When Nintendo first announced they were going to release a full retail title based on the Captain Toad stages in Super Mario 3D World I was very skeptical. I loved the stages but they didn’t really seem like they would be enough to carry a full retail $60 title. Thankfully they don’t have to, as it only costs $40. It doesn’t seem like that would make a huge difference, but it does. That $20 difference, or $25 here in Canada, gives an entirely new outlook on the game. For years I’ve been thinking about a rating system that does away with stars or points or thumbs up or any of that nonsense, and simply applies a dollar value that you think the game is worth. After all, isn’t that what we as consumers do? Every time we walk into a store to look at a game or any other product, we look at the price and decide if it is worth it. Unless you’re obscenely rich of course, but you 4 people can just go have parties on your private islands and leave the rest of us alone.
So without even getting into the review of the actual game, is Captain Toads Treasure Tracker worth $40? Probably, but it isn’t worth $60. I might assign it a $34. Anyway….
Captain Toad popped up several times in Super Mario 3D World to give you self-contained cube-esque worlds where you needed to run around and find stars. Unlike Mario, Toad is weighed down by a very heavy backpack so he cannot jump. He also can’t run very quickly at all on his stubby little legs. He doesn’t get to be giant Captain Toad, or fire Captain Toad or any other variation. He’s just a toad with a head lamp and a backpack, and he’s off to find treasure.
The lack of variation in character had to be made up in the stages to keep things interesting, and that was done very, very well. One thing Nintendo is fantastic at is setting up fun and visually interesting worlds with a huge variation, and it is no difference here. They all look beautiful, even more so than the Mario game that spawned them. That is likely in part to the sheer size of them, they’re all tiny. That seems like a limitation, but it works. If you stuck Mario into them, he’d be through all the levels in seconds, but Toad just isn’t that mobile a guy. He needs to wait for moving platforms to cross small gaps and can’t just scale walls in a catsuit. After the first couple levels the limitations no longer bothered me and I slipped into the rhythm of the game. Load up a level, explore every nook and cranny in 5-7 minutes, get the last star and cross your fingers you managed to get the optional objective.
The goal is to find all of the stars in a level, but every single stage has an objective that about 50% of the time requires a replay. Not killing any enemies (or killing all the enemies), getting a certain number of coins, finding a hidden golden mushroom, not being seen by any enemies and so on. They were never overly difficult or taxing, unless you really dislike spinning a camera around. In fact that would be my main complaint about the game, is that it is just far too easy. I’ve noticed this trend in the last several years of Nintendo releases, that I can easily play them on automatic the majority of the time. Like many Nintendo games, after you’ve beaten the main story, you get a bonus challenge using remixes of levels. They were really the only thing that provided much of a challenge, and even then it wasn’t enough. I was left wanting something really tough. Of course I’ve been playing video games for decades, and making a game for my skill level would shut out many people. I had a 5 year old visiting who doesn’t play many games and decided to give him a try at the game and see how he did. He had some difficulty grasping what exactly he was supposed to be doing, as we had just finished playing some 3D World. After a couple levels he got frustrated and decided it was time to play Smash Bros instead. I couldn’t really blame him, as it’s not really a game for multiplayer at all. It’s something to be played by yourself, when you want to relax.
Another issue I had was the boss levels. There are a couple bosses that you fight several times in the game. The levels are different to a degree, but I wanted more variety. I also wanted more from the game, I blew through it far too quickly. The game is split up into 4 ‘books’. Getting a 3-toad ranking on the first book took me around 2 hours, which I found disconcerting. Thankfully the 3rd book is much longer and just a little bit tougher. Still, finishing the main 3 books of the story to 100% took me just over 7 hours. For a $60 title with no multiplayer and not much in the way of replayability it would be unacceptable, but as I said in the beginning $40 is getting closer. I finished the majority of the ‘bonus’ levels, which included a couple levels from Super Mario 3D World that you could waddle through as Toad if you had a save file on your Wii U. Those were weird, as they were very clearly built for a character that is much faster and more mobile. Neat to include, but an odd experience. Unless something incredibly challenging is waiting for me in the last level or two, you’re probably looking at around another hour of content. Is 8 hours worth $40 to you? That’s a value judgement you’re going to have to make. It might make more sense as a rental, or as a purchase for kids that you’ll have fun blowing through in a couple evenings.
As is standard for Nintendo, the game is polished to an almost ridiculous degree. Playing a game that worked perfectly after the utter disasters that have been plaguing the industry the last couple months was an absolute delight. Really, that’s the bottom line. The game is an utter delight from start to finish. I just wish the finish had been a little further away.