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SummaryA Backpack Overburdened with Adventure
The GoodCaptain Toad and the Toad Brigade first showed up in a supporting role in Super Mario Galaxy, where they traveled the levels in their mushroom shaped spaceship. In Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad’s role was upgraded to playable character in his own set of intermission style levels where he navigated cube-like levels, collecting stars. The gameplay in these levels was a grand departure from the rest of the game to accommodate Captain Toad’s complete inability to jump. As a result, they were snack-sized levels with light puzzle elements. They were also absolutely fantastic diversions, and it left me wanting a full game based around the concept. Almost a year after he first got his playable role, Captain Toad is back to make my wish come true.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker will feel pretty familiar to anyone who played the intermission levels in Mario 3D World. Most of the mechanics that were present there have made the transition to the full experience. For those uninitiated, the goal is to guide Captain Toad to the star at the end of a series of obstacles. Toad’s overburdened backpack slows him down to the point where he’s sluggish and ineffective in combat, so much of the game revolves around navigating simple puzzles to reach the star. Spatial awareness is pretty important, requiring the zoomed back camera to be rotated around the small levels to reveal hidden paths and enemies. The gamepad’s touchscreen is used to manipulate certain pieces of the landscape, and blowing in the microphone can raise platforms, which works a lot better than it sounds and is actually pretty enjoyable.
Alongside the stars, three gems are hidden in each course, and collecting them presents a greater challenge than merely reaching the star. While collecting every gem is optional, it is necessary to collect enough to proceed through some of the milestone levels. Should the gems not provide enough of a challenge, each level also contains a special objective that requires you to perform certain feats, such as completing the level without taking damage or eliminating every enemy in the level. While none of the above is likely to completely bake your noodle, they do provide a fun assortment of tasks to keep things progressing.
Even as someone who was hoping for an expanded version of the initial Captain Toad concept, I was surprised by how much mileage Nintendo got out of the familiar gameplay. Many of the levels twist the mechanics in extremely interesting ways, presenting challenges that have you navigating darkened houses, digging to the bottom of a series of tunnels, shooting turnips from atop a minecart, or my personal favourite, riding a train through a blizzard. There are a lot of standout courses that show off the creativity of the design team, and while some themes repeat, it’s generally a fresh experience for most of the levels.
Above all, I simply love the game’s adorable presentation. I’ve been generally lukewarm to Toad as a character, especially since he developed a voice that sounds like he smokes twelve packs a day, but his captain persona is one that I’ve grown attached to. He shows off his personality quite well with the ways he celebrates or struggles with the weight of his backpack, and while it doesn’t reach the level of characterization found in something like Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, it does go a long way to keeping things entertaining. Captain Toad is just a character I’d like to see more of, and I hope he’s included in more of Mario’s future adventures.
As a side note, owners of Super Mario 3D World are given a little bonus for having a save file on their system. A number of bonus worlds are unlocked that are torn straight from Mario 3D World and rejiggered to allow Captain Toad to navigate them with his limited skills. The levels aren’t quite as fun to navigate as Toad, nor are they as fun as the core levels of Treasure Tracker, but it’s still a neat little bonus.
The BadI find it disappointing that, while the storyline sets everything up as though Captain Toad is setting out on some quest across dangerous territory, the gameplay doesn’t really give any sense of an expedition. Each level seems to be its own little pocket dimension and there’s no feel of progression from one place to the next. Aside from the slowly ramping difficulty, there’s no real suggestion of it being a journey.
The only time I got any sense of travel was during the Star Express level, which has Toad riding along on a train, but even it doesn’t show him actually getting anywhere. There’s never any transition between stages; one moment you’re in a haunted house, the next you’re in a volcano. The minecart levels would be well put to use if they linked up the various level types, but again, they exist only in their own place and time. Obviously this is a superficial complaint and doesn’t really have any impact on gameplay, but a more cohesive experience is something I feel the game would benefit from.
There’s a lot of recycling that goes on in Captain Toad. Visually, a lot of assets seem to be lifted directly from Super Mario 3D World and gussied up a bit, but the most noticeable example of re-use is with the boss battles. In total, there’s about two, but they’re repeated a few times throughout the game. They’re also largely the same battle each time, only toughened up a bit. I feel this is a massive missed opportunity, since there are a lot of interesting opportunities for boss encounters without the use of direct combat. While the rest of the game feels pretty tight, this particular piece of repetition feels lazy in hindsight.