Captain Toad wasn't a game that Nintendo needed to make. They could have sat on their laurels of near perfect 3D Mario Platforming and left it at that. But Nintendo decided explore some of the ideas they developed further, and surprised us with a playable demo at this years E3. It's like Nintendo EAD Tokyo is the kid that already aced the test but decided to do the extra credit anyways. That's what Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker feels like: something to do afterwards. Not as hard as the test, but enough to make sure you know the content and leave you satisfied.
How does the game break down? Pretty fantastically.
The Wii U isn't the graphical powerhouse that the other next-gen consoles, but Nintendo knows how to coax the best out of it's own systems. Captain Toad leaks NintendoPolish© from every pixel, every level is pouring with charm. EAD put a lot of heart into this game and it shows. Even with the massive amount of content, they've managed to make every piece beautiful. The bright colors and amazingly detailed textures pop, and small details are added all over the place to add to the experience. Even the Captain's cute little outfit has a threading texture in it! And don't get me started on their idle animations either!
Fig. 1 Look at those outfits
We've all jumped on a Goomba, and we've seen most of these enemies before. We've never had to deal with them as Captain Toad though, and carrying that heavy pack around changes how careful you are when dealing with enemies. The first time you really notice it is a few levels in when you're carefully maneuvering through a Shy Guy apartment complex. If you were Mario you'd make quick work of getting the star, but the Captain has to take the long way around. You need to choose either to hoof it and hope you can get up the ladder in time or wait till the Shy Guy's around the corner. Is there a turnip somewhere to help? Do you risk that glittering gem across the grass or are you ok with just the star? Captain Toad's abilities will dictate the risks you take and how many objectives you complete in each level.
Fig. 2 Toadette having a respite from her very first real adventure
Speaking of the the Captain, you'd think that after a few levels the grunts and puffs and "Ready for Adventure"s you'd get tired of the titular character. Instead he's just as endearing as the first time we heard him squeal his catchphrase in Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo even mixes it up by introducing (Spoilers?) Toadette as a playable character! This is Toadette's first outing as a playable character that isn't sports, party, or racing!
Fig. 3 One of over 70 fantastic puzzle based levels
Captain Toad is being sold by Nintendo as a budget title (at $20 less than regular retail) and that $40 game packs in a more than respectable amount of content. While the initially the goal of getting the star comes off pretty easy, but compound that with collecting the three gems in each level plus a each levels unique secret goal you are in for some challenges. With a little over 70 unique levels that's a lot of content and replay. Like I said before, the difficulty isn't comparable to bigger Mario main-franchise titles. You'll breeze through plenty of the games beginning levels, but don't let that discourage you! There's still a ton of it to be had.
Maybe we're spoiled though. It isn't that it's a bad soundtrack, it's just... not memorable? not unique enough? Is this just a rehash of a theme from Galaxy or 3D World? I mean, that's pretty high praise, as both had fantastic soundtracks, but it doesn't add any uniqueness to exploring the world as Captain Toad or Toadette. I feel bad complaining about it, because honestly it still sounds great and the sound effects for toad and toadette are cute as heck. As a budget title I should be OK with Nintendo recycling the great soundtrack of yesteryear. But meh?
Fig 4. One of the few times gamepad controls work: The Turnip Cannon
There's a lot going on here with the gamepad… Some of it works. Some of it is a tedious. You'll find all the mechanics from 3D world here: The blow-able platform, the tap-able moving blocks, hidden coins that you can reveal with touch. They aren't horrible mechanics, but like Kotaku's review pointed out, it feels unnecessary and forced when I'm content playing the came from the TV. You'll eventually get good enough to blow or spin the gear without looking, but the mechanic is still there and it's used just enough to annoy you when you bob your head from TV to gamepad and back.
Let me start by saying this: The camera works, there's just some nit-picking to be done. I'm perplexed that Nintendo hasn't given us more option with this! I've only ever used the right thumb-stick to move the camera and having the option to switch of gamepad gyro controls for the game seem like a no brainier. Having moved the gamepad and the camera on the television going wild one too many times has left me sour with the mechanic. This is a complaint in general, but seeing it return for Captain Toad only reminds me of how annoying it is.
On top of the annoying gyro-camera controls is that we have two camera distances: Close enough to not see what's going on and just slightly too far away most of the time. It's like they knew exactly where the frustrating distances were to annoy me slightly. I'd have preferred a little more camera control, say with the L & R buttons, so that I could slide to a camera distance that I found comfortable for the level. Some stages, like the mine cart levels, would need to keep the constraint for gameplay purposes, but other levels annoy me just enough (I'm looking at you Cagey Conkdor Caper) to notice it.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a fantastic title. Despite being an arguably smaller release for Nintendo, it has received just as much love and attention from them as any of their larger titles might receive. With over 70 unique levels of a cuteness how can anyone resist? Even if it's a bit of a more of a meander than a full on trek, I think everyone should be ready to adventure with these toads.