It’s a good bet that prey animals angst over their low positions on the food chain, but few of them know what it’s like to be at the bottom. Like, really at the bottom. Tadpoles know, though. Man, do they know. Tasty Tadpoles is an action/puzzle game that emphasizes the daily struggle these little guys engage in simply to survive.
Tasty Tadpoles was put together by Mark White, a former graphic designer from Firemint. You play through the game as a small tadpole aiming to stay alive in dozens of ponds inhabited by ravenous aquatic life. The game’s App Store icon—an orange tadpole struggling to swim away from the gaping maw of a predator—says it all.
Your tadpole avatar has one survival mechanism: He can dart like the dickens. Tapping anywhere in your iOS screen will cause Taddy to zip over to that spot. It’s actually easy to swim to each stage’s exit. The real challenge comes with collecting all three stars that pop up in a level. The stars don’t reveal themselves all at once, either; you need to collect the first to see the second, and so on. No stars means no new levels, so grab as many as possible.
Unfortunately, your pond-dwelling brethren have no intention of making things easy for you. Big green tadpoles patrol the water in set paths, while yellow tadpoles chase you when you get too close. Turtles will snap you up in a second (the “slow” thing is a myth), and there are environmental hazards to contend with, including logs, lilypads, and murky water.
The ability to interact with the scenery makes Tasty Tadpoles more than another three-star gathering game. You can flick lilypads to reveal enemy tadpoles in hiding, push waterbugs towards yellow tadpoles so that they’ll harass something other than you, and tap on turtles to make them duck back in their shells so you can pass safely. Tasty Tadpole’s graphics are unspeakably cute and add to its charm even in the face of the game’s dog-eat-dog story.
Despite the game’s cartoon visuals, Tasty Tadpoles was obviously engineered to attract players of all ages. Hardcore puzzle veterans might not get as much out of it as novices, though, since there aren’t many levels to get through (more are surely on the way), and the basic game isn’t blisteringly difficult. You can, however, unlock a “puzzle” mode that challenges you to work through each stage with a set number of taps. If you use up all your taps, you’re dead in the water—so to speak.
Tasty Tadpoles offers an enjoyable experience that should sate the hunger of most puzzle fans. Forget swapping blocks and shiny baubles: Save the tadpoles.