Tadpole Treble is a deceptively difficult, music-driven adventure and side-scroller, complete with a level editor mode, which combines cute graphics, an impressive music score, and a surprisingly high amount of challenge to create a unique experience. Released on September 2nd, 2016, from the clever minds at BitFinity and Sunken Treasure Games, Tadpole Treble offers Steam achievements, trading cards, partial controller support, and a Mac-friendly option.
Wait, so this is a game about music?
Tadpole Treble is an interesting mix of fantastic music – seriously, we’re talking 30 original tracks over 13 levels, boss battles, and bonus content – with a fun, upbeat story about an ambitious tadpole and her adventures. When I first installed this title in preparation for this review I expected an easy, kid-friendly quest with simple levels and no real challenge to speak of – and I sure was wrong! Tadpole Treble is challenging at times, fast-paced, and unforgiving, with zero checkpoints during levels (though it does save your progress from mission to mission). One problem that I had with the nature of several levels is that it felt like there was no way for me to dodge certain obstacles – I was going to hit them, one way or another, and lost a chunk of health, regardless of whether or not I tried to bob and weave successfully.
You’re dodging predators and obstacles, plotting which way to navigate to gain the most bubbles, health packs, and percussive notes, in the hopes of surviving to the end and having enough oomph to “Treble Charge” through blocks rather than smacking into them. I would have enjoyed a better tutorial since I didn’t even know about the treble charge move until I saw a tip about it, but for the most part, Tadpole Treble has simple controls and a basic design that makes for fast play and a minor learning curve. Either way, I highly recommend getting into the habit of using your Treble Charge early on, since it can save a lot of time and frustration down the road when the difficulty scales up, and you have more and more enemies swimming, flying, leaping, and dunking towards you!
Custom Music, Custom Levels?
Tadpole Treble already includes a level editor with the full Steam version, and a recent update from the developer stated that they are researching the potential for Workshop content and additional custom music as well. I would love to be able to load my music library into the mix – maybe some Aerosmith or Adele while I dodge scary fish, for example – and having both at once would lend a tremendous amount of advanced customization to a title that already supports level editing. As it stands, you can go into Composition Mode to design levels and pair them with your compositions, which is surprisingly addictive even for those of us who don’t have much talent as musicians (ahem).
This lends considerable “replay” value, especially since the story narrative probably isn’t the aspect that will keep players coming back for more; it’s an adorable plot, but after a single playthrough extra playtime will switch over to creation mode – unless you want to take advantage of the online Leaderboards. And let me reiterate that the music here really is top-notch, especially for an Indie title. I loved how the soundtrack blended perfectly with the theme of each level – some are sunny and upbeat, while others are a jazzy love serenade or an ominous, dark-water piece of foreboding composition.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Tadpole Treble; I had expected something very easy, and simplistic, but found myself challenged by many challenging levels, without getting so frustrated that I lost interest in advancing the plot. The music is superb, and the developers’ dedication to matching the score with the level design stands out.
I would love to see Steam’s Workshop implemented for Tadpole Tremble, especially since the Composition mode is already so satisfying. This title reminds me of what I loved about games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero: that interactive, immersive, wholly satisfying sensation of being “part” of the music, rather than just listening to it. You get to experience the soundtrack while enjoying a fun, side-scrolling adventure, and there’s plenty of action to keep you around for a while. It’s a musical journey I’ve wholly enjoyed, and one that I would recommend to anyone that enjoys a fast-paced, action-packed challenge along with an impressive, original soundtrack.