• Tadpole Treble


  • Rhythm


  • BitFinity


  • BitFinity

Release Date:

  • May 6 2016 (computers), August 11 2016 (Wii U)




  • Mac, Windows, Linux, and the Wii U

Steam Release Date:

  • September 2, 2016


I bought Tadpole Treble not because it was a must play or because it was on those "ridiculously cheap indie titles" sales like it was bought for $2 or something, no, it was because I supported the developer. Back when I was in high school, I found a great webcomic called Brawl in the Family, written by Matthew Taranto.

While unfortunately, BitF has since ended, it was somewhat unique (and this was one of Taranto's selling points) because it was clean, avoiding the language and "hilarious" violence that plagued other video game webcomics at the time (not that there weren't slight variations from that theme). He didn't have "OC"s (not at first, anyway) but did have all sorts of characterizations added to existing characters, like bit player Adeleine in the Kirby series to being a major character.

♪And when you get back you can say that you took it stride, inside, Thunder Creeeek!♪

Later on, Brawl in the Family differentiated itself from itself, as it became a musical comic strip, with the first such strip appearing in 2009 and featuring Taranto's own vocal talent.

The comic progressed and grew, including a hiatus when Taranto was diagnosed with Crohn's disease (interestingly, it came at a point soon before one of the members of my extended family was diagnosed) and at some point toward the end of BiTF's run, came the announcement that Taranto would make a video game of his own.

I wasn't terribly enthused by it at first, I had decided to focus on backlogs, was still going through college, and the initial demo concept I didn't see much in when it was first released. A Kickstarter was then run, and was successful. Tadpole Treble was to be released on a variety of platforms, including being an official (digital only) Nintendo title, the realization of Matthew Taranto's dream.

I never much paid attention to it initially admittedly (I didn't really have the resources to donate to a Kickstarter campaign, see the reasons why later), but I was intrigued by the intrigued by the teaser trailer which was just released at that time. From the start I could tell it had great music. I especially loved the main theme. It came at around the time I took my first solo trip to Houston in 2014 to visit my cousin, and it holds a lot of fond memories (that, and its relation to BIT.TRIP.RUNNER and The Shivah, both of which I played, greatly enjoyed their soundtracks, and later bought). It was great, and I need to write down about what happened that weekend.

Besides holding the same artwork, humor, and Taranto's voice like Brawl in the Family, you could tell that it's heavily influenced by classic Nintendo games. I was reminded of the "musical tadpoles" in Super Mario RPG and the music composer in Mario Paint. Of course this being a third party game meant that the references couldn't be too obvious (though the "hills with eyes" from the Super Mario games was included).

The cutscenes are always fun, but there are only four.

I finally bought the game in February 2017, several months after it finally hit Steam. As much as I wanted to like this game, I do have some issues with it. They are tiny, but I still felt like the game could've used a little more playtesting...the vast majority of the game you'll be clicking up and down keys. Left and right are hardly used at all, except to use the third button, also mapped to Space as default.

The actual adventure part, consisting of several levels, most of which with interesting gimmicks and a fantastic fully-voiced soundtrack, is fairly short. A few levels provided challenge and of course, the final boss fight which I felt wasn't telegraphed very well on what you're supposed to do (once you nail down what to do, it's rather easy), but the main gimmick is the collectibles in the form of bubbles that pass by on the level's way, with one hundred in each level. Collecting bubbles allows you to unlock extras in the game (bestiary, scene replays, etc.), and just by completing the game normally you should be able to unlock a few of these.

But to get to all 100 bubbles in the level means you have to make a perfect run in the level, and forcing perfect runs to unlock things except for the now practically standard "I Completed The Entire Game Without Dying or Dying Very Little" trophy it just feels obtuse. It's one of those mechanics that just need to go away, like the situations that many 1980s-era adventure games put you in where you could never win the game because you did or didn't do one little thing fairly early on. Actually, true to its Nintendo fandom-based gameplay, it felt more like Yoshi's Island and collecting the red coins in every corner of the map, which destroyed pacing and undermined how much fun was to be had. At least in Yoshi's Island, you generally had as much time as you pleased, though.

Another consequence of wanting it to be a Nintendo game (after all, it made it to the Wii U), the Steam version feels like a bad console port. To quit properly, you have to select a level, THEN go to Main Menu, THEN hit Escape, then click Quit, and that's the only way to do it. No shortcuts, no anything. It's minor, I suppose, but it's one of those smaller things I wanted to address. Standardized controls in PC game is that Escape pauses the game with an option for quit.

Good news is Tadpole Treble at least was able to set out what it meant to do with stretch goals and the fans got what they wanted; it's not like Matthew Taranto was some washed-up developer with credits in major games, promises something amazing, gets money thrown at them, and then gives everyone some mediocre game that leaves you wondering where the money went. Yes, I am looking at you, Broken Age and Mighty No. 9, games that were supposed to give a LucasArts adventure game and classic Mega Man game feel, respectively, but instead ended up mediocre as the rest presumably went to hookers and cocaine. As such, they have done a terrible disservice to the fans of those genres. I'm glad I never contributed to either, nor will I likely never purchase your products. And, speaking of speaking of lessons nobody learned, long predating Kickstarter and the follies of giving a well-known developer far too much time and leeway was John Romero's Daikatana which WAS indeed terrible.

Back to Tadpole Treble...if you were reading to see if I recommend Tadpole Treble, my first impressions with first third of the game that I wasn't ready to recommend it to you wholeheartedly if you weren't a fan of Brawl of the Family. Is it a bad game? No, of course not. Is it a better than a lot of the indies coming out of Steam today? Yes, it is. Is it underrated? Perhaps, especially how more terrible indies have gotten better press (Home is one of them, though that at least deserves credit for not railroading players into a walking simulator with a sociopolitical message shoved down your throat, if only for the fact Home has no story). Would I pay attention to future games by Bitfinity? Yes, definitely!

March 24 2017