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Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Wii U

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Wii U

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii UPlatform:  Wii U

Release Date (NA):  December 5th, 2014

Developer:  Nintendo

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Puzzle, Platformer

Nerd Rating:  7.5 out of 10

I’ve been eager to play Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker ever since the news of its release first broke, and I’m happy to say that it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s a surprisingly refined piece of work that almost completely constructs a puzzle game out of platforming conventions.  Puzzles, in the form of cleverly hidden secrets, have been around almost as long as platformers themselves (think about the warp zones in Super Mario Bros. and all the little areas in The Legend of Zelda).  These aren’t examples of puzzles per se, but they do represent something beyond the obvious, usually prefaced with cryptic clues.  Captain Toad removes most of the standard platforming objectives and gets down to the bare essence of activities like “finding stars” (popular since the days of Super Mario 64) and offers up something both new and familiar at the same time.

Anyone who’s played Super Mario 3D World will know exactly what to expect from Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.  At a few points during the game, the player is confronted with small puzzles featuring Toad that play out quite differently from the main game.  I remember instantly loving these quick diversions and wishing there were more of them in 3D World, eventually coming to the conclusion that Nintendo ought to make an entire game based on this concept.  They did, and anyone enamored with these little tidbits will be completely taken with Captain Toad.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

The diorama-like levels comprising the majority of the game.

Each level is like a self contained diorama.  Remember what a diorama is?  When you’d cut out the side of shoebox and glue things like sand and paper to the inside to make it look like a day at the beach or a scene from a movie?  That’s what these little levels look like.  They’re in a cube-like shape and have a very toyetic appearance to them.  It’s easy to imagine these things as actual playsets, something like a Lego or Mighty Max.  Toad (and sometimes Toadette) must traverse these levels and reach the star at the end.  For the most part these levels are set up like any standard Mario platformer, but there’s a catch – Toad can’t jump!  Nintendo actually posits a reasonable explanation for this, by having the character wear a large backpack that makes it impossible for him or her to jump.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

The hammer is one of the game’s most common powerups, used to smash blocks that usually reveal hidden items.

Instead, Toad/Toadette must use various machinations around the course.  Sometimes they’re as simple as ramps and stairs; other times they involve complex systems of elevators, switches, and gears.  In later stages, a small selection of powerups also assists our “treasure tracker,” such as a hammer that can crush rocks for a short time and the cherry introduced in 3D World that creates duplicates of the character.  Like Mario, Toad must face off against enemies like Shy Guys and Biddybuds, but unlike Mario, Toad can’t simply hop on them to dispatch them.  In fact, there’s very little Toad can do on the offensive front (except throw the occasional turnip or walk off a ledge right on top of a baddie) and often times it becomes more strategic to simply avoid and/or outsmart them.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U


That’s the basic gist of things, though Nintendo spices it up a bit so that it firmly feels a part of the Mario universe.  For instance Toad gathers coins, uses a mushroom to gain an extra hit, and deals with familiar concepts such as the “beat blocks.”  Although it sounds simple, it’s astonishing how complex these little worlds start to become after about the 10th level or so.  Each level also has multiple objectives in addition to reaching the star: finding the 3 jewels (which are hidden better and better as the levels wear on), and then a secondary challenge which can involve one of several things.  They range from collecting a certain number of coins, to defeating all the bad guys, to defeating none of the bad guys, to finding a hidden Golden Mushroom, and many more.  Early stages are pretty easy to whiz through, but these goals leave plenty of reason to revisit later levels.  Sometimes, the specific goal can’t be accomplished in tandem with gathering one or more of the jewels, so it becomes necessary to play it at least twice.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

The occasional minecart levels are a lot of fun. The TV screen displays a 3rd person perspective while the GamePad allows for a first person view, complete with a reticle for tossing turnips.

In addition to the standard “diorama levels,” Captain Toad also contains a few other goodies.  First up are the bonus stages that appear from time to time, including amazing 10-second coin rushes and maze-running with a pursuer a la Cosmic Mario.  As far as regular stages go, there are a few where Toad flies down a track in a minecart and must toss turnips to reveal and collect items.  These are a ton of fun, especially when it comes to figuring out just where those gems are hiding by wildly tossing turnips while careening down the track.  Also of note are the “boss battles.”  They’re structured like the regular “diorama levels,” but made all the more difficult because of some constant threat from a big bad.  Admittedly these play out a little more like a conventional platformer, but I do enjoy how the puzzle elements are integrated.  Having to explore while dealing with a very finite time limit is one of those things that Mario games have excelled at in recent years, and it manages to stir up the perfect degree of frustration and determination in me.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

Boss battles are considerably more difficult, especially when trying to gather jewels and complete challenges.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

One of the game’s more unusual stages.

In order to navigate these self-contained, cube-like worlds, a novel control scheme has been developed.  The standard stuff like running around, not jumping, and an “action” button with which to interact with thing are quite typical, but the entire right analog stick is devoted to the camera.  Most of the time this offers a complete 3-D view of the area.  Different specific spots will require a different angle, and the range of freedom is impressive.  One can zoom in and get right down to Toad’s level, or one can zoom out and get a total bird’s eye view of the play area.  The camera can be rotated to face Toad, or placed behind Toad, or anywhere in between, and in many cases it’s necessary to play around with the camera in order to find certain items.  These environments are truly 3-D and the 3-D is used in a practical sense moreso than any other games I’ve ever played.  With the camera, one can get a complete 3-D perspective of the level of all 3 dimensions are fully utilized with regards to where items and objects are placed.  It requires a whole new way of thinking of and looking at the world.  In most games, the camera is fixed and we’re forced to see what the developers want us to see – we can’t see the back of a tree or the other side of a hill – but in Captain Toad, there is no “correct angle.”  We can see the other side of the hill or the back of a tree.  It’s pretty amazing that someone finally came up with a way to make 3-D actually serve a purpose.

The one complaint I have about the camera is how it’s tied into the movement of the GamePad.  While the right analog stick controls it, so does moving the GamePad itself.  So if you decide to shift or make too large of a movement, the screen will go wild for a second.  Thankfully, control is easily regained by grabbing the right stick, but it’s still a minor annoyance.  A simple option to turn the motion controls off would’ve been a sufficient fix on Nintendo’s part.

Graphics are great and in line with what we’ve come to expect from top-tier Wii U releases.  Stylistically they’re pretty much based off of those in Super Mario 3D World.  Colors are vibrant, lines are smooth, and everything looks great.  I’ve got no complaints here; this is definitely up there with the best of what the Wii U has to offer.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

The use of light and color looks fantastic.

As an added bonus, those with Super Mario 3D World save data on their console will be treated to a bonus set of levels.  Players can traipse through the actual levels from 3D World (albeit with minor alterations to accommodate Toad’s “no jump” policy) in search of stars.  It’s not a huge addition, but it is kind of fun to see these environments from a different perspective and with a more limited set of abilities.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii UFans of recent Mario games should enjoy Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.  It has the same fun and carefully thought out level design while introducing something new for platforming and puzzle veterans and newcomers alike.  It’s a unique melding of both genres and fits perfectly amongst Nintendo’s repertoire of whimsical and fantastical yet expertly crafted games.  Most other main Mario characters have their own games so far – Luigi got Luigi’s MansionYoshi got Yoshi’s IslandWario has a slew of Wario Land titles, and even Peach got her very own Super Princess Peach.  It’s great that after nearly 30 year Toad is finally at the helm of his own adventure and that Nintendo has put the character at the center of something so unique.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Wii U

The big bad in Captain Toad.

For now Captain Toad is straightforward and a little fragmented – first one level and then the next – but it’ll be interesting to see how Nintendo develops this idea in the coming years.  It doesn’t yet have the flow of a whole game just yet, but it’s an excellent start (and reasonably priced at just 2/3 the cost of a full game) and proves itself as one of the Wii U games to own.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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  1. It still astonishes me how beautiful Nintendo can make games on the Wii U look. It’s also great to see them release triple A titles for less than 60 bucks 🙂 I’ve been addicted to this game since release.


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