I say games are charming quite often on this blog, and with most of these games I usually see them in a positive light. A lot of indie games come under this category, mainly because their aesthetic is so fantastic and cute that it leaves an impression that bypasses the actual gameplay. In these instances, the gameplay could be horrendous, but with the aesthetics looking so damn gorgeous I proceed to overlook a few grievances that would otherwise degrade the experience as a whole (I still write about the gameplay problems, but my overall score may be slightly higher due to the aesthetics alone).
Captain Toad manages to be both a charming game in the aesthetic department, as well as in the gameplay one. It’s combination of simple mechanics with oh-so troubling puzzles makes for one of the best experiences I’ve had playing with another person in a long time.
So where to begin? Well from a story standpoint, there isn’t much to be had here. Like many Nintendo games the story is rather light, with Toadette being stolen by a giant evil-looking bird being the main reason Toad starts off on his adventure. This story flips back and forth throughout the game’s 70-odd stages, with Toad in turn being stolen, meaning Toadette has to take her turn at trying to rescue her other half. At the end of the day, the story is not necessary to enjoy Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker at all, so it’s mostly here to service a few fans with cute cut-scenes here and there.
The gameplay revolves around Toad (or Toadette!) having to navigate around a small map, all whilst collecting 3 diamonds and making their way to the golden star at the end. Each stage is extremely small, with most being able to be completed within 2 to 3 minutes should you brisk your way through them.
These stages would be easier if it wasn’t for the limitation that Toad (and Toadette!) cannot jump. This limitation (which I believe is explained through the fact Toad has a large backpack on that holds lots of coins), helps to make every single stage extremely interesting and complex. Trying to get to a diamond which is hidden at the top of the stage becomes a chore of puzzle solving rather than action, which is great, as it gives you just as much time to take in the stunning levels with all their intricacies.
My oh my how the levels shine! They are genuinely a testament to the amount of polish and attention to detail Nintendo can put into a game after all these years. Every blade of grass, every brick in a wall, and every character that moves about the screen is all so stunningly rendered I have no idea how Nintendo could make anything prettier in the future. This is pixar, but given to the user to control at their own pace.
Whilst most of the campaign/story’s will entail making your way across these tiny stages, there are some deviations. These come in the form of some literal on-rails sections (where toad must throw turnips from a train cart at enemies throughout a course), and some boss encounters. These stages really help to mix up the campaign, with the same rules applying (no jumping), it makes for some challenging encounters.
Captain Toad: Trasure Tracker isn’t without its faults though. One annoyance does manifest, and it’s in the game’s hidden mode. Titled “Hide and seek”, this fantastic little addition to each level is hidden behind a barrier: you must own the Toad amiibo. Tap your amiibo to the wii u gamepad on a level you’ve already completed, and a pixelated toad will invade it, with your soul objective being to find him somewhere within the stage. It’s a shame that for a lot of people that just bought the game without the amiibo they’ll never see this mode, as it’s easily the most fun I had with the game. Me and my partner would swear consistently as we scanned every nook and cranny of a course trying to locate a little pixelated Toad, calling him a little shit when we’d find him hiding behind a rock or a fucker when we’d find him jumping between windows. It’s seriously such a good game mode I’m tempted to try the gameplay idea myself with an iOS/Android game doing exactly the same.
One other annoyance with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is it’s lack of difficulty. Whilst the puzzles are brilliant, and each level is masterfully designed, there just isn’t any challenge to the game. Yes, there may be times I would spend an extra minute or two staring at a stage wondering how to get to the final diamond, but overall these moments were few and far between. Maybe that’s a testament to Nintendo’s fantastic level designers, but for me, I genuinely wish it could have been harder so that I’d have spend more time taking in the gorgeous levels.
There’s plenty of replayability though, with each level having 3 different things to collect. There’s the star (which is always the end of the level), the three diamonds, and the optional objective. You’re not able to know the optional objective until after you’ve finished a level, so many times you’ll need to go back in again to do it. All three of these optionals should be enough to keep you entertained for hours, but with only one disadvantage: you’ll wish there was more once the games credits has rolled.
Despite my grievances and as I said at the start of this review, the charm of Captain Toad Treasure Tracker manages to really pull through. Taken in it’s entirety, Nintendo have managed to make one of my favourite games of 2016, and to think, it’s only just begun makes me even more excited for what else I’m going to play this year.