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In Which You Are Definitely Not A Tadpole: Tadpole

Browsing through Kongregate‘s massive multi-quadrillion game library is a lot like searching for a needle in a haystack. But with your eyes – and thankfully, fewer needles. So I was poring over a sea of boring brown blah – basic, hackneyed platformer here, anime fantasy epic clan war clash there – when I noticed a game simply titled Tadpole. “Well,” I figured, “maybe that’ll be interesting. I was always sad Frogger never got a prequel.” And then, as these things so often do, it turned out to not be about frogs. It turned out to not be about frogs at all.

Sperm! Tadpole is definitely about the oddly adorable droplets of DNA that kickstart the disgusting miracle of birth! Also, hilariously cheery banjo music. Case in point: “This is the journey of a tadpole to the egg, race to the end and learn about how it all works.” That’s the description. And oh, does it ever work accurately.

Yes indeed. For instance, did you know the female reproductive system is full of cleverly arranged blocks that stop rival sperms dead in their life-giving tracks? It’s true! Also, no baby has ever been born in human history, because the last couple levels are basically impossible.

In seriousness, there’s a certain joy in the simplicity of it all. The puzzle difficulty’s a bit uneven, but most challenges ended up only one small, wriggly tail cleverer than I was expecting. For much of the game, however, that was just the right spot. Paired with near ejaculatory enthusiasm (the chorus of high-pitched “yaaaaaays” every time you succeed is an especially nice touch), Tadpole’s amusing and compulsive – not really taxing or punishing. And I don’t think it’s trying to be, either.

Really, my biggest complaint stems from how unsuited the normally satisfying mouse-based control scheme is to more precise tasks, like navigating enclosed spaces or directing blocks over long distances. But, in most of those situations, the stakes aren’t particularly high, so success is inevitable. It just might take a bit.

So yes, the most minuscule beginnings of human existence. You can play them! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go dig up some more banjo music. For reasons.

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Nathan Grayson

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