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Game Review

So who is this Captain Toad guy, and why is he getting his own spin-off title?

Well, if you have to ask, you likely haven't been playing a lot of Mario on the Wii U as of late. This red-and-white toadstool hero made a pretty pleasant premier in his own puzzling minigames scattered throughout the  Super Mario 3D World game. In fact, those fun twist-turn-and-explore challenges are so popular with fans that Nintendo decided that this time around their little headlamp-wearing mushroom explorer should take first chair and let Mario find someone else to play second fiddle for a while.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker finds the cheery Captain, with his pretty pink sidekick, Toadette, in tow, doing his usual bang-up job of finding sparkling hidden treasures. No sooner do he and Toadette uncover a sought-after gold star, however, than some bad birdy behemoth swoops in to steal it away. And, oh no! That flapping felon also accidentally snatches up Toadette with the prize. It's up to Captain Toad to run to the rescue—following Mario and Luigi's time-tested formula of besting level after level of puzzling obstacles while on the way to freeing the damsel in distress.

Unlike most of Mario's typical jump-around platformer jaunts, though, all of Captain Toad's charming and colorful levels are self-contained miniature dioramas that come complete with two specific challenges. First, the well-equipped Captain's backpack is far too heavy to let him hop-and-bop like Mario would. Why, he can barely get his pace up beyond a slow waddle. So he has to find the safest, sneakiest path possible past typical Nintendo-land foes, seeking out switches, ramps, ladders, elevating platforms and small hidden tools to help him make his way through.

Second, each one of the miniquest landscapes generally has several different passageways and tunnels that gamers must find by spinning the 3-D world to-and-fro. With a bit of patience and a little camera-control fiddling, even the youngest gamers can snatch up an obscured treasure, pluck out a baddie-bashing turnip, circumvent obstacles and guide their marvie mushroom man to the gold star finish line. (Note that each level can be figured out and conquered in a matter of minutes, and the whole game can be played through in, say, six to eight hours.)

Treasure Tracker also makes sure to keep things fresh by tossing a few exploration curveballs into the mix. One labyrinth maze puzzle, for instance, can only be solved by duplicating the good Captain (with a magical bonus) and then landing the both of them on just the right pressure pads at just the right time. And some rolling mine-cart levels give the exploring hero a carful of turnips to chuck at prizes and foes.

Even better is the fact that the story cutscenes are wordless and cute, throwing nary a nefarious content problem at us. And even blowhard bosses—such as a smoke-blowing dragon or a wing-flapping giant bird—are never more threatening than a cartoon goof.

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Wii U




December 5, 2014

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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