Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was a 2014 puzzle game by Nintendo and 1-UP Studio for the Nintendo Wii U. The idea behind this game originally came from a minigame in Super Mario 3D World. The Captain Toad levels were one of that game’s many creative ideas. There were only about five of these levels, but they were always fun. They involved using one of the control sticks to rotate a miniature world around while using the other control stick to move Captain Toad around to collect five or more Green Stars. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker expanded this into a full game.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was made up of three episodes and a bonus series of levels. The episodes had a total of 64 levels while the bonus series had 18 levels. The story of the game was pretty basic. In the first episode, Toadette (a female toad), was kidnapped by a giant bird named Wingo. Captain Toad had to rescue her. In the second episode, the roles were reversed. Captain Toad was kidnapped, and Toadette had to rescue him. The third episode was mostly a repeat of the first two episodes, first Toadette was missing, then Captain Toad. This continued a few times until Captain Toad defeated Wingo for good.
The difficulty of the Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker went up pretty slowly. To finish each level only required collecting a single star, so it was very easy to progress. However, each level also had three optional, hidden gems to collect. Later levels required a number of these gems to unlock. Once the gems were collected, each level gained a new bonus objective, such as not being hit by any enemy or collecting a large amount of coins within the level. Once all the levels were completed, gems collected, and bonus objectives finished, all the levels in an episode offered a time trial to test everything the player had learned. I was completing the levels so fast initially, I was worried the game would be too short. I was pleasantly surprised when all these extra things started showing up.
Once the three episodes were completed, a special bonus set of levels were added. The bonus levels reused the environments from the first three episodes, but changed the objectives in interesting ways. A few levels reused environments from Super Mario 3D World. I didn’t mind the reused environments because the new objectives were fun enough. After doing everything in the game, I unlocked the last level, Mummy-Me Maze Forever.
Mummy-Me Maze Forever was a much, much longer version of an earlier bonus level. Here and there after finishing a level in one of the episodes, the game would unlock this bonus level for a single play. The goal was to collect as many coins as possible in a short time while dodging enemies, including a Mummy duplicate that followed Captain Toad’s exact movements. This “forever” version was mostly the same but had no time limit and went on for 50 rooms. Each room was harder than the last with the exception of few empty rooms to take a breather before continuing. This final level took me about ten hours to complete. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I slowly got better. With a little luck, I finished it and was done. The reward was a special crown that Captain Toad wore on every level and three unlimited “Coins Galore” levels.
The Coins Galore levels were bonus levels from the first three episodes. Like the Mummy-Me bonus level, they appeared randomly after completing a level for one play. The goal in each one was to collect as many coins as possible to gain extra lives. These bonus levels were nice when I was progressing through the episodes, but by the time I unlocked these unlimited versions, I had no need for them. Unlocking them required me to fully complete the game, so there was no need for them by that point.
I loved all the little exploring the levels. Each one was its own miniature world with unique terrain and weather. The extra challenges that appeared as I played kept me having fun even when repeating the same level. Unfortunately, even with the extra challenges, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was a little short. In total, I only needed around thirty hours to do everything. Some games have randomized elements that keep the game fun to return to, but not Captain Toad. The gameplay was handcrafted to be a certain way. Once I finished everything, there was truly nothing else to do.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was only $40, $20 less than a typical game on the Wii U, but it was still a little short even for $40. A more reasonable price would have been $30. For the amount of gameplay in the game, I think it should have been an expansion for Super Mario 3D World. That’s what Nintendo did with New Super Luigi U, the expansion to New Super Mario Bros. U. The shorter length didn’t tarnish the fun I had with Treasure Tracker though. Short and sweet is always better than long and boring, but long and fun is better still.