Full Disclosure: I was given a copy of Tadpole Treble for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own. You can learn more about my disclosure policy here.
Tadpole Treble is the first game from Bitfinity Games, an indie studio put together by Matthew Taranto, the mind behind Brawl in The Family, and his brother Michael. The game was Kickstarted back at the end of 2013 and was recently launched after being in Early in Access on Steam since April. Billed as a rhythm game drawing inspiration from games as diverse as Donkey Konga and Amplitude, the game itself is a super charming side scroller about a tadpole named Baton trying to get home.
As one would hope, being that the game is the product of a professional cartoonist, the art in the game is excellent and really helps to reinforce the fun and playful tone the game makers seem to be going for. There are two modes, Adventure and Composition, with Adventure mode being played through 12 levels, all with their own unique music and obstacles. There isn’t really much of a story, beyond “get Baton home,” but there are comic panel style interludes to set things up and guide us on our way.
The goal of each level is the same: avoid the notes and various predators, grab the food, bubbles and other good things. All in time to the music. This sounds easy. And it might be for some (Rick had no trouble at all with the early levels), but I had to do the first non-tutorial level 7 times before I passed it. Most of this I think has to do with the controls, which feel rather stiff considering how light and airy the rest of the game feels. I’m not sure what could be done to fix this, and maybe to a more skilled gamer it wouldn’t be as important, but moving up and down the bars of music felt kludgy and frustrating. Also, I’m not sure I ever figured out how to use my Treble Charge once it was filled.
Despite this Adventure mode, Tadpole Treble is basically a score-attack game where you are scored on each level you do and are ranked on a global leader board for every level. Levels can be replayed ad nauseam once unlocked, with each level only unlocking as you defeat the level before it. I never once scored above a D, but still managed to have fun, pulled along by the charming music and art. There is even a sing-a-long level where the words to the song appear at the bottom of the screen, which I thought was tremendous fun.
But the real star of the game for me is Composition mode. Clearly heavily inspired by the music editor in Mario Paint, Composition mode is exactly what it sounds like: you get to create your own levels/songs using a drag and drop editor and the same marvelous art as in the rest of the game. Users can even share their compositions using QR codes in Steam. While I’m far from being a musical genius, I can definitely see the appeal of this mode and was impressed with how versatile the tools are. Someone (not me) who knew what they were doing could do great things here.
While I wasn’t quite able to finish the game myself (for now) I do think it is an absolutely charming game that is surprisingly challenging.
Tadpole Treble is available on Steam for $9.99 US