In the shadow of Nintendo’s big holiday release of Smash Bros. comes Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, an odd experiment that spun off of a set of levels in Super Mario 3D World. These levels served as a change of pace in that fast-paced, co-op platformer, and put players in control of an adventurous Toad that can’t jump (on account of his heavy backpack, naturally). Treasure Tracker sees that concept blown out to its own retail release, which maintains all of the charm of the series it comes from, but lacks a bit of its variety and value.
Instead of collecting a variable number of green stars like in 3D World, Treasure Tracker has Captain Toad collecting three crystals in each stage before ultimately reaching the star at the end. It’s almost organized like a mobile game, with a collection of bite-sized levels that can be “beaten” by simply reaching the end or actually beaten once you’ve collected all three crystals. Sure, you can finish a level of Angry Birds by killing all the pigs or move forward in Cut the Rope by simply feeding the candy to Om Nom, but fans of those games know the real fun and challenge is in getting all three stars before you move forward. Treasure Tracker is no different, in that I felt like I was failing a stage if I simply reached the star at the end while leaving one or more crystals behind.
In addition to the three crystals, a bonus objective is revealed after you reach the end of each stage. This can be in the form of coins collected, finding a golden 1-up mushroom, or even introducing simple stealth objectives like sneaking past a bunch of patrolling Shy Guys. Each stage is presented as a page in a book about Captain Toad (and Toadette), and the page doesn’t receive a stamp until you’ve collected all three crystals and satisfied the bonus objective.
I enjoyed all the stages on my first playthrough, but found myself liking the game significantly more once I had “beaten” the game but still lacked the stamp on many pages. Since the stages are so small, I often found myself rotating the camera and trying to look at every possible angle in an effort to find a pesky crystal that I had previously missed. There were times that I thought “there’s no way there’s another crystal here...I’ve looked everywhere” only to stumble upon a hidden passage or look at the stage with a specific camera angle that revealed the crystal’s location. These moments were my favorites in Treasure Tracker, and I wouldn’t have experienced them if I had just blown through the game and never returned to levels that I hadn’t fully completed.
Like 3D World, there is very little in the way of gimmicky motion or touch controls. You can tap some enemies to hold them in place, but I rarely found that necessary. A handful of levels have you touching the screen or blowing on the mic to move platforms around, but it’s never done so much as to be aggravating. Other levels shake up the format and feature mine carts with turnip cannons that can be aimed by moving the GamePad. Some abandon the slow-paced nature of the game by having Toad hit speed boosts to sprint past rapidly collapsing roads. Even when you’re working your way through these more unique levels, the “three crystals and a star” format stays intact.
I consistently enjoyed my time with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, but I frequently questioned the value component of this package. At $40, the offering does feel a bit slim. There are well under 100 small levels, and the two main boss fights are recycled in slightly-changed forms several times. The Captain Toad stages were nice changes of pace in the otherwise action-packed 3D World, but the novelty does wear thin quicker when you’re playing through a constant stream of them (despite the attempts to shake things up from time to time). Treasure Tracker is a charming game, but might disappoint some if they drop $40 expecting something more ambitious or substantial. If you know what you’re getting into and you’re alright with spending the money, there’s plenty of fun to be had on Captain Toad’s adventure.