Thursday, February 26, 2015

[REVIEW] Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Played on: Wii U
Genre: 3D puzzle platformer
Developer: Nintendo / 1-Up Studio 
Publisher: Nintendo

One of Nintendo's surprise reveals during E3 2014, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker takes the adorable character (along with the even more adorable Toadette) through dozens of diorama-like stages in search of coins, golden mushrooms and golden stars. It's easy to think the game is merely more of the same puzzle action seen on the special stages in Super Mario 3D World, but if you do, you'll have another thing coming.

Flavored as "chapters" in a book, Treasure Tracker's stages take place in incredibly polished self-contained mini-worlds. Captain Toad can't jump, due to his heavy backpack, meaning you'll have to use your brain in order to reach some places. That said, getting to the golden star at the end of each level is generally a very easy, laid back task. Much more challenging is the path to 100% completion, however: each stage tasks you with finding three hidden gems, as well as completing a specific objective that can be collecting a number of coins, finishing without taking damage, killing all (or no) enemies, and so on. Those are generally very fun to try and attain, offering replayability and longevity to the game.

I see you, 8-bit Luigi.

The graphics, music, and sound effects follow very closely on the footsteps of Super Mario 3D World, which obviously mean they are top-notch. The game features some very beautiful landscapes that are a joy to just stare at. Sometimes you'll want to zoom in on your character to properly complete some tasks, which is easily attained by pressing X. It should be said, however, that the camera is not always ideal, thanks to the isometric view and the increasing intricacy of the stages as you go further into the adventure. Sometimes there will be no completely comfortable angle to witness a given part of a stage, making for a bit of trial-and-error. Tilting the gamepad also functions as camera control, but I found that to be more annoying than beneficial, preferring to use the right analog stick.

I got a feeling he doesn't like me.

 Then there are the stages that throw the entire thing on its head. There are boss battles (which, granted, could be more varied throughout), endless-running levels, bonus stages that task you with all sorts of shenanigans (including my favorite: collecting as many coins as possible while trying to escape from one or more mummies), and even first-person shooting segments which put the gamepad to great use.

A first-person shooter on the gamepad, a nice panorama of the stage on the main screen.

When it came to extra content, I was particularly pleased. I won't spoil anything here, but suffice it to say that, aside from the game's three main "books", there's a fourth one. Some of the content in there requires you to have Super Mario 3D World save data on your system to access, while others are unlocked after beating the game, and still others require a 100% completion rate in every stage. Those (especially the two latter groups) can be incredibly tough to beat, but they're so well crafted that it all ends up being completely exhilarating.

Even if it's not necessarily a title that will lend itself to extended mega-sessions of gameplay, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is one of the best puzzlers to grace the Wii U. It features plenty of content for every kind of gamer, with great graphics, music and level design, and with loads of attention to detail. Hopefully, this will be only the beginning of what could be a brilliant new franchise.


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