Is this puzzle/platformer from Rain Games magnetising, or is it poles apart?
Teslagrad is the debut title from Norwegian developer Rain AS and was first released elsewhere around two years ago. After doing the rounds on multiple systems it is now the turn of our favourite little handheld, and the game comes to us with cross-buy and in a boxed edition to boot; but is it worth your cash (assuming you didn’t already buy it elsewhere)?
Teslagrad is best described as a puzzle-platformer, but it’s really much more than that. The game launches you into the silent story in dramatic fashion, your unnamed hero escaping from his house and landing in your control. This immediate control allows you to become accustomed to the game via a rooftop chase – with running, jumping, and grappling ledges soon second nature to you. Before long at the controls however, you’ll find yourself in the main setting of the game; the Tesla Tower.
Shortly after entering the tower you will encounter your first in-game item, and the mechanical “hook” of the game becomes clear; everything is influenced by either magnets or electricity.
By using the new abilities you acquire along your journey – such as the power glove you encounter very early in the game – you’ll be able to activate specific parts of your surroundings with either a positive or negative charge. This will lead to your progress through the sprawling tower, and maybe even the discovery of a few secrets along the way.
Set in a “steampunk-inspired” vision of old Europe the game is very beautifully hand drawn, featuring over a hundred different locales in a 2D side-scrolling Metroidvania universe. Your journey is non-linear, and you are free to explore the castle as you see fit – something which obviously becomes easier as you learn techniques and gain the use of more ancient Teslamancer technology. Every step of the way you’ll need to test your reflexes (as well as your brain), your job being to try to negotiate many of the tower’s fiendish traps as well as take on some of the many enemies you’ll encounter.
The game only has a few recurring enemies and these cannot be defeated as such and usually serve as extras to help you access those harder to reach ledges or platforms, or to get past a problematic area. The game also features some very well done “boss” encounters which will put everything you have learned to the test as you try to complete your journey. These will test your patience at times and you’ll probably die a few times whilst working out the pattern, but once it does you’ll feel quite satisfied.
As noted earlier, the game has many Teslamancer relics that you will find as you progress and these all have different benefits. You’ll find the ability to dash/teleport a short distance, discover a cloak to create your own electrical field, and even a staff to fire charges at enemies or objects. Utilising these skills will greatly affect your journey.
The game also packs a fair few trophies – including a platinum – but none of these trophies are directly linked to events within the game, and instead these are ALL tied to collectible scrolls strategically placed around your environment. Collecting all 36 of these little treasures is going to be the biggest source of longevity to Teslagrad, and I’ll admit you are a far better gamer than me if you manage to accomplish the task!
The game looks beautiful, and the care and detail that Rain have taken really shines through. Teslagrad is easily one of the best looking indie-developed titles of late, and is a welcome break from the many pixel-styled titles I’ve experienced lately. As for the sound, it’s very atmospheric and perfectly suits the game. The lack of a visual (or audio) story may be off-putting for some, but experiencing the game and interpreting it yourself is particularly refreshing and allows you draw your own conclusion to the events that you experience. It all adds up to a very polished experience, and is a perfect fit for the Vita.
To squeeze the game onto the Vita has come at a cost, and Rain had to compromise the free-flowing gameplay from the original versions, which here is interrupted by loading sequences every few screens. For a newcomer like myself to the game it isn’t an issue as I didn’t know it any other way, but those of you that have played it before may be a little more impatient having seen the greener side of the fence. That said, the game still flows nicely – but for clarity it needed to be mentioned.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Teslagrad and is easily one of my favourite games from this year. Enchanting, challenging and satisfying, the only reason you have for not buying it is because you either don’t like platformers or you already own it.