“It’s cute” is a pretty rubbish reason to like a game, but Treasure Tracker is so unrelentingly adorable that for once it’s an entirely valid one. Every little bit of it has character and personality, partly thanks to some of the most expressive animation ever seen in a Nintendo game. (Tip: zoom in when Toad is swimming, or Toadette is being pursued by a Mud Trooper.) There’s care and craft evident in every part of the game, from the idle animations to the menus: leave the title screen running for a bonus treat, or keep circling the analogue stick during play and watch what happens. It might even be Wii U’s best-looking game: it’s bright, sharp, gorgeously lit, and has some fine visual details we didn’t see in Super Mario 3D World.
Yes, the difficulty curve is a little shallow, and the level design is never quite as intricate as it could – perhaps should – have been. Though you’ll occasionally marvel at the way it all slots together, the route to the power star is often predictable. And yet at times I began to wonder if that’s such a problem. Easy games tend to get a rougher ride from the press, who might not always consider the audience at which this is aimed. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t feel disappointed that Treasure Tracker isn’t quite up there with EAD Tokyo’s best work (or that there should be more than one save file, and gyro controls should be optional). It’s more that we should acknowledge what a brilliantly constructed game this is for kids, big and small.
Besides, challenge is still there for those determined enough to seek it out: the very final surprise is a real test of skill and nerve, while speedrun times are strict enough to require a few attempts to beat. I’m hopeful that Nintendo might be working on a substantial pack of ultra-challenging stages as DLC, and Amiibo functionality is yet to be patched in, so there’s clearly more to come. But even now I’ve finished it, I still find myself returning on occasion: it’s just a lovely wee thing to look at and play with, and charming enough to warm the cynical heart of even the most jaded player.