Thursday 22 January 2015

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

I've mentioned a few times before that because I didn't have a SNES when growing up I didn't really get a chance to play some of the classics. From the likes of The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario and Metroid, I didn't play them until much later in my life. When I did I loved them, but it was somewhere into the early 2000's. When it comes to the Mario franchise, one of my favourites in recent years was 2013's Super Mario 3D World. Blending gameplay we've seen so far in both 3D and 2D Mario titles, Super Mario 3D World was an exceptional title that proved that the Wii U is, or at least should be, a contender. However, one of the more interesting aspects of Super Mario 3D World were The Adventures of Captain Toad stages; levels that focused on the character of Toad and presented gameplay rather differently compared to the main game. This latest Nintendo offering is a spin-off of Super Mario 3D World, and builds upon the foundations that The Adventures of Captain Toad laid down. However, with the Wii U failing miserably and Nintendo doing their best to give gamers what they want, is Captain Toad: Treasure Hunter worthwhile?

Developed by Nintendo and out now exclusively for the Wii U comes Captain Toad: Treasure Hunter, another great effort by Nintendo to drag gamers kicking and screaming towards buying a Wii U. As you can expect from a game that is a spin-off the a Mario game, the plot here isn't exactly War and Peace, though neither is it Dumber and Dumber. It's all fairly bog standard, and follows the adventures of Captain Toad and Toadette who, as you already assume by the name alone, is practically the female Toad. When trying to nab a Power Star, the evil bird Wingo swoops down and grabs Toadette. Naturally Captain Toad must go and rescue her, but as if it's almost making fun of the classic “damsel in distress” trope, over the course of the game Wingo steals both Captain Toad and Toadette at different times, leaving the remaining character to go and save them. But like with all of these games the story isn't important, but it's rather the gameplay that takes centre stage. Thankfully in the case of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, gameplay is pretty much up there with the best.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a 3D platformer with a twist. Due to the fact that this isn't a Mario game and, well, Toad and Toadette are just mushrooms, you can't jump in the game, and neither can you use power-ups to change your character. Now on the surface that sounds incredibly boring, but while it's true that your character can't exactly do much, the true genius of the game shines through in its many incredibly designed stages, all of which rely heavily on the Wii U Gamepads unique abilities. Each level pretty much fits into the confines of the screen, and are often presented as small cube-shaped locations. The goal in each level is simple- reach the Power Star. Power Stars are clearly visible once the level starts, but getting to them can range easy, tricky to just plain hard. While levels are indeed quite small, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shows its genius when you rotate the camera. The same way Fez only makes sense once the camera is altered during gameplay, the same goes for this. From rotating the camera to find a secret passage to the Power Star, or tilting the camera up and down to make your way through a trap, it's all about perspective here. This innovation also extends to the Wii U's Gamepad touch-screen which, during certain levels, can be interacted with to move and slide certain platforms around to aid you. This idea of fiddling with the level and viewing it from any angle kind of has a very LEGO-like toy feeling to it. Each level is its own small interesting and fun world, and you essentially have it all right in your hands. Think of levels as being puzzles cubes, with each one offering a different challenge that is both relaxing and enjoyable but also demands you use your brain.

Visually Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is perfection. While it is pretty reminiscent of other recent Nintendo games, its small self contained levels are so packed full of content, so expertly designed and so charming that it's hard not to love. Levels are bright, vibrant and brim full of colours, characters and enemies are wonderfully created and it all makes for one of the best looking Nintendo games ever. However beyond the visual aesthetics, in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker each level has been designed with incredible care. As I said before, as each level is basically a small puzzle cube and the fact that your character can't do much beyond running and climbing, different levels propel the game off into new and interesting territory. Sure it robs small ideas from other titles, but at the end of the day Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is level design at its finest.

Though the game itself won't take you too long, there's enough collectibles here that will keep your attention for some time. They're all hidden rather well, as coming away from the game I missed a good few. At its heart Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is classic Nintendo. Focusing on good old fun and adventure, it's a game that will easily please Nintendo fanboys out there while also reminding the rest of us that, despite a few missteps from time to time, Nintendo are still ahead of the rest in many ways. The only downside is that there's no 3DS release. For a game that focuses on using the touch-screen and rotating levels, I think the 3DS would have been a better fit, but oh well.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker digs for gold and gets a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

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