No Refunds: “Tadpole Treble Encore”

Looking for a short, novel burst of gameplay? I’ll say that Tadpole Treble Encore “roes” to the occasion, with enjoyable compositions that prove the developer definitely doesn’t have a (sardine) tin ear.

The one thing missing from many rhythm games is an original soundtrack: even games like Theatrhyhthm Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory are simply recycling tunes from earlier titles. Rare is it that you come across something as wacky and wild as Elite Beat Agents, which is as involved in the gameplay and style as it is in the music itself.

That’s why I’m happy to have stumbled upon Tadpole Treble Encore, a 2021 Switch port of a 2016 title. There’s not all that much here–only thirteen levels, which go by pretty quickly once you get the hang of the controls–but almost every stage has an elegant hook (not just lyrically), whether that’s dodging the titular predators in Piranha Jungle, swimming in reverse (against the current) in Gusty Rapids, navigating the dark areas of the Barracuda Caverns, or enjoying a slow duet in Midnight Bayou. The old-timey wordplay of the Aisle Isle, which puns on the alphabet soup of acronyms (“Tell your BF, GF, BFF, your OBGYN/Your XXL MD or SO, AM or PM/Tell AJ, BJ, CJ, DJ, PJ, and TJ”) comes out of nowhere, but it’s very much appreciated. And then there’s Thunder Creek, which shifts the rhythm portion to a shadowy palette as it kicks in an up-tempo high-noon Western melody, one in which your normal tadpole attack now makes a whip-cracking sound effect. (This is what being “pitch perfect” actually means.)

Almost every stage has an elegant hook, and not just lyrically.

A lot of intelligent thought went into Tadpole Treble‘s design, from the way in which the game’s logo uses a font that resembles the musical notes found on sheet music, to the way in which players swim through levels that are broken apart by the staff lines of the G (or treble) clef, occasionally dropping in a tail-kick of bass (probably the one fishy pun the game eschews). My two hours with the game was more than enough to beat it, but I only got 50% completion, as each level is filled with optional goals that radically change the way in which you need to play the song, whether that’s collecting all of the bubbles, getting a high (or low) score, or meeting the cryptic requirements of each level’s hidden challenge fly. The only traditional element missing is a difficulty modifier for each song, though the inclusion of a Composition Mode that lets you create your own levels is a plus. (Not being able to share with the online community, however, is a major lapse.)

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