up Mushrooms in-game anyway, it doesn’t make scanning in these amiibo a worthwhile affair. If you do happen to have any of the Super Mario Odyssey amiibo, these can net you early access to the Odyssey-themed stages that will otherwise be locked until later on in the game. Amiibo have provided interesting and enjoyable additions to many Nintendo titles, but overall their integration in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker falls flat.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an awesome action puzzler that deserved a second chance after coming and going relatively unnoticed on the Wii U. The act of trudging through a myriad of Mario-themed locales as the lovable Captain Toad is a fun-filled affair. Levels are varied in puzzle design and boss battles when encountered are thrilling and intense. The game may be a tad too easy and not offer much of a reason to replay levels after 100% completing them, but Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker still provides a strong 7-10 hour journey worth taking.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code supplied by publisher