Almost every character from Mushroom Kingdom has ended up starring in their own game. Wario and Yoshi, who were only "born" in the nineties, have taken part in a variety of games centred around them. Yet the much-loved Toad from Super Mario Bros. has always played second fiddle - up until now.
Since his first appearance, way back in the original Super Mario Bros and uttering the immortal line "Thank you Mario, but the princess is in another castle", the character's changed little in look, but has had little in the way of actual character. It became the silent rule that a Toad would be one of thousands who'd follow Princess Peach, and that every Toad answers to the name 'Toad'. They'd always wear a blue vest, white pants and brown shoes - visible legs and a nose didn't exist.
There are a few exceptions. Toadsworth and Toadbert are just two examples, later also followed by a female character with the name Toadette. But unlike their peers, Toad never emerged from the shadow of Mario. Even Captain Toad is such a minor character, who's had only a few outings, starting indirectly in Super Mario Sunshine, and we last saw the nervy adventurer in Super Mario 3D World. Now Nintendo has apparently decided it's time for a solo trip all alone.
Because Treasure Tracker is in essence, an expanded version of those Super Mario 3D World bonus levels. We still cannot jump with the little mushroom head and should definitely avoid any confrontation with opponents. We work our way through levels to gather coins, crystals and, at the end, hopefully a golden star. The game is played mostly from an isometric perspective, as this was the case in the Mario adventure. But we can now freely rotate the camera and thus discover hidden secrets. It's crazy sometimes at how many new locations appear by changing the viewing angle. After only the first few levels played, this seems to make for a large degree of the fun with the game.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker provides significantly more variety and ideas than its previous incarnation. In one level we take, for example, a mine train and throw turnips. The game mechanics then switch to that of a on-rails shooter. Another level curves up in a circle with multiple ladders, and in the middle sits a fire beast that shoots fireballs at us. It feels a bit like a boss fight, but the level is completed without launching a single attack at it. Elsewhere, Toad can pull turnips out of the ground and throw them at enemies like in Super Mario Bros. 2. This greatly reduced use of violence which features many Nintendo games is, as usual, not odd, but an integral part of the challenge.
In addition certain elements of the game world can be manipulated on the GamePad and be moved, while the Pad's motion sensors can be used, though are entirely optional. The latter feels initially a bit strange, but soon it's a pretty nice complement from which you gladly makes use like on the Nintendo 3DS.
It's difficult to assess how big the game will be. The three playable level have at least shown that the elements of skill, puzzles and exploration give plenty of variation. And in the E3 trailer (see below) we spot an axe that can be used to chop blocks, while old acquaintances such as Willi and Goombas will also be appearing.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was a real surprise at E3. It's quite possible that Super Mario 3D World already offered a very promising demo of this concept, and the positive response to that has led to this.
The puzzle adventure likely won't convince newcomers to pick up as Wii U, but owners of the console will be very happy with this addition to their catalogue.