Straight out of Norway comes Teslagrad, a new indie title that mingles with the concept of electricity and physics, although not like you’d imagine. Right away, let me say how I love the general idea of this all, as you play as the last Teslamancer in a world where Nikola Tesla is probably greatly revered as something of an idol or at least influenced their society where electricity has been harnessed in fantastical ways. The developers at Rain AS really sought to make this special, and it shows through how well crafted the game is, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its faults. In fact, there are several very big problems with this game that make Teslagrad not an outing for everyone.
At its heart, Teslagrad is your standard 2-D platformer that pits you against the Tesla Tower, a spire that you must traverse all the way to the top by whatever means necessary, evading traps and battling fierce monsters along the way. As the last remaining Teslamancer, you are imbued with equipment that allows you to alter the electromagnetic fields of several objects and spaces around you. With these abilities, you may then traverse the tower to uncover its mysteries, as well as your own story. It’s epic, but quaint, allowing for an intriguing plot that quenches the curious mind, all wrapped up in a beautiful two-dimensional art style.
It’s splendid that there is so much to see, but my enjoyment was brought to several standstills because of one unorthodox flaw: the map. Yes, the map itself seems to be Teslagrad‘s undoing. Exploration in Teslagrad requires that you maneuver through a large variety of rooms, but it’s so easy to get lost when you are only shown a bit of your map at any given time. Even if you have charted previous locations, you won’t be able to see them or where you may need to go next without traveling all throughout the tower all over again, which could lead you to going through a world of trouble just to reach a dead end. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if there were measly puzzles in each room, but the majority of them consist of harrowing traps that take a while to traverse and don’t deactivate once you’ve solved them. Instead, you are forced to go through all of them every time you travel.
I would typically have no problem with this if many of the rooms weren’t so difficult. They are especially frustrating because the solution or exit is well within sight, and you know exactly how to resolve this quandary, but the game often strictly requires a certain precision and dexterity to just get past this obstacle. While this should be a hearty challenge, it’s more of a headache, and really tempts you to just give up when you’ve fallen or died and must go through everything all over again. I am then convinced that the game is not as polished as it should have been, if it ends up this inaccessible so often. Of course, provided you have the patience to look past all of this, the outcome is very rewarding.
Boss battles are cut from a different cloth, however. They consist of trial-and-error that implores you to memorize the enemies’ movements and patterns, but they definitely won’t be going easy on you. Here is where the game feels more like a Mega Man title than anything, except you are armed with the electromagnetic abilities rather than a blaster. Likewise, victory is satisfying as ever, even if you had to pull a few hairs out along the way.
The rest of the game’s components are much more polished with stellar visual and sound design. One of my favorite effects in this game is some areas where you are in the dark, and how the spark from your electric gauntlets shines colorful light off the avatar and the area around him. Similarly, the sound design is subtle, but all fine choices with convincing sounding crackles of electricity, and brutally voiced monsters. Teslagrad then feels like a living, breathing world.
As a whole, Teslagrad definitely isn’t a masterpiece, but it could have been. Several unpolished and confusing platforming elements only add to the frustration of a moderately useless map, which makes for a frustrating affair. When you’re not being punished through, the technical design of Teslagrad sweeps you up into the game’s atmosphere as you unravel the very interesting tale and mystery of the Tesla Tower. Boss battles are significantly fairer, but no less challenging than its platforming sections. Unfortunately, when the game is primarily a platformer, you can’t help but wish its platforming sections were more well-crafted. Nevertheless, the hardy will find a lot to love, but the less patient may want to stay away. Teslagrad is a suitable platforming outing, but I’m much more excited for what the developers have next in store with this experience under their belt.
[+Fantastic visual and sound design][+Intriguing and mysterious plot][+Intense boss battles][+Great general concept][-Often confusing mechanics][-Unpolished platforming segments][-Frustrating][-Awful map]