Hello dear readers and welcome to this special edition of Shoot the Rookie! Why special you ask? Well today’s post is part of a huge collaboration in which bloggers from around the world write about different games from the Super Mario universe. Organised expertly by the Well-Red Mage, we will be deep-diving into the world of Mario looking at each of the titles individually, so make sure you head on over to the main page where Red himself has put together the ultimate guide to this collection of writings which is commonly known as the Super Mario Multiverse.
For my part, what game from the Mario Universe could I possibly look at other than Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker? It was the first game I ever wrote about here on Shoot the Rookie, and one of the things that inspired me to start this blog. It might seem weird to pick a game for this collaboration that is essentially sans-Mario, however this is the game in the Mario Multiverse that means the most to me, and the reason for this is simple: I was able to complete it. There. I said it. I’ve never completed another Mario game on my own. I played quite a bit of Mario Galaxy and loved it but it soon got too tough. I may one day finish Super Mario 3D World, but that will only be because I’ve played it in multiplayer mode where you can work with other people to get through levels. But Captain Toad I finished on my own and although this may sound trivial, it is something I am extremely proud of.
You see, Shoot the Rookie was originally conceived as a place for me to write about the challenges of being rubbish at video games. I am someone who sucks at platformers. Also most other types of game, but platformers in particular and that has meant that my experience of Mario games has not always been the most positive. Captain Toad however changed all that in charming and inventive ways, which made it not only more accessible to people like me but also an utter joy for anyone to play.
But how does it achieve this combination of accessibility and joy? Well, it does it in lots of ways, and that’s what I want to look at here, so let’s get going!
One thing that makes this game unique is its level design. Instead of a traditional side scrolling platformer or the more open exploration style of Odyssey, Captain Toad’s levels are mostly confined within a cube shape which the player views from distance. You can rotate the level, allowing you to examine it from different angles, and each level has its own little intricacies – disappearing platforms, movable stairs, destroyable walls etc. These things were already well-established in Mario games, but the way each level is set in such a contained space makes the experience less over-whelming and makes each level more of a stand-alone experience. The game does change up the level design to keep things fresh from time to time, and it is always a particularly welcome change of pace when you reach one of the mine-cart levels, where Toad can shoot enemies with turnips as he speeds down the track.
Less Platforming, More Puzzling
Whilst still classed as a platformer, and rightly so, Captain Toad is definitely on the puzzle-platformer side of the genre. It is slower paced and often more strategic than many Mario games, and has one mind-bending feature which shouldn’t work but somehow does – Captain Toad cannot jump. Yep, it is a platformer, but you can’t jump. Weird right? Well yes, but also genius. The lazy old Captain also can’t run very fast, hence the slower paced nature of the game. Although you may feel that this removes the exhilaration you get from pulling off a perfectly timed set of jumps, its plus side is that it makes the control scheme easier to master and also removes the need for lightning sharp reflexes, thus making it more accessible to players of a lower skill level. Instead, it offers a wide variety of puzzles and other challenges to ensure that it keeps your attention, including several levels which feature puzzles based around the double-cherry item, as pictured above.
To add to the games’ excitement and accessibility, Captain Toad features a number of novel gameplay features which don’t involve the need to be able to master precise inputs. I’m not sure if all of these carried across to the Switch and 3DS versions of the game, but in the original Wii U version, you were asked, for example, to blow on the gamepad to move certain objects. In other levels you were asked to spin a wheel using the touchscreen and others where you use the gamepad as the camera in order to aim a turnip cannon. It made clever use of the much maligned gamepad, and added a fun element for people not really used to platformers. In addition to these features in the main game, if you had the right amiibo to hand, you unlocked a whole new challenge, where you were asked to find a pixel version of Toad who had been hidden within each level of the game – this again was a nice little feature which added a bit more depth to the game.
Taking Pity on Failure
I don’t think anybody would claim that Captain Toad is a difficult game, but there are still some levels which offer a significant challenge. Thankfully, the game recognises this and offers you help in the form of invincibility mushrooms. They do not appear the first few times you try a level, but fail at it on multiple occasions and these wonderful little things will sprout at the level’s starting point. You are not forced to use them, and so you shouldn’t be, but if, like me, you have no patience or desire to repeat your failures multiple times then the option is there. It doesn’t take away all the challenge – I mean you can still fall into a lake of lava – but if there are certain types of level you consistently struggle with then the mushrooms are there to give you a helping hand. Whilst it offers a lot to players who find the game a challenge, it also offers options which are rewarding for those who want a sterner challenge. These come in the form of the collectables which appear in each level. As in other Mario games, you do need a certain number to progress but undertaking the challenge to collect them all is entirely up to you.
This collaboration is of course all about Mario and the many universes which make up the Mario Multiverse. Whilst Captain Toad is a unique game which sets itself apart in the ways I’ve noted, it would not be nearly as fun or charming if it hadn’t been made with the same love and attention to detail as the main games in the Mario series. It is full of fun and light-hearted moments. The Captain himself is an endearing if lazy idiot and Toadette is his perfect counter – a real go-getter. The graphics, which borrow heavily from the rest of the Mario Multiverse, are spot-on: bright colours, nice little details for fans of the wider Mario series, and the music and sound effects are everything you would expect, with the main theme tune being a particularly fun example. Despite its inherent silliness, the feel of the game is really classy – it may not have the same fast-paced platforming as most mainline Mario games but moving Toad around feels good and even using the gamepad as a camera works pretty well.
It is the combination of all these little things that makes Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker a real gem of a game, full of heart and made with love for everyone to enjoy.
So readers, that is that! Captain Toad’s contribution to the Super Mario Multiverse is verified! But what did you make of the game? Perhaps you’ve tried it on the 3DS or Switch and had a different experience? Would you like to see a follow up? If so what changes and improvements would you be looking for? Lets discuss below in comments and don’t forget to head on over to the Well Red Mage to see all the other articles making up the Super Mario Multiverse collaboration – more details below!
Thanks for reading,
Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more: https://thewellredmage.com/2020/03/10/center-of-the-mario-multiverse/