If you’re looking for a diversion without making a commitment to a story, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker may be right up your alley. A puzzle game within the Mario theme, it follows Toad and Toadette as they try to save each other from giant birds while searching for booty.
Each stage is self-contained, with it’s own hazards and puzzles. There are lava traps, water traps, speed traps and cannons, all of the Mario-type puzzles you would expect. There are also three diamonds and a star to pick up on each stage, as well as a bonus challenge like coin collecting or gold mushroom hunting. While there are a wide variety of short stages with various hazards, by the time you finish the game there is a feeling that more could have been done with them. Some levels allow you to duplicate your little Toadling, controlling two or multiple Toads at once, but these are very few and far between. No matter which theme from the stages you enjoy, chances are you’ll feel like they could have done more with it.
They could have done more with the controls as well. Toad may not have been the best jumper in Super Mario Bros. 2, but he could still jump. Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to our mushroom headed friends; even though they can (kind of) dash around for not much of a speed boost, it seems a lifetime of waiting for Mario in a hut has caught up with the Toads and they can jump no more. Some may advocate that this adds to the challenge. I say nuts to that. There are better ways to challenge in a platformer than taking away such an essential function. It really shows on the bonus stages, which are lifted from the recent Super Mario 3D World. In these stages there is no jumping on your foes, just running from them; there is no cat suit, and there are tubes that carry Toad over the smallest step. A world that should be filled with excitement is nothing more than a bland tour of a world apparently not meant for Toad.
Despite Toad’s limitations, there is room for fun. The game proper has lots of challenge over the ninety or so levels. There are dragons, retro themed levels, pipe worlds filled with those little spikey jerks, running around upside down, those awful donut things that will plummet you to your death if you stand still, speed boosts that launch you towards your doom, and giant birds that can only be defeated by giant onions.
There’s always a new challenge in the game, but unless you intentionally take it slow on the short-but-sweet levels you will find yourself out of the game before long. This is the type of game that needs DLC or a sequel after the first weekend to keep it fresh. Once you collect your items and win a stamp on a stage, going back to it feels really tedious. There is no point in going back to collect coins, as every “Game Over” takes you to a treasure cave where you can win lives. Collecting coins will give you a 1-Up when you reach 100 coins, but most levels don’t have 100 coins and they do not carry over to the next level. This makes collecting coins only necessary if collecting coins is a bonus objective.
A fun diversion for the whole family and an interesting new franchise in the Mario franchise, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker ultimately falls short of greatness. Without jumping, Toad just can’t compete with modern-day pixelated heroes like Mario (jumping since the 80’s). The levels are neat, but there aren’t enough of the ones you like, no matter which ones you enjoy. Lives are meaningless, as is “Game Over”, and the bonus levels are the height of tedium. There’s fun to be had on each stage, but they go by quickly in the mad dash for treasure. Worth the rental, but maybe not the buy, unless you’re that much of a Terrance and Phillip fan that you just can’t resist searching for treasure (and mac and cheese). Farrt.
*Unless otherwise noted all pictures courtesy of Miiverse