Review: Teslagrad

As news of Steam looking to phase out their not very old Greenlight program broke, I thought back to all of the titles that normally wouldn’t have even hit my radar without getting that initial boost from Valve’s popular platform. One title that wouldn’t have such a problem is the eye-catching Teslagrad, a 2D platforming puzzle title from Rain Games.

Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Reviewed on: Windows
Also Available On: Mac
Release Date: Available Now

BRB-Score-4

In Teslagrad you take control of a young boy on the run from Cossack-esque pursuers, through a steam-punk version of old Eastern Europe. After escaping capture by seeking refuge in an old tower, this is where the game begins and, more importantly, you discover your powers.

Using a type of magnetic gauntlet, the game’s main mechanic has you approaching objects and charging them with either positive (blue) or negative (red) energy. This allows you to control which direction you can move an item by experimenting with its magnetic polarity – and as you progress further into your adventure, you’ll find other uses for this power. One such use you discover early on is to magnetically charge a block and watch it speed through the air to hit a large robotic boss.

Other powers include the blitz boots, which are used to propel you a short distance in the blink of an eye, much like in Velocity Ultra. Using this power not only comes in handy by allowing you to cross though obstacles like electric barriers and barred cages, it also can be used to zip past any bad guys that may be hunting you or as a kind of double jump to pass large gaps (and of course, you can pretend you’re Barry Allen for a split second). The final power comes in the form of a magnetic cloak, this allows the wearer to get charged with the desired magnetic polarity.

Teslagrad 1

All three of the items you acquire are picked up pretty early on in the game, but far enough apart from each other for you to get the hang of their abilities. Once you grab one of these new abilities, you’ll find yourself back tracking your initial steps to find some new ways to use the new toys and reach a previously inaccessible area of the game.

Like many old-school platform titles, Teslagrad’s gameplay style can be both a joy and horror to play for those who may not be so versed in the higher difficulty settings. As you progress through the game’s campaign and its mechanics are slowly revealed, that’s when you’re put to the test and you find yourself playing a game of trial and error. While many of the various puzzles and obstacles may come across as incredibly unforgiving, they just make it that much sweeter when you figure it all out and move on to the next section.

What makes the game’s difficulty a challenge rather than a chore is indeed that sense of achievement given when you’ve mastered all of your gained skills and chain them together – seamlessly teleporting to a climbing wall before jumping off and using the magnetic cloak to pass an energy field, before clinging to a polarized girder. While tricky to pull off, it is a joy to watch. This easy to learn-difficult to master systems starts at its platformer roots and ends with the magnetism mechanics, that just feel so natural and at no point repetitive. It’s this level of effort that has been put into engineering that just goes to show how much of a passion project this must have been for the team at Rain Games.

Teslagrad 3

When it comes to presentation, Teslagrad does not feature any voice acting or written dialogue of any king and instead relays entirely on it’s sounds and visuals. Now that isn’t to say that there isn’t any story sequences, just that they are far from a traditional cut scenes. Hidden away in the tower are puppet shows for you to discover and will play on a loop upon entering the room where it’s held. These in conjunction with scrolls you’ll find placed in hard to reach areas, will unravel the game’s plot and why you are being pursued. It’s this kind of immersive and whimsical type of story telling that really keeps wanting more.

Of course the game’s story is aided by it’s sound and visuals. Sound production is utilised very well, with sound effects simply suited to the action and at no point seeming out of place or intrusive. Teslagrad‘s soundtrack too is very appropriate, bringing a natural feel to the story’s overall tone and complementing any of the game’s relaxed or action scenes perfectly.

Visuals are of course one of the stand out elements in this title, with an amazing hand painted style that brings variety to the different rooms and levels. Along with the art direction is the games excellent use of lighting and how it enhances the existing scenery through effects like electricity, fire and rays of light. One of the more subtle effects in this game is when you’re in the dark and the spark from your magnetic gauntlets shines colorful light off the avatar and the area around him.

Teslagrad 2

Sadly as beautiful and fun as Teslagrad is, it’s not without its faults. With the aforementioned boosted difficulty climbing throughout the game, one of the biggest obstacles are the boss battles. What starts out being a test of observation, making you study your opponent to try and spot a weakness to exploit, quickly becomes tiresome and frustrating. When some battles feel drawn out and end up outstaying their welcome, the last thing you want to do is die and start the whole process again. This is of course a small complaint in a sea of complements, so don’t let my opinion put you off.

Beautiful hand painted visuals
Challenging and addictive gameplay
MAGNETS!
At around four hours in length, the story feels a little cut short
High difficulty level my put off some players

Teslagrad is available now for PCs and Mac platforms through Steam, GOG and Desura for just £6.99 ($9.99). If you fancy waiting it out for a console version though, then there will be PlayStation 3 and Wii U copies of the game coming soon. But perhaps the port you should be looking forward to is the recently announced Vita copy, which could just be Teslagrad‘s most suited home.

An excellent puzzle platformer with a unique art style and great a immersive approach to communicating its story and instructions. Whatever platform you can Teslagrad on, then I highly recommend picking it up and then preparing for frustration… in a fun way.

The review copy of this title was purchased by the author.
Official Game Site

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