Isn’t a frog’s life-cycle just absolutely amazing? First, they’re a tiny little egg, then a tadpole, then they starve to death because some idiot left their jar under the stairs and forgot all about it.
Luckily, Baton, the star of Tadpole Treble Encore, hasn’t been scooped up by some ham-handed child and has has a chance of surviving her aquatic trials. She’s far from home and has to swim, dodge and tail-slap her way all the way back to safety. Sound familiar? It might, because Tadpole Treble Encore is an expanded version of the original Tadpole Treble, which first saw the light of day on the PC and Wii U.
But if you’ve never experienced Tadpole Treble Encore‘s previous incarnations you’re in for a real treat. Each level is a feast for the eyes and ears; you swim horizontally through several beautifully-rendered cartoon levels, dodging musical notes as you go. The notes play as you pass and, for bonus points, you can tail-whack reeds, adding to the melody.
It’s not a rhythm game in the same way Guitar Hero was; as long as you don’t sap your life bar by repeatedly smashing into notes, the music plays regardless. But the further you push your way through the game, the more it starts resembling a bullet hell shooter. It never reaches Cuphead levels of difficulty but it’s just challenging enough to keep you hooked.
It’s Tadpole Treble Encore‘s story mode that really shines, and that’s a result of each level having its own individual soundtrack, mirroring the events taking place. The music changes to matches the mood; when there’s a turtle plodding along behind you, the piece in question is slow and measured. And there are several fully-voiced songs, including a piece sung to you by another, amorous (if a little stalkerish), tadpole.
Throw in a whole host of other memorable, larger-than-life characters, unlockables, the push to beat your own record, and you’ve got a game you’ll go back to again and again. In fact, I’d like to say that Tadpole Treble Encore is absolutely the best way to experience this gorgeous, addictive musical swim ’em up. But I can’t, because it’s not entirely true.
Don’t get me wrong, this would be a good game if it just had the story sections, but the addition of a composition mode where you can create your own levels really elevates the experience. In essence, it lets you write your own song. Tadpole Treble Encore‘s song maker is so easy to learn that it should be regularly used in primary and secondary school music lessons.
But the Steam and Wii U versions of the game, released back in 2016, let you share your songs by sharing QR codes. That feature is completely absent in this Switch released, and so, with Tadpole Treble Encore, you’re mostly stuck keeping your songs to yourself. It’s a baffling omission which is apparently being looked into, but when it comes to sharing your work, Encore is a step behind the previous platforms.
It may be missing a share feature, but you’ll still love it; you’ll just have to shove your Switch in someone’s face if you want them to appreciate your latest masterpiece. Tadpole Treble Encore is a game that doesn’t so much ooze charm as spray it everywhere like an out-of-control lawn sprinkler. If you’ve got a single musical bone in your body, Tadpole Treble Encore will be right up your stream.