It only took about 25 years but Toad finally stars in his own game. Not really playable since Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) and Mario Kart cameos, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a puzzle adventure game that provides a deep sense of accomplishment, is pick-up-and-playable, and features one of the best uses of amiibo to date. This is a Wii U hidden gem that any member of the family can play and enjoy.
Treasure Tracker is basically an in depth version of the mini games found in Super Mario 3D World. Using the Wii U Gamepad, the player rotates the camera to allow for different viewpoints sort of like the indie hit Fez. Because Toad is out to collect treasure Indiana Jones-style, Toad can run, pickup items and toss them; he cannot jump because his backpack is filled with treasure. Not being able to jump might seem like a missing game element but actually plays to the strength of design and makes Treasure Tracker what it is. With no time limit to worry about, players navigate each stage by solving Point-A to Point-B puzzles to collect the golden star at the end. Underwater stages, mine carts, the double cherry, haunted Boo houses, Shy Guys, warp pipes, coins, boss battles – everything that makes a Mario game fun is here but with a new twist.
Along the way, Toad can optionally collect three crystal gems and complete one objective in each stage. These objectives can be something like “find the hidden golden mushroom,” “collect X amount of coins,” or “finish the stage without taking damage.” Finding these extra gems and completing these objectives never feels unfair or like busy work thanks to the wondrous sense of accomplishment; the player also unlocks coin stages for performing well. Due to the clean and easy to navigate interface, players can keep track of all progress from the storybook-like interface and the stamp system. If a player collects all the gems, they get a stamp on that stage’s page. If the player completes that stage’s objective, another stamp is earned. With over 60 stages to puzzle through, Treasure Tracker has just enough entertaining and engaging content without overstaying its welcome.
Speaking of extra content, Treasure Tracker has some of the best amiibo support in a Wii U game. After a stage has been completed, the Toad amiibo can be scanned on that stage’s storybook menu page. A pixelated Toad will then walk on screen and jump into that particular level. Using the Wii U Gamepad, the player then has to try and find that pixelated Toad creating a new type of Where’s Waldo style of gameplay. Then the player simply taps Toad when found on the Wii U gamepad. Sometimes Toad is hiding behind a poster, jumping in and out of lava pits, or hidden under an enemy. The player must usually search high and low to find this little bugger but adds another positive excuse to keep playing. Sure you have to pay $12.99 for the Toad amiibo but Nintendo could have easily charged for this extra feature as DLC. And once you find the pixelated Toad for that particular level, the player is awarded another Toad stamp which will make completionists giddy. Also, any other amiibo can be scanned to earn additional 1-Ups. Unfortunately, 1-Ups don’t really mean anything since they are numerous and players will never see the Game Over screen anyway.
If the storybook presentation wasn’t charming enough, the entire game exudes cuteness. From adventuring as Toadette, to the cartoonish bosses, to the brightly colored stages, Treasure Tracker is simply a feast for the senses. The soundtrack and audio clues pair perfectly with Toad’s emotions to create a friendly personality that mimics that of an innocent child. Seeing Toadette smile and announcing her “here we go” as a stage begins is one of the most charming Wii U experiences a player can ask for.
The only gripe with the gameplay are the motion control segments. Using the Wii U gamepad to shoot radishes from a first person perspective or to look around is awkward, isn’t really responsive, and feels the most chore-ish. But since these portions are few and far between, its shortcomings won’t be a significant bother.
For a lower price of $39.99, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the best Wii U game you didn’t buy. This new type of puzzle game is so charming, players will only put this game down when they have collected everything. And if you can find a Mario Party 10 Toad amiibo on a store shelf somewhere, pick that up too as the Where’s Waldo-like mini game actually unlocks fun, worthwhile content.
Also Play: New Super Mario 3D World
Download It: NES Remix
Wait For It: a multiplayer sequel
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com