There's a new treasure hunter in town, and his name is Captain Toad.
Good -- Three Levels in One
For each level of Captain Toad, your main goal is simple: Get Captain Toad or Toadette to the star at the end of the level. You'll have to bypass a few enemies or obstacles, but for the most part, accomplishing your goal is usually quite easy. (Only once was I stuck in my time with the game and that was due to my own stupidity and nothing more).
However, that is far from all there is to do on each level. Every stage has two more objectives. One is to collect the three crystals hidden in each stage. Sometimes, they are in plain sight and simply require you to figure out how to get to them. Other times, the gems are hidden in the ground (disguised as a turnip) or inside an enemy you have to kill.
The third objective in each level (and the hardest) is the secret objective. While you can stumble upon and thus complete the secret objective your first time through a stage, you aren't actually told what the secret objective is until you beat it once. The secret objectives vary and can be anything from collecting a set amount of coins to making it through a level without being detected by enemies.
With these three different objectives, it's often like playing three levels in one. Moreover, this also means the game really has three difficulty settings for each level. Those new to puzzle games can go right for the star while hardened veterans will chase after the crystals and secret objectives. And if that weren't enough, completing all three objectives in every stage in a chapter unlocks a fourth challenge -- a time trial -- for each stage to add even more replay value.
Good -- Puzzles and Power Ups
The interesting thing about Captain Toad is that he is unable to jump -- though he can climb ladders and murder enemies by throwing root vegetables. Thus, the puzzles are by and large built around this fact. However, the puzzles never get boring. There is always something new in each stage -- a new enemy, a new environmental hazard, etc. Some levels go so far as to throw you into a mine cart and turn the game into an on-rails (literally) FPS.
But by far the most enjoyable stages are those that feature one of the game's main two power-ups. The first is a glowing pickaxe that makes Captain Toad invincible and also able to destroy both enemies and brick blocks.
The other power-up is a cherry that splits Captain Toad in two. While split, you control both Captain Toads at once and with the same thumb stick. Thus the puzzles become about getting one to the correct location while keeping the other on his corresponding correct location. And if that weren't enough challenge, you can actually get multiple cherry power-ups controlling up to five toads at once. It is hectic and a ton of fun.
Mixed -- The Bonus Levels
Upon beating the game's three chapters, you get the bonus book -- in which new levels and remixed levels are unlocked as you collect crystals and complete the other objectives in the main story. The remixed levels come in two flavours.
The first spreads Captain Toad's explorer companions around the level and requires you to collect all three companions to beat it. However, they spread out in a chain behind you and if even one dies, it's an automatic game over. The second type of remix has you chased by a mummy. The mummy moves at the exact same max speed as you and follows your path exactly -- so if you keep moving, you're generally safe. But stop for a single second and he starts to close in on you. Should he catch you, it's a game over.
Unfortunately those are not the only types of levels in the bonus section. The game also includes a set of levels from Super Mario 3D World that have been remixed for Captain Toad. They are horrible. Unlike Mario and the gang, Captain Toad is slow, can't jump, and can't attack without a turnip to throw. Thus, the Super Mario 3D World levels are a complete bore and drain any and all fun out of the level design. They really are a grand waste of time.
Mixed -- The Camera and Touch Controls
While Captain Toad generally plays very well, there are a few issues involving the camera and touch controls.
On a basic level, the puzzles of Captain Toad are centered around utilising the camera. The levels are designed with the idea that you'll have to constantly move the camera to see on the other sides of doors and walls or inside caves. The vast majority of the time, it works great. The problems only arise when you are forced to navigate through a series of branching pipes -- wherein your controls change based on the vertical elevation of the camera -- or when trying to do speed runs.
For the speed runs, it is also a control issue as running requires you to hold down one of the face buttons on the Wii U GamePad (and thus keep your thumb off the camera-controlling right thumbstick). And while you can technically use the shoulder buttons to change the camera as well, they only moves the camera in 45 degree jumps making it still more than a bit awkward.
The implementation of the touch screen also has more than a few issues. On some levels you cam move platforms (or even the level itself) by tapping the touch screen. Other times, you will come upon a wheel which, when spun, rearranges some part of the level. Again, in general, this works fine; but when trying to perform touch screen related actions quickly -- either because the game demands it or because you are speed running -- it can be awkward, to say the least.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a fun little puzzle game. The main stages of the game never get boring and are always filled with new challenges that build on everything that has come before. Moreover, it is painfully cute with everything from victory dances around the stars to goombas in inner tubes. If you like puzzle games that demand you think in the third dimension or are a fan of all things Mario, Captain Toad may be right up your alley.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was released in Japan for the Nintendo Wii U on November 13, 2014. It will be released in North America on December 3, 2014, in Europe on January 2, 2015, and in Australia on January 3, 2015.