After getting significant hands-on time with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker this week, I have an inkling that Nintendo EAD — developers of last fall's excellent Super Mario 3D World — had too many ideas for cool platforming stages, and they're stuffing them all into Toad's new adventure.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a puzzle platformer (some stages lean heavier to one side or the other of that equation) much in the vein of the Toad stages in Super Mario 3D World. You control Toad — or Toadette — and navigate a series of contained 3D stages in order to find and nab every bit of treasure. There are obstacles, enemies, and devious switch puzzles in your way, and like 3D World's green stars, there are three additional gems to grab in each stage if you're feeling up for the challenge.
While there's no jumping in Treasure Tracker, I encountered stages that were every bit the platforming challenge that I faced in 3D World. In a world named Beep Block Sky Plaza, I had to dash from platform to platform on the beat, and time my movements perfectly so I could reach my beloved treasure at the end. Aesthetically, this could fit right in with any Beep Block stage from 3D World or even Super Mario 3D Land before it. But the timed platforming has been appropriated here for Toad's movements, and it clicked almost immediately for me.
In another stage, Drop Road Dash, I had to contend with a long series of falling logs, with flying enemies blocking my path in timed patterns. There were no difficult puzzles to solve, just my reflexes and sense of pattern recognition to get myself (and Toad) to the goal.
Other stages had the slower, more cerebral feel of Toad's levels from 3D World. Walleye Tumble Temple is a perfect example, a stage that had me tilting the camera to look for hidden secrets and getting my timing right to pass a series of thwomps. I played that one at E3, but Up n' Down Terrace was newly available — a small, circular garden that tasked me with switching the heights of various platforms, in order to get to my sweet prize on a raised trellis. Drift Along Canyon was a mix of slower, more puzzle-oriented gameplay and platforming. Looking — and sounding — just like a poison swamp stage from 3D World, I had to get Toadette across a canyon of purple poison, avoid the bullet bills and other obstacles along the way, and switch up my angles in order to maximize my looting on the way.
Along with bonus treasure, each stage has a series of challenges to complete — like making it through Up n' Down Terrace with only three switches pulled, or somehow getting through Drop Road Dash without killing a single enemy. While getting to the main treasure wasn't too arduous in any of these demo levels, nailing all of the challenges probably will be.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is shaping up to be a worthy "alt-platformer" to Super Mario 3D World. The game will launch on the Wii U On Dec. 5.
The story has been updated to reflect the official release date.