If you have read through previous articles on Distant Arcade, you may have come across my scathing takedown of Toad. I basically asked myself (and readers) if the gravelly voiced lil’ bugger is actually the biggest creep in the Mario Bros. saga, because dude is always there to let you know the princess is in another castle. But how does he know that? Did he or one of his clones kidnap her? Does he work for Bowser? I HAVE QUESTIONS.
And, really, I still have those same questions, but I now have something even more important: a love/hate relationship with Toad’s own new game on the Wii U, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It was one of several gaming gifts I got over the holidays—thanks again, Tim!—and I fired it up after plowing through Super Mario Galaxy, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and The Last of Us. Well, I actually played it for a stint between Wolfenstein and The Last of Us, but I realized I wasn’t necessarily ready to play something so adorable after the addictive and gruesome fun of Wolfenstein.
So I made Toad wait, and I feel like in making him wait, I let the guy and his friend/partner/whoever, Toadette, down. They then retaliated by starring in a game that makes me want to rip my hair out and keep playing at the same damn time. Now, given the fact it’s a puzzle game at heart, those feelings shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. At its core, a puzzle game’s intent is in its genre name: to puzzle you to the point you, well, want to rip your hair out. And yeah, you may not get to that point early on in Treasure Tracker—I hope not, at least, because it starts off quite early—but damn did Nintendo ramp up the difficulty.
It’s worth mentioning now that I’m not finished with the game and don’t know if I’m anywhere close to the conclusion. I will say this: I’m on the third chapter/book of stages and it appears as if Toad and Toadette are just about ready to reunite after I conquer a handful of levels. Again, I’m not sure if this is indeed the end or not, partially because I refuse to look up where I’m at in the game. In doing so, I believe you can ruin your enjoyment, as you’re basically anticipating a conclusion rather than enjoying where you’re at. It’s like you’re playing the game just to beat it—and not to play it.
But I digress.
It’s in the latest levels that I’ve thought about, again, tearing my hair out as a result of an incredibly higher difficulty. The stages grew challenging, sure, as I found it more difficult to get all of the diamonds and lil’ side items/tasks hidden within. However, one stage last night nearly drove me insane, if only because I felt like I was battling the camera as much as I was the game itself. To be fair, the camera angles have been consistently great up until this point, barring a few deaths here and there as a result of crappy angles. But I’m OK with those deaths because 1) I more than made up for it with coins and 1-Up mushrooms and 2) that kind of shit just happens.
But this level? Nah, man; err, I mean, nah, Captain Toad. I died over and over and wasted time farting around the stage simply because I couldn’t tell where the hell I was or what was happening. All I knew was that there were spiky balls dropping from above and that I needed to maneuver them through the level to open doors. That part was easy. Finding the doors and platforms to use? Not that easy. And not difficult, either—more like, a huge pain in the ass that was created for no reason.
And therein lies my problem with Captain Toad. Despite the fact I was grating my teeth down to my gums—gross hyperbole, sorry—I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to see what the next stage would bring, even if I knew the objective was going to be the same: collect three diamonds, grab the star, and maybe pick up a golden mushroom or something. As simple as that sounds, Nintendo was able to switch up the formula with every level to keep it all fresh and engaging. Even when you were battling the same dragon in different forms, the routes you took to the stop of the stage were varied, silly, and altogether lovable. That sentiment rings true across the entire love/hate experience.
Damn you, Captain Toad.