I’m not sure about you, but I feel like Captain Toad is my little buddy. Yes, I know he’s just a cartoon image with some bright colors and quirky cute sound effects, but it feels like he’s my buddy. I feel the same way about him that I did the cartoon characters on cereal boxes as a kid, but with even more affinity…despite the fact I’m now in my 30’s!
Why is this the case? How has Nintendo created this ridiculous character that I’ve become so attached to in such a short time? Is it because he’s the Mario sidekick who’s never been fleshed out, despite being present in dozens of games? Is it because the game where he finally is fleshed out is a high-quality, enjoyable experience? What about the interplay with Toad’s friend, Toadette – does that increase our appreciation of the Captain? Is it because he makes little noises that could make a hardened criminal chuckle with delight? Or is it simply the bright colors and adorable little backpack afforded by the newest Nintendo hardware? Why is Captain Toad so darn amazing?
It’s definitely his cute little noises.
Joking aside, it’s probably a combination of those factors. Many of us have wanted Toad to have his own game for a long time now, and once we got a taste from Super Mario 3D World (a game I actually didn’t like), fans craved more Toad. Although the protagonist for this game was originally set to be Link, Nintendo saw the potential for a Toad game, and created a character that was the antithesis of all things Mario – one that moves at a crawl and can’t jump. They turned the Mario formula on its head, and a successful new franchise character was born through Captain Toad, Treasure Tracker.
While the gameplay is solid and the character in demand, it would not have worked as well without the near flawless presentation that Nintendo demands from its developers. Aside from some bland menu structures, the graphics and textures are an absolute joy to look at. Little tweaks like giving Toad a backpack as a reason for his inability to jump are charming design choices that offer simple but relevant background detail. Another piece of the puzzle that contributed to the sparse story was the introduction of Toadette, Toad’s genderless friend who accompanies him on his quest (though they don’t team up for gameplay). While we don’t exactly gain a deep understanding of either character, the interplay between the two created an actionable dynamic for the game…and it helps that Toadette is every bit as adorable as the Captain.
The game design in all of the levels is spectacular, and the use of the gamepad proved helpful on many occasions. At first I was upset that I might have to use the gamepad to aim when you’re in his little mine cart, but then I realized that you have other options. However, as much as I dislike motion controls, I found myself voluntarily using them on this rare occasion, as they work perfectly.
Through the game’s 70+ levels, I never once became bored with the gameplay. Each new area brought unique challenges, and the game is just short enough to keep us coming back for more. That’s a mistake that I feel is common in modern games; many developers feel like a game “should be X hours long,” which is a huge mistake in my book. Many of my favorite games of all time clock in at under 10 hours; besides that, I just don’t have time to play many long campaigns anymore. This game is just the right length, and it is incredibly polished.
And then there’s the noises. I imagine there’s an internal group of people who were involved with selecting the perfect phrases to use for this game, and to them, they’re probably sick to death of hearing them. But for the rest of us, it simply doesn’t get old! A few levels before the end of the game, I found myself still forming a big smile at the opening “Time for Adventure!”
I don’t know which of these factors were most influential in my happiness at seeing the Capt’n star in his own game, but I do know that now I’ve seen him in action, I’m hooked. And that Nintendo is going to squeeze a little more money out of me when the new toad amiibo surfaces in March, because I can’t wait to pick up the game for a second time.