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Video Game / Tadpole Treble

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"Goooooo, little tadpole!
Find your waaaaaay back home!
Swiiim for that sanctum you seeeeeeeek!"

Tadpole Treble is a Rhythm Game by BitFinity for the PC, Mac, mobile devices, and the Wii U released on May 6, 2016. It is notable for being spearheaded by Brawl in the Family writer Matthew Taranto and his brother Michael Taranto. It features Baton, a just-born tadpole in Opus Island who, after being snatched from her pond by Coda the pelican, has to make her way back home using a musical staff while collecting bubbles and avoiding notes and obstacles.

View the first official trailer here.

The game was ported to the Nintendo Switch in January 2021 as Tadpole Treble Encore, featuring additional unlockables and a new stage.


Tadpole Treble contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Sonata to Baton; he chases her through the whole level trying to serenade her, even though she's not interested at all. He does mean well, though, and eventually lets off and wishes her luck on her journey.
  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: "Aisle Isle", exclusive to Encore. At one point, the song managed to cram 32 acronyms and abbreviations into 8 lines.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: ELE-94, the computer inside the Sunken Derelict. Its personalities vary in demeanor, but all of them are more interested in leaking oil and attacking the wildlife than performing plane duties. One of its second-phase lines still insists it's following programming.
  • Alliterative Title: Tadpole Treble.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Got all the bubbles in every level? Now you can play as the 8-bit version of Baton (named Biton) from Chiptune Lagoon in every level, and as normal Baton in Chiptune Lagoon itself.
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  • Band Land: The entire setting, Opus Island. Every body of water has a musical theme to it, and the characters are well aware of it. Etude even warns you that the catchiness of the music directly corresponds to the danger of the area.
  • Big Bad: Coda the pelican kicks off the plot by trying to eat Baton the tadpole, separating her from her family and starting her quest to get back home. Once she beats Coda, he asks her to stop a greater threat; ELE-94, the A.I. of a crashed plane that is polluting Opus Island, including Baton’s home.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Conductor's Storm, which is unlocked by obtaining all 13 Challenge Flies. No bubbles or food, just a gigantic kraken, plenty of notes, and hazards from previous levels.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Sonata, the overconfident tadpole from Midnight Bayou, who sings a level-long song to try winning Baton's heart.
  • Chainsaw Good: ELE-94 uses a buzzsaw in the second phase of its battle.
  • Creative Closing Credits: Baton swims through space, passing by backdrops of all the levels. The credits can be pushed around as she swims by them.
  • Crosshair Aware: The pistol shrimp in Thunder Creek create crosshairs to indicate where they will fire.
  • Determinator: Baton won't let anything stop her from getting back home. While this is evident throughout, it's most apparent from Thunder Creek to the end.
  • Desert Skull: The underwater equivalent is present in Thunder Creek (due to it being Western-themed), including a hammerhead shark, nine hydra heads, and a leviathan.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: Getting F-ranks on levels is difficult because of this. You can't just avoid every sparkle/cymbal/bamboo rod to get a low score, you also have to take hits frequently so the Streak meter doesn't stay maxed for too long at a time, while still collecting enough health pellets (which thankfully don't give any points) to live until the end and take more hits. It gets even tougher on levels where you have to hit cymbals to avoid losing, like Thunder Creek; getting a multiplier by hitting a cymbal makes you score higher, but not hitting them enough gets you zapped in a level with very little health.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Hitting a crossbones in Thunder Creek causes the game to flash a picture of Matthew and Michael Taranto, followed by the game's logo, and then the F-rank victory theme.
    • The normally very calm pause menu music has a 5% chance of being this instead.
    • If you sit in Etude's Grove long enough, the screen will slowly start zooming in on his face.
    • In the new stage for Encore, you can see a newspaper in the background that says "Autopilot disaster! All flights grounded!"
  • Enemy Mine: After chasing her throughout the entire game, Coda makes a truce with Baton to carry her to the Sunken Derelict, after realizing the oil spill is just as damaging to him as it is to the other creatures.
  • Eternal Engine: The Sunken Derelict, the final normal level of the game. It's a plane wreck that houses ELE-94, and its note field includes fans, wires, and a control panel.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The reason Etude has the Bestiary sections in his bubble market? He ate it (he thought the pictures would taste like animals) and is willing to cough up the pages in exchange for bubbles.
  • Feathered Fiend: Coda the pelican is a major enemy to Baton, though he's just following predatory instincts.
  • Follow the Money: The bubbles in each level tend to be arranged to show the optimal path around obstacles and towards bonus points, though sometimes they can be in odd locations..
  • Fun with Acronyms: The new song from Encore has a bit too much fun with acronyms. "Aisle Isle" reveals ELE stands for "Electrical Lead Engineer", and the song contains several dozen acronyms, all about promoting ELE as the MVP, the GOAT, and will make the consumer a VIP.
  • Furry Confusion: Crosses over with Carnivore Confusion. All the animals seem to have some level of basic intelligence, which makes the fact that they're all too willing to devour each other a little bit creepy. Often played for laughs in Etude's conversations. He advises that Baton shouldn't take it personally when someone (even himself) tries to eat her.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: In a game about aquatic creatures, the final boss is the psychotic AI of a crashed airplane.
  • Gratuitous French: Sonata. His lyrics include "Aller manger" and "mon cheri bijou". Justified in that his level is based on a english-speaking part of the world that nevertheless has its own dialect of French.
  • Grimy Water: The freezing water of Snowfall Lake, the salt water of Saltwater Cape, and the oil of Sunken Derelict. All of them cause Baton to take damage every few seconds.
  • Heroic Mime: Baton never speaks, even though other tadpoles (or at least Sonata) can talk just fine. She mostly gets things across through facial expressions.
  • High-Voltage Death: In Thunder Creek, lightning will strike the water, zapping you unless you hit a cymbal, which will launch you out of the water. ELE-94 can transmit electricity through wires to hurt Baton.
  • Indy Escape: Partway through Gusty Rapids, a boulder gets knocked loose and rolls towards Baton on the current. Baton can knock it back with her tail until it eventually gets stuck.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Late in Trout Tributary, a massive trout blocks out most of the screen, making it hard to see incoming notes and bubbles.
    • Gusty Rapids' current is so strong that it pulls Baton backwards. This is represented by the level going in reverse, with Baton starting at the right side of the screen and obstacles coming in from the left.
  • Ironic Echo: One of the lines that the final boss may say is a condescending and threatening "Go, little tadpole. Find your way back home." This is in contrast to the triumphant use of this phrase in Thunder Creek.
  • Jungle Japes: Piranha Jungle, where Baton swims through the river of an exotic jungle while being pursued by a pack of piranhas collectively known as Staccato.
  • Kaizo Trap: In the last segment of Piranha Jungle, Baton has to knock fruit from trees to throw the Staccato off her tail. Fail to hit enough fruit, and the Staccato will chomp her just as she passes the finish line for a One-Hit Kill.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • In the final stage, electric wiring forms the lines of the implied staff bar on the playfield.
    • One of Etude's conversations has him remarking on how Coda "kickstarted" Baton's adventure, saying that he thinks a thousand fans kickstarted it. This is a reference to the game being crowdfunded by Kickstarter.
    • Sonata mentions he'll serenade Baton again if she decides to "come by for a high score". This also references the fact that the same song starts over every time you replay the level.
  • Leet Lingo: The final boss's name is a leet version of the word "elegy".
  • Leitmotif: Pieces of the Saltwater Cape theme tend to play when Coda the pelican is present in cutscenes. Logical, since Saltwater Cape is Coda's domain.
  • Level in Boss Clothing: The game doesn't have traditional bosses, but four of the levels (Turtle Pipes, Barracuda Caverns, Piranha Jungle, and Saltwater Cape) feature another creature/creatures pursuing Baton, and she has to dodge their attacks while avoiding the other level obstacles to make it to the end. All of these are displayed in their own section of the Bestiary. ELE-94 mixes things up by having you fight him directly, but even his level contains notes to avoid.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Venus flytraps are present in Piranha Jungle, and they eat some of the Staccato. They also have great singing voices.
  • Mood Whiplash:
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Coda the pelican is just a hungry bird who happened to snap up a tadpole who wandered too far from her mother. Etude and the bestiary pages also state multiple times that the many creatures trying to eat our heroine are just hungry predators trying to survive as well. It makes ELE-94 stand out even more, as it's the only thing that attacks Baton for no good reason.
  • Painting the Medium: In Thunder Creek, one section has pistol shrimp firing bullets as Baton passes by. Over time, the bullets create impact marks on the screen.
  • Plot Tunnel: In a case of Gameplay and Story Integration, the first level, Tadpole Pond, is inaccessible after the first time you beat it, as the game is about Baton getting back there. Even once you do make it back, it can't be played until after beating the Sunken Derelict, since it's covered in oil.
  • Power Cable Attack: In the Sunken Derelict, ELE-94 will try to zap Baton with wires that are in the water with her.
  • Rank Inflation: A letter rank is awarded after each stage, with "S" being the highest as per tradition, with the "level cleared" jingle altering accordingly. In an interesting twist, the game also challenges you to do as poorly as possible (without dying) by rewarding you for successfully obtaining F ranks as well.
  • Really Was Born Yesterday: Sonata, the tadpole who tries to serenade Baton in Midnight Bayou, as pointed out by his bestiary entry. This of course applies to Baton as well, the game straight-up opens on her hatching from her egg.
  • Recurring Riff: Part of the Tadpole Pond theme will play whenever you clear a stage.
  • Retraux: Chiptune Lagoon, in spades. All of the graphics are replaced with pixelated versions, the music is mostly chiptune, and it's Reference Overdosed to NES-era games. This is commented on in-game, with several sources noting how the lagoon's water has an odd effect on the animals there.
  • Ribcage Ridge: The water of Thunder Creek is filled with gigantic skeletons. As sung by the snails, they belonged to various animals that didn't make it through Thunder Creek.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: The secret pause menu song eventually descends into this in a more comedic example, and the final boss's song has elements as well.
    Hey, Baton, we could just keep rockin' girl
    And we'll rock 'till we die or go INSANE!
  • Score Multiplier: Two are visible at the top of the screen. The "Streak" counter goes up as more notes are passed without running into them, and drops when damage is taken; it makes each note passed give more points, and having it at a full 30 lets Baton build up Treble Charge. The second counter is a direct multiplier, going up by one after hitting a cymbal and down by one after being hit.
  • Sequential Boss: ELE-94 has three phases, each with a different goal and a different song. First Baton has to break the wires in the Sunken Derelict ("Sunken Derelict"), then she has to launch up and strike an egg-shaped device three times ("ELE-94"), and then she must attack the machine directly by smacking its lighter back at it ("Another Refrain").
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silent Snarker: Even with Baton being a Heroic Mime, you can see her get an annoyed look on her face when Sonata confronts her.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Snowfall Lake, a region covered in snow, ice, and evergreens. The music is very festive, and Baton can even slide down the snowy hills.
  • Side View: The game's playfield is a side view of the water. Fitting the musical motif, it's arranged like a sheet music staff.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: "Evil" is a strong word (most of the threats on Baton's journey are just predatory animals), but the various boss-like creatures increase in danger as the game progresses.
    • The first is Walt the turtle in Turtle Pipes, who barely notices Baton and won't bite her if she stays away from the scum covering the pipes. His only strength is how big he is, and even that eventually gets him to bonk his head on a narrow part of the piping.
    • The second is Crescendo, a small barracuda in Barracuda Caverns who actively attacks Baton but doesn't do much outside of biting. He's scared away by light and eventually gets trapped inside a treasure chest before he can eat Baton.
    • The third is Staccato, a group of piranhas in Piranha Jungle. They are much more strategic compared to Walt and Crescendo, using a variety of formations and attacks to hit Baton. Unlike the others, they aren't stopped by the level itself and will only leave Baton alone if she smacks fruit down for them to eat.
    • Near the end of the game, Baton reaches Saltwater Cape and has to escape from Coda, the pelican who took her away from Tadpole Pond. Coda isn't a sea creature like the prior bosses, and is also gigantic, meaning that he can just swoop down and try to eat Baton whenever, requiring her to thrash herself free. There's no defeating Coda, the only option is to reach the end of the stage.
    • Finally, ELE-94 is an Outside-Context Problem, a haywire, armed-to-the-teeth artificial intelligence in the Sunken Derelict. It's the only boss acting on violence over predatory instincts, and endangers all of Opus Island with its pollution until Baton destroys it.
  • Source Music: Opus Island's varying music exists in-universe and is commented on by Etude. In addition, all of the vocal songs are sung by in-game characters: Sonata, the Thunder Creek snails, and ELE-94.
  • Spike Balls of Doom: The "notes" that pepper the waters of Opus Island.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Walt's level theme is a midtempo piece in an unswung 3/4 time.
    • One of the lines in Midnight Bayou:
      Sonata: "I'll swim by you in this bayou."
    • Sonata's level is lit by moonlight, referencing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
    • The secret level is a battle between "Baton" and "Conductor".
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Coda is described as this in the Bestiary, specifically comparing him to Wile E. Coyote. (Really, though, Baton was swimming through his territory the second time around, and frogs are stated to be a delicacy to him.)
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: In its third phase, ELE-94 attacks Baton with a lighter, which can be swatted back at it for damage. However, if it isn't active, it has no effect.
  • Tail Slap: Baton's main method of defense.
  • Theme Naming: All individual characters' names are based off music terminology (or equipment, in the case of Baton). The only exceptions are the lone Stag Beetle in Thunder Creek, who's only referred to by his species, and Walt the turtle, though his name is probably a play on Waltz, considering the style of music in his stage, Turtle Pipes.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: The Travel Guide states that Piranha Jungle is populated by 13 piranhas and 130 flytraps.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Encore has one at the end of its new stage. It's a reprise of the "What's a life without adventure?" bit from Another Refrain, with projections of characters from Baton's journey including her parents cheering her on.
  • Uncommon Time:
    • Midnight Bayou alternates between 3/4 and 5/4.
    • The first section of Sunken Derelict is in 9/8
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: After spending the entire game evading or otherwise outwitting foes, who'd have expected that you'd have to actually attack the final boss in order to defeat it?
  • Verbal Tic: Etude has one. Rrup.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: In Midnight Bayou, you can smack the mosquitoes that get in the way of Baton when she hits a cymbal (they do deal damage if you touch them, but they otherwise don't attack her). Swatting them all gets you the Pesky Fly.
  • Villain Song: "Another Refrain", the song ELE-94 sings during its third phase. It's very upbeat for a song about wanting to annihilate a tadpole.
  • The Wild West: Thunder Creek's theme: a desert full of skulls, inhabited by a cowboy beetle, a herd of snails, and sharpshooter pistol shrimp.