REVIEW: Captain Toad – Treasure Tracker

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  • Nintendo Wii U / Rated E / $39.99 / released December 2014
  • FINAL: You WANT this game. 4 out of 5 stars

A bonus level from last year’s “Super Mario 3D World” graduates to a full game in “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker,” now available for Nintendo Wii U. The low-key adventure gives players over 70 puzzles to solve, with the key gimmick being that each must be rotated in 3D space in order to deduce the best solution. As either Captain Toad or Toadette, players dodge enemies, achieve level-specific goals, and, of course, collect treasure.

Each level is presented as a free-floating, self-contained block; imagine a cube-shaped ant farm where you can see all the underground tunnels just by viewing the block from different angles. You walk Captain Toad through each miniature land in search of three hidden gems and the star that ends each level. Gems can be guarded by enemies, buried in the ground, or tucked into hideaways that you can only see by rotating the camera. The game encourages exploration, giving players all of the time they need to work out the solution without an arbitrary timer ticking down to a Game Over (although some optional bonus levels do add a timer of sorts, in the form of an adorable mummy Toad that chases you.)

Like the best puzzle games, “Captain Toad” starts off easy and then gradually throws new elements and obstacles in your way. And like the very best puzzle games, each level contains multiple optional goals for a greater challenge. You do not have to find all three gems, or defeat all the enemies, but you’ll certainly feel like a superstar player if you manage to meet every goal.

Captain Toad” is a single-player game, using the Wii U’s signature GamePad, but that doesn’t mean it won’t please a room full of people. Since it is rare for the player to be in imminent danger – aside from the occasional fireball-throwing turtle – other people have plenty of time to shout out suggestions while watching on the TV. “Captain Toad” also happens to look great on the big screen, with wonderfully gorgeous high-def levels that nail Nintendo’s impeccably charming aesthetic.

A few levels unexpectedly place the Toads into a mine cart, and the GamePad viewpoint changes to a first-person view. On the TV, you’ll see a broad view of the level, but on the smaller GamePad screen it is like you’re sitting in the cart. You’re expected to wave the GamePad around you in all directions to change your personal view, which is a sudden – and somewhat unwelcome – change from just sitting on the couch.

You can use these gyroscopic motion controls in the normal levels as well. In fact, you cannot turn the gyroscope off. While it may make sense to have motion controls on by default for the mine cart segments, it doesn’t add much to the normal, third-person viewpoint levels. It can become a distraction, because any significant movement to the GamePad will rotate the level for you. You are also occasionally told to blow onto the GamePad microphone to activate a platform in the game, and we can probably all do without that.

Aside from these odd quirks jammed into the game to make it more GamePad-focused, “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker” is a welcome addition to anybody’s Wii U collection. It’s a great cooldown to drop between more action-oriented games, but also a fine light brainteaser in its own right.

 This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.

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