Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is Classic Nintendo Fun

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a puzzle platformer developed and published by Nintendo. The game arose from the Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World. It originally released on the Wii U in December 2014. Later Nintendo ported the game to both the Nintendo Switch and the 3DS in July of 2018. MRSB is $40. I played the Switch version.

As soon as I finished Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, my first thought was, “Wow, this is the best Mario spinoff I’ve ever played.”

But then I remembered that Luigi’s Mansion exists, so Captain Toad had to go below that. And then there are the Mario RPGs, so I guess it’s below them as well. So my second thought was, “How did we get so many Mario spinoffs?” And then my final thought was, “Okay, so it’s the 3rd best Mario spinoff, but it’s the best 3rd place I’ve ever awarded.”

And I stand by that. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the best 3rd Place I’ll ever award a game.

Nintendo’s strength has always been coming up with a unique and fun gameplay idea, fleshing it out, and polishing it to a glorious shine. Captain Toad is a perfect example of Nintendo at their best. They’re trying something new, and they’re applying all of their experience in game design and level design. After playing the Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, I was hungry for more, and I’m very happy that Nintendo felt the same way.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker takes place on gorgeous 3D dioramas floating in the middle of space. By rotating the camera and manipulating the environment, you can help Toad to find diamonds, coins, and of course, power stars. He can’t jump, so you need to find other ways to move him up and down. His only defense is running away and throwing turnips. Enemies take on a heavier presence than in normal Mario games, but don’t worry, the game is still easy and approachable.

To mix up the puzzle levels, you occasionally go through some mine cart levels where you transition to an on-rails shooter, pummeling anything you see with turnips. They’re nothing incredible, but they’re at least less frustrating than the Donkey Kong mine cart levels. You’ll also encounter a boss every now and then. As Toad is stuck to the ground, these encounters are mostly about Toad avoiding damage while trying to climb his way through the level.

So as this is a Nintendo game, I’ll give you three guesses as to what kind of story it is. Did you guess Captain Toad saves Toadette? Because that’s exactly it.

But as a story to a Nintendo game, I appreciate the few twists that it has. First, the villain is a giant bird. That’s new. Also, the story is actually divided into 3 different acts. In the first act Captain Toad manages to rescue Toadette. In the second, the role is actually reversed — Toadette saves Captain Toad from the giant bird. And in the final act, you alternate playing as both characters going after the giant bird. So while the act structure is a bit repetitive, I appreciate that Nintendo actually lets you play as the female character and reverse a plot recycled yet again from the 1980s. I imagine Princess Peach and Princess Zelda are taking notes and getting ready to write a strongly-worded letter to Nintendo’s story writers. If it’s not an RPG, Nintendo typically doesn’t invest in their stories, unfortunately.

Look at his little yawn! I just wanna poke his little head!!

And yet through the game’s colorful environments, satisfying level design, goofy enemies, and catchy soundtrack, Nintendo conveyed sheer joy to my heart. Those toads are just so charming, I can’t help it.

For the Nintendo Switch and 3DS versions, there are also extra levels based on Super Mario Odyssey. I was beside myself seeing these lovely worlds condensed into these tiny, enchanting dioramas. I want to make one of these in real life. I’m tempted to double-dip on this game, actually, and buy the 3DS version, because I’d love to see these areas realized in stereoscopic 3D.

The only problem with this game is that now, I’m starting to feel greedy. I’d love a sequel to this game in a few years. Could you imagine levels based on Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy, or even low-poly levels from Super Mario 64?! I also want Nintendo to finally start making more spinoffs with their other Mario characters. Give Waluigi his own game, for waaah-ness’s sake! Give Piranha Plant his own game! I might actually like the Koopalings if they got their own game!

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