Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the first true outing for Mario’s fungal friend. Instead of being a platformer, however, this one is more of a puzzler with action elements. Originally released on the Wii U in 2014, it has now been brought to the Nintendo Switch to give those who decided to pass on Nintendo’s last generation console a chance to play it.
Par for the course with Super Mario titles, the controls are extremely simple. Since Captain Toad’s bag is filled to the brim with treasure, he isn’t able to jump or perform any of the acrobatics one would expect from a 3D Mario title. He’s limited to walking, running, climbing ladders and cranking the occasional lever. In a nod to Super Mario Bros.2, he can also pick up items at a quick pace and chuck them around (be it turnips, keys, or certain enemies). You’re also given complete 360 degree control of the camera, which you’ll constantly have to be manipulating as you work your way across the game’s 80 or so mini-levels. If you’ve ever played a 3D Mario adventure, you pretty much know what to expect sans the jumping and parkour moves.
While the levels may not be as grand and open as that of other Mario games, there’s still no denying that Treasure Tracker is a gorgeous game. All of the characters and environments are filled to the brim with charm. A Shy Guy who’s alerted to your presence will become startled and begin to chase you down. All the while, Captain Toad (or Toadette, depending on where you are in the story) will shriek as you attempt to run away from it. After a while, that Shy Guy will bend over to catch his breath. While presentation has never been the focus of most platform or puzzle games, it’s quite difficult not to smile while playing Treasure Tracker thanks to the amount of care that went into the game’s appearance. My only complaint is that whenever you’re close to a wheel that you need to turn, a large tutorial box will pop up on the screen and cover up some of the playing field. It’s fairly transparent and won’t obstruct so much that you won’t be able to see crucial details of the map, but I still found it pretty annoying and wished there was a way to disable it.
Progression is also similar to that of the main 3D Mario titles with a few added twists. While the primary objective of each level is to reach the power star, there are also three gems to pick up as well as hidden golden mushrooms (worth 50 coins each) and the staple 1-up mushroom. In addition to this, there’s a challenge objective to complete unique to each stage. This can range from finishing the stage in a limited amount of block movements to defeating all of the enemies. It’s worth using your noodle to pick up the gems in particular, as stages unlock not by the amount of power stars/stages cleared but by gems. Fortunately, the requirements leave a wide enough margin for missing gems that most players won’t ever need to back-track if they just want to beat the game.
When it comes to puzzle/platform games, level design truly is the name of the game and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker delivers. While many gimmicks and structures found in Super Mario 3D Land as well as Super Mario 3D World return (such as double cherries, platforms that turn off and on to a beat and clear pipes that allow for a change of direction), their implementation has been well thought-out and no level in the game feels the same outside of a few diversion stages and the boss fights. The puzzles are, for the most part, pretty simple and I had very few problems figuring out what needed to be done to advance even though I have minimal experience with the puzzle genre. Despite the relative ease of the puzzles and honestly the game itself, snatching up all the gems or manipulating the environment and camera to reach the power stars never felt anything less than satisfying. Even the “boss” fights are interesting, as most of them involve around Toad/Toadette scaling a tower while the boss character follows and attempts to make life difficult (be it changing the direction of the wind or hurling fireballs).
While the replay value is helped by the amount of collectibles and the secondary missions, Treasure Tracker is fairly short just to beat. I reached the end of the game roughly around the five hour mark with little difficulty, and would imagine that it would take 7-10 hours to 100 percent the game. While the game is brimming with charm and clever level design, the amount of content here can reasonably throw someone off when considering that this is a $40 game that could be had for a lower price on a last generation console.
Still, despite the game’s brevity and lack of difficulty for non-completionists, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a game that is absolutely worth checking out if you missed out on it before. It’s a unique spin on the traditional Mario formula that does enough differently to stand out and is easily accessible to most players regardless of if they’re inexperienced with puzzle games or platformers. At the very least, it deserves a rental if you’re not aiming to 100% the game.
+Overflowing with charm and personality
+The returning gimmicks from the traditional Mario outings are well implemented and never feel shoehorned in to fit the style of this spinoff
+While getting to the end of the stage is easy enough on its own, getting all of the collectibles requires some thought and are satisfying to seek out
-The asking price is a bit daunting for anyone who just wants to see the game from start to finish without fully completing it, especially considering this is a port of a last generation game with just a handful of exclusive levels.