Having completely missed the original Tadpole Treble on Wii U, I’ll admit to starting it with some trepidation. Graphically, it looks like a game my nine-year-old would play on one of those educational sites. Also, I found the trailer to be grating.
But we review the games, not appearances or trailers, and Tadpole Treble Encore is a great title. Fans of rhythm games will certainly want to play it on the Switch if they missed it the first time around.
The story here is that a newly hatched tadpole, Baton, is almost instantly separated from her mother and must go on a journey to be reunited. Thankfully for us, that happens to be a wonderfully engaging musical journey with very little narrative to get in the way.
The levels are laid out as if on musical staff paper. Baton swims from left to right as the music plays, often being chased by some type of aquatic predator. The main goal is to swim up and down to avoid the rocks (or are they mines?), but you’re not going to get a lot of points if that’s all you do. There are bubbles and other elements to pick up by swimming over them, and they’re often tucked neatly next to the items you need to avoid. In other words, you need to take risks and string together combos for maximum points.
Baton also has the ability to snap her tail, and doing so on certain elements can wield extra points or a toss out of the water to avoid obstacles. It may not sound like a lot to handle, but reacting properly while being perpetually chased by a turtle can really make things a bit hectic. Also, the controls feel slightly sluggish, and I never could get fully comfortable using either the L-stick or the D-pad to control Baton.
Thankfully, the predators behind you are more for show than for challenge. You’re going to reach the end of the level regardless of how well you do, you’ll just end with a lower rank if you miss some collectibles (you will) and run into some obstacles (you will). Those rankings give you replay value. That’s a good thing, too, because the story is over within a matter of hours.
Replayability also comes from the ability to “compose” your own levels. I admittedly didn’t tinker with this too much, but I can say this feature is very well implemented.
It’s not at all difficult to figure it out and start building, but creating good levels is another matter. The music and gameplay of the built-in levels are so expertly implemented that my amateurish attempts had me once again harking to those goofy educational flash games I referenced earlier. It’s best for me to leave the design to the developers, but the option’s there if you want it.
I also want to quickly draw attention to the fantastic music. The styles vary wildly across the game’s levels, but they all fit in quite well with what you’re looking at. It’s a charming package, which I didn’t expect upon first glance. I happily stand corrected.
Rhythm games on the Nintendo Switch come and go, but Tadpole Treble may stick around. It’s admittedly too easily beaten, but those seeking perfect rankings or who enjoy the Composition Mode will find reason enough to keep diving in.