Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker: Be ready for adventure

December 11, 2014


Last year’s Super Mario 3D World was stellar as a whole, but a series of levels designed as a change of pace proved to be more than many expected. It’s great, then, that these stages get a second chance to shine in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, this time as the star. Don’t worry: any worries you have about the formula not working for a whole title can be quieted, as the Captain’s adventure finds way to keep things fresh.

In case you missed 3D World, a quick primer: Captain Toad (or Toadette) traverses diorama-like levels in true Mario-like fashion, except for one thing: the heavy adventurer’s backpack prevents jumping. Stairs, ladders, elevators and other methods get you around, in addition to just walking, and your goal is to collect the star at the end (and any gems you find along the way).

It’s a slower sort of experience than Mario: there’s no time limit and very little reflex-based challenge, and you can move the camera around and plan out exactly where you need to go and how to get there in a leisurely way. In fact, the game really encourages this, with both the diorama aesthetics and items with very well-hidden entrances but visible hints on the outside of the stage.  In that way, it may appeal to people who like games such as Pushmo more than a traditional Mario fan.


The joys of bonus coins

Like any traditional Mario game, Captain Toad has a handful of bonus levels created specifically to have to collect as many coins as possible. 1-Ups aren’t particularly necessary, yet getting them is always satisfying. These stages are minor at best, but there is a surprising amount of creativity in how they utilize both 3D World‘s Double Cherry power or Captain Toad’s handy Donkey Kong-inspired pickaxe. – Andrew Passafiume

The game’s organized into a series of chapters, and the story is (like all things in this game) unrelentingly cute, but it’s really not important for gameplay. Each level stands alone, and though there may be small references to previously-used mechanics in later levels, Treasure Tracker doesn’t keep pushing the same ideas until they’re worn out. In fact, there were many times when I wished for another level or two to explore using these ideas, but what’s here is still satisfying.

About those mechanics: Captain Toad borrows elements from 3D World, like the character-multiplying cherries, and expands with new ones, like spinning gears. Each stage generally only takes on one of these elements at a time, which helps avoid potential chaos, instead choosing to lean into these and explore them as much as possible. For example, a cherry level’s three gems are all hidden in ways that can only be found by using both characters in different places simultaneously, but none of these ways are repeated in that level or any other. And since the levels aren’t broken up into worlds like Mario, the themes are spread out throughout the adventure.


Zooming in on lost treasure

Some of Captain Toad‘s more devious levels might have you scratching your head as you attempt to find the hidden gems. Thankfully, the game’s handy zoom-in function allows you to get a closer view of the action and find some hidden goodies you might have otherwise missed. It’s not something I found myself using often, but it always came in handy when I needed a little extra help. – Andrew Passafiume

Treasure Tracker‘s puzzle-like nature makes it an obvious candidate for GamePad-only play, as thinking while doing other things on the TV works well with that sort of thing. That’s certainly doable, though you’re probably better off taking things slowly and zooming in when you start moving around; surveying the environment is best done on a large, high-resolution screen.

Much like Captain Toad was itself a change-of-pace activity, Treasure Tracker includes similarly-disparate levels itself. The most prominent of these is the mine cart track, which lets you look around on the GamePad and shoot at targets and foes instead of the usual walking and climbing. This works better than we thought, though we were initially skeptical; the pace itself is the hallmark of Captain Toad, and suddenly entering an arcade-style experience can be jarring. It’s also the worst time for the game’s tilt controls. The game usually lets you move the camera this way, if you’d like, though the function’s duplicated on the analog stick. Here, there’s a much larger compulsion to spin around to aim, and losing sight of both screens (or just being disoriented as tilt and stick controls contradict) can be less than ideal.


More like Captain Adorable

Let’s be honest, if you’re not here for the treasure tracking, you’re probably playing for Captain Toad and Toadette’s fantastic (and super-cute) idle animations. Both characters have their default animations, but they also have more context-specific ones. For example, if you stand on a bed for too long, the good Captain will take a quick nap. These small touches, including being able to turn your head lamp on and off, add just enough charm to make a great game undeniably endearing as well. – Andrew Passafiume

After the adventure’s over, that’s not all there is for the Captain. If you have 3D World, special bonus stages are unlocked that are slightly-modified versions of stages from that game, changed only so that you can traverse them with the little guy. The chosen stages are memorable ones, and they feel very different than the rest of the game, given their structure. There are also other bonus areas, but we won’t spoil anything about those.

You may not be done with everything in the other levels, either: after you complete each one, a special objective appears that you may or may not have taken care of the first time. Also, there are those gems; collecting all of them is a fun task rather than a chore, due to the stages’ bite-sized scale. If you’re a total crazy person, there’s a “best coin total” recorded for each one and you can attempt to get the highest score there, but as far as we can tell, there’s no reward for that.


Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker manages its scale well, delivering a retail-worthy experience that still feels cozy and manageable. It’s an ideal sort of dessert for the holiday games season, and the sort of game that anyone should enjoy.

Pros: Charming characters, thought-heavy puzzles, surprising replay value
Cons: Occasional tilt-camera issues, could use a few more levels

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.