Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker marks the very first time Captain Toad and Toadette are the stars of their very own adventure. Its straightforward narrative begins when Toadette is whisked away by a giant bird named Wingo, serving as the main motive for Captain Toad to set off on on epic hunt for treasure. The roles are reversed later on, giving players a chance to take control of Captain Toad’s pink pig-tailed doppelganger. Treasure Tracker is essentially a puzzle-solving title with platforming elements. Each course was designed as a mini maze in which collectibles and hidden objects are featured and enemies roam.
The game contains over 70 courses, each of which was designed to be its own puzzle to solve. It asks players to reveal secrets, such as hidden locations, through manipulating levels by twisting the in-game camera via the Wii U GamePad’s right control stick or the controller’s gyro controls, which unfortunately can’t be disabled. If you want to play without having to move your arms around, you’ll need to sit in a position that keeps your hands steady to avoid camera frustrations, which I encountered quite frequently during my playthrough. Similarly, there’s a lot of puzzles that can only be solved using the GamePad’s touch screen, forcing you to gaze away from the HD screen on the TV and glance at the controller’s 6.2-inch display.
Early stages are pretty easy to complete and do an exceptional job of introducing the game to beginners. But later levels can prove to be a challenge as they introduce new elements that test your thinking skills and patience. A questionable omission is the lack of a timer, which would’ve been a welcome inclusion for those looking to see how fast they can solve a puzzle or beat their past times. My least favorite stages were those that placed our hero in a mine cart, which allow you to throw turnips at enemies, obstacles and coins by taking control of the camera via gyro controls or the right joystick on the GamePad. While these types of stages change up the gameplay a bit, the controls irked me the most while playing through them.
Captain Toad isn’t the standard Toad who appears as the fastest playable character in some of the Super Mario platformers; he is a much slower variation thanks to his hefty backpack, which also prevents him from jumping and sprinting. His lack of standard abilities are suitable for a puzzle game of this scope, as it regularly pushes players to think outside the box. Although enemies such as Goombas can still be squashed by giving their noggins a whack, defeating them can only be accomplished by maneuvering through levels to find spots that give Captain Toad the height advantage to drop on them, or by hunting for projectiles that can be tossed in their faces.
As a Super Mario 3D World spinoff, Treasure Tracker reuses items found in previous entries in the Super Mario series. Coins are scattered throughout levels, each of which encourages players to revisit stages and collect more coins to beat their high scores. Although coins don’t have to be collected, 100 of them grant Captain Toad an extra life, which you’ll want to keep a stock of – especially during later levels. Turnips can be plucked from certain spots and then hurled at enemies, and they can also be used to collect treasure. The Double Cherry is also back and splits Captain Toad, challenging you to focus on two things at once. Those who have Super Mario 3D World save data on their console have access to bonus levels that allow Captain Toad to traverse through levels from the 2013 Mario title. Coins can be collected, hidden objects can be found and each level ends upon touching a green star. Treasure Tracker’s core levels outshine the bonus ones, but who doesn’t appreciate extra content?
Control issues aside, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an adorable game. Don’t let its price tag fool you; from its cute characters, clever puzzles, addictive gameplay and bonus levels, there’s plenty of fun content to justify spending your hard-earned coins. Treasure Tracker is easily one of the Wii U console’s best puzzle titles to date. It is a great way to end the year – and an exciting way to begin 2015 for those in Europe.