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Tadpole Tales Review

Official Score

Overall - 75%


Tadpole Tales may be a simple shmup at its core, but its stellar audiovisual presentation and tight controls make it worth a playthrough for fans of the genre.

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In what is proving to be a seminal year for the world of tadpole video games, Pinnical Studios’ Tadpole Tales has players firing away in a “clean ‘em-up” shoot ‘em-up. Should players take on this creative purification ritual, or is this title a polluted mess?

Tadpole Tales Review

Tadpole Tales stars out on a dour note, with three corrupt monsters intoxicating a once clean river. However, a tiny little tadpole has set out to save this area that they call home, spitting out bubbles to make everything all clean and sparkly. With the power of its little breath, what was gross can become clean.

A horizontal shoot ‘em-up at its core, Tadpole Tales has players navigating enemy threats and bullets. Though the frogs and fishes might be different than the ships and asteroids players are used to, the formula is still very much the same. Movement is done with the WASD keys, and the ever-so-helpful fire button is mapped to the Space Bar.

This control scheme is simple at its core, which is both a blessing and a curse. While the control scheme is responsive and works well, it also does not provide much depth. Players can grab additional hearts to help their tadpole grow and improve their firepower (akin to Konami’s Gradius series), but that is about the extent of its complexity.

Rather, the game lives and dies by its action. Though it is a short game that clocks in at around 15 minutes, players will come across three different zones that each have a boss waiting at the end of them. Patterns are the name of the game, and figuring out a flow to the action is the key to survival. Those who grew up in an arcade will no doubt know this song and dance, and Tadpole Tales delivers the same experience, albeit in a smaller package.

However, there is one area that Tadpole Tales truly excels at: its presentation. This is an absolutely gorgeous game, with fluid animation and some incredible artwork on display. Much like Studio MDHR’s Cuphead, the world comes alive when players are thrown into the action. The soundtrack manages to keep pace as well, harkening back to the quarter munchers of old with some solid beats.

Those that successfully complete a run of the game will be able to unlock an Expert Mode, which takes place at night and has only bosses dropping hearts. Players will also be able to chase their scores and best time. There are achievements for beating the developers’ best time and beating normal mode without losing any hearts, so perfectionists and completionists alike can certainly keep themselves busy.

Tadpole Tales may be a simple shmup at its core, but its stellar audiovisual presentation and tight controls make it worth a playthrough for fans of the genre.

This review of Tadpole Tales was done on the PC. The game was freely downloaded.
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Casey Scheld

Drawn to the underground side of gaming, Casey helps the lesser known heroes of video games. If you’ve never heard of it, he’s mastered it.
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