One of my favorite features from Super Mario 3D World was the inclusion of Captain Toad and his mini-games. Clearly, many others also adored those mini-games as Nintendo developed a full game using the base concept from Super Mario 3D World. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is a puzzle-platformer adventure game. The main objective is to progress through small stages and collect stars and gems along the way.
Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is a great game to just chill out for some relaxing fun. This is largely due to its simple level design. Levels are small arenas that the player can rotate to get a better view from all sorts of different angles. Captain Toad cannot jump or attack, so most levels consist of navigating these small maze-like courses, avoiding enemies and dangerous obstacles, and finding your way to the star, which acts as a goal in every level. Along the way, the player must also collect the 3 gems that are hidden in every level, as some stages later in the game require a certain number of these gems to unlock. These gems are often hidden in plain sight, or at least are fairly easy to guess where they might be hidden. Stages are very compact and quick to navigate through, so even if you are having trouble finding a hidden item it takes no more than a minute or two to play through the entire stage again to get another look. For the most part, the gems are out in the open and you just have to figure out how to get to them. Usually it involves a bit of puzzling or thinking of a not-so-obvious way of navigating these tiny courses. This is in stark contrast to a game like Yoshi’s Woolly World, where the collectibles were obtuse to find and required scouring every inch of a level to unearth them. In Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, there is no obnoxious combing of entire levels to find secrets, they are in plain sight and you just have to figure out how to get to them, which is how collectibles should be handled.
While I find the level design itself to be both simple and gratifying, I think the visuals of each level are also top-notch. The idea of making most levels a small cube that just floats in the sky is actually pretty cool. Every stage is kind of like a 3D diorama that you can rotate in your hands. This is a unique way of exploring all sorts of different environments, which is a key element of any adventure game, but it takes out all the long treks and expanses of nothingness between each important zone. It also allows the developers to space out any theme they want, rather than playing them in big chunks. In traditional adventure games, if you enter a snowy area for example, you know that you are going to be exploring that snow-covered area and that area alone for the next few hours, and after a while seeing the same environment over and over can just get dull. I enjoy the fact that the themes can be spread out across the game instead of having to play them all at once. You can always expect some fun places to explore in a Nintendo game, and Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is no exception. There are plenty of visually appealing environments and atmospheric areas to discover.
While I did enjoy Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, I feel like there was a lot of missed potential here. Nintendo does not have a puzzle game franchise, and I feel like there was perfect opportunity to make Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker into a puzzle game series. Instead, we got a platforming-adventure-puzzle hybrid, which is fine, but the puzzle elements are fairly lacking. Most puzzles in this game are just involve hitting a switch which changes the stage and opens up a new path to the goal. There are no truly head scratching moments or things that make you really think about how to proceed. There are a couple of optional challenges that the game provides that are interesting, like limiting how many times you can hit a switch during a particular stage. These are fairly uncommon though and are entirely optional. Some levels show a good deal of potential and made me think that I was going to keep track of all the different forms the stage takes from hitting a button, and then hit the buttons in the correct order to progress forward. In reality, you just kind of progress forward and hit the buttons along the way, there is not much thinking involved. I was never really thoroughly impressed by any of the levels, and as a whole the game lacks a “wow” factor.
Not every game has to be an industry-changing, genre-defining game. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is just fine for what it is: a short, clever, charming, and relaxing adventure. If you are looking for a cute adventure game with a few platforming and puzzle elements, then this game is perfect for you. This is not an ambitious title that will shape the industry for years to come, but it does not pretend to be. It’s just a simple little adventure game that you can meander your way through. For these reasons I give Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker a 7/10. I enjoyed the calming pace and nature of this game, but there is definitely some untapped potential here.