Hands-On Preview: Tadpole Treble (Wii U)

The duo behind Brawl in the Family bring their talents to the Wii U eShop!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/18/2015 15:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bitfinity Games has been hard at work on its upcoming eShop release Tadpole Treble. The Taranto brothers, masterminds behind the excellent Brawl in the Family comic, have been toiling away on this unique adventure/rhythm game combination for a while now, and are inching closer to its debut. I recently got to get my hands on a build of the game, and I was very pleased with what I played. More rhythm-hybrid titles have been hitting the market over the past couple of years, from Game Freak’s HarmoKnight to Harmonix’s Record Run on iOS, but Tadpole Treble is the latest title to show just how much potential can still be mined from these mashups if a creative enough concept is brought to the table.

My time with the game was limited to three stages, but they were varied and distinct, really showing off both the art direction and the uniqueness of the gameplay. The story revolves around the freshly-hatched tadpole Baton and her journey to get back home. It’s a simple premise, but for a game like this not a lot of exposition is necessary; this is pick up and play action at its best. Tadpole Treble benefits from the Taranto brothers’ talent for storytelling, showing from the first level forward their ability to immediately set the tone and sense of place that they envisioned for the title. Each stage ostensibly operates as a typical auto-runner game, with the action scrolling automatically from left to right. What makes Tadpole Treble different is that the musical score dictates the actual path that Baton must follow.

A music staff runs the length of every stage and each note is placed in its corresponding spot on one of five lines. Baton must weave her way around the notes, as they act as obstructions that take away from her health meter if she swims into them. Littered across the staff are a number of different elements, including symbols, bamboo chutes, and bubbles that can be interacted with and help to skyrocket Baton’s score. The first level, Tadpole Pond, is docile enough, showing Baton burst from her little egg and eventually getting snatched up by a seagull (hence her quest to return home!). I was able to quickly pick-up on the nuances of the gameplay and start chaining symbol claps and the like. The game has an intriguing handmade art style that looks like a synthesis of pastels and painting, along with an occasional easter egg for longtime gamers to spot. Similar to titles like Q Entertainment’s Lumines series, Baton’s actions interact with the music playing in the background; striking a symbol adds its sound to the beat, and other actions are similarly incorporated.

There’s a pleasing flow to the gameplay, with intuitive cues for when to interact with objects. Baton’s movements are pleasantly precise, which is essential for facilitating some of the very tricky pinhole maneuvers between music notes that the game challenges players with. While the first stage isn’t exactly a nail biter, later ones are more challenging. Don’t let Tadpole Treble‘s cheery aesthetic fool you, the game can get tough. In the last stage I sampled, Barracuda Caverns, one of the titular, snapping fish chased me the whole way, and only by following the different musical cues was I able to escape its bite. This varied stage design extends to the music, by the way. I heard a pleasing array of tunes during my time with the game, and they mesh with the atmosphere of each level perfectly.

Bitfinity has a potential winner on its hands here. For a freshman outing, the game shows a remarkable level of polish and attention to detail. Tadpole Treble will be heading to the Wii U eShop soon enough, and when it does be sure to check Nintendojo for our full review of the game. The Taranto bros. are a creative force in the world of comics; here’s hoping they can successfully bring their unique voices to video games, next!

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