Release Date: December 5, 2014Platform: Wii UDeveloper: Nintendo EAD TokyoPublisher: NintendoGenre: Puzzle-platformer
Toad has always been the unsung hero in the Mario series. Yet, the fourth Smash Bros. game has arrived, but still no Toad. But now there is finally a game where Toad, or Captain Toad rather, is front and center, something that hasn’t happened since 1994’s Wario’s Woods.
Originally appearing in Super Mario 3D World as a series of challenges, these puzzles have been spun out into their own game. The storyline here is simple enough, not that Mario games ever broke the bank in storytelling. But the story is the most basic (although there’s a fairly tremendous “twist” at the very end of the game that does some interesting things with canon and chronology in the Mario series): Toadette gets kidnapped by this Giant Bird Type monster, Wingo, that is your resident Big Bad because I guess Toad isn’t important enough to warrant an appearance from Bowser?
Each level has you venturing out to collect three diamonds, and then ultimately get the Super Star at the end. There’s also a challenge mandated to each stage, such as completing the level without getting noticed by any Shy Guys, or beating a level without attacking any enemies. These elements add a little bit of extra difficulty in the right places.
Most levels take about five minutes to beat and are on the easier side, but after you beat the first boss there’s a pretty clear difficulty upgrade with a lot more going on in the levels that you need to be on top of, but it’s still pretty streamlined and easy. This works in the game’s favor. There’s no room for fat because each level is so focused.
The controls here are simple enough (and are an even smoother experience playing on your gamepad), as you pluck items that can be thrown at enemies, climb up things, or us a pick ax to temporarily become invincible and blow stuff up. This is extremely simplified, but it works to the game’s benefit.
The camera is almost as much of a character as Toad. Moving your vantage point all around your three-dimensional island will reveal hidden nooks and crannies that would otherwise be invisible. This all leads to some pretty inventive platforming and puzzling as you progress. It’s actually quite addicting in how basic it is, and I often found myself continually doing just one more level after thinking I was done.
The game uses a lot of concepts, enemies, and items from the latest Mario titles, all to reasonably good effect and smooth translation. For instance, the double cherry from Super Mario 3D World is back, causing you to split into two, piloting two Toads at once, which leads to some pretty inspired puzzling. Some new, Toad-only items would be appreciated, just to break some new ground here and have something to re-appear in a future title, but again, the restrained, un-bloated nature of this title is where it excels.
The graphics are really gorgeous and doing a lot with a little in a game that certainly doesn’t have much to it. Everything looks beautiful, but there isn’t a ton to show off in the levels, which are merely floating planets of puzzling rather than a full 3D world. The same can be said for the audio, which is always pleasant, and never a problem, but it fails to really make its presence known. Some of your old favorite tunes from previous Mario games, like Super Mario 64, are featured, and those moments of nostalgia are all very pleasant and a proper fit for this game.
There’s a weird moment after you beat the first 18 levels where the credits roll, and you think that you might have just beaten the entire game. If this were the case, this would be an incredibly short title. Fortunately though, after beating these initial 18, you complete Book 1 and gain access to Book 2.
I was worried that Book 2 might be the same levels again but with Toadette, as Mario games have done in the past with Luigi, but thankfully these are new, harder levels, with an interesting character swap happening in them. It’s a little discouraging that we get the same two bosses for Toadette, as opposed to expanding this out to a wider circle of enemies and creativity, but it’s a small complaint.
There are in fact four books in the end, amounting to just over 70 levels (even three levels taken right out of Super Mario 3D World as a cute bonus, and one that’s quite the inspired homage to the original Donkey Kong and its level layout), in what’s certainly a full game. Even if each level still takes you under ten minutes at the longest to complete, this title will still roughly run you between eight and ten hours for you to collect everything, and the levels are streamlined enough that you won’t be sick of them and look for an excuse to quit playing.
So hit the treasure trails, treasure trackers!