GAME REVIEW: Teslagrad

written by David Steffen

teslagradA man walks through the night, carrying a staff and a baby.  He knocks on a door, gives the baby to a woman there, and then keeps walking.  The baby becomes a man, and henchmen come pounding on the door.  The boy flees the men through the night, eventually finding refuge in the mysterious and deadly Tesla Tower.

Teslagrad is a Metroid-style platformer action/adventure puzzle game published by Rain Games in 2013.  As you might expect from the name, the obstacles and tools in Tesla Tower are based around electricity and magnetism–opening/closing electrical gates, changing the polarity of objects or of yourself to repel or attract in strategic ways to achieve your objectives.

Throughout the game you get tools to help you do these things (and these are shown in the trailer for the game, so it’s nothing you won’t see just checking out the ad material for the game).  The first of this is polarity gloves–which you can punch certain objects to switch their polarity.  My favorite item is the blink boots, which turn you into a zip of electricity that jumps to the side a short distance–good for bypassing deadly obstacles or for extending your jumping distance.

There are no words in the game apart from the menus.  The back story is laid out for you with puppet plays you can discover in theater rooms.  New items are not given a wordy tutorial, but rather you are presented with puzzles to figure them out for yourself, or perhaps you will have a drawing on the wall to give you some hints.

20161228154641_1If you die you just restart in the room where you died, so there isn’t a big penalty for meeting your death–which is good because some of the puzzles are very challenging and it would be very frustrating if dying did have more of a penalty.

Nice artwork in the game, some particularly striking areas of the game, and the little puppet plays are a fun way to get the backstory.

Nice instrumental work (admittedly I often played with no sound)

A good level of challenge with puzzles of gradually increasing complexity even as more tools to solve those puzzles becomes available.  There are some puzzles that took me quite a few tries to get through, and some of the boss fights are quite challenging (though I did get through them all).

The story of the player character is a bit slight–you know that he is fleeing from violent men in the night, but I’m not exactly sure why they came for him specifically, though I could guess.  What’s more fleshed out is the back story of the tower, which you get to watch through a series of puppet shows you can find in different theater rooms in the tower, telling of a prince whose wizard granted him the power of lightning.

Session Time
The game starts and stops quickly, and it saves your progress when you move from one area to another.  If you happen to be in the middle of a longer or more complicated room, or happen to be in the middle of a boss fight, then shutting it off may lose some progress, but usually that’s not more than a few minute’s effort.

The controls are pretty straightforward, with WASD keys for movement and the four arrow keys for tool usage as well as a jump button.  Which is good because some of the puzzles require you to use several tools in quick succession while moving through deadly obstacles, so if the control scheme were too complicated it would be hard to keep track.  My only complaint is that there is one tool that you get late in the game which acts as a weapon–but nothing in the game tells you that the weapon can be directed upwards.  The lack of this information makes the next boss fight not entirely impossible but probably ten times harder.

There is some replayability in collectible batteries that require extra little puzzles to be solved to find them.  To reach the final boss you have to collect a certain number of those (which I did).  There are indications that if you collect them all you will unlock something else (which I didn’t).

The puzzles felt pretty new to me, I don’t think I’ve seen another game based mostly around polarity puzzles.  The “Tesla” in the title served well to catch my eye and draw me into that aspect.

It took me about 7 hours to play through the main course of the game, and collecting enough batteries to reach the final area and face the final boss (but without going back through to collect all of the batteries).

Excellent Metroid-style adventure/puzzle game, cool visuals, challenging puzzles and even more challenging boss fights all based around electricity/magnetism based puzzles.  Well worth the play time!  $10 on Steam