A dark tower looms, seemingly endless as it rises up into the dark, cloud filled sky. Behind me, I could see him getting closer, gaining on me with every passing second. I had no time to think, no time to wonder why this was happening. All I could do was run, through the pouring rain, as I at last escaped the man pursuing me by darting into the tower, its massive drawbridge raising up behind me to bring him to a halt. I pressed on, into the Tesla Tower.
Teslagrad is the second release from Rain Games, an indie developer based in Bergen, Norway. It is a puzzle platformer action game, reminiscent of other Metroidvania like games, but fresh and captivating in its own special way. It is easily one of the most enjoyable platformers that I’ve played in a while and will continue to play, just as soon as the recently announced PlayStation Vita version of the game is made available.
From the beginning of the game, two things really stood out to me; the art style, and the music. The stunning hand drawn characters and backdrops really brought me into the games world, as the nameless, voiceless boy we play as runs through the pouring rain in the game’s opening few minutes. I couldn’t help but continue to die simply because I was so amazed at the way the city moved as I made my way through the level, or how passing by streetlights would affect the coloring of the area around it, as well as the boy.
The effect that the art had on me didn’t let up, as I was constantly looking around at the games various environments, items, and enemies. It’s easy to see the level of passion Rain Games has, and the level of effort they’re willing to put into a beautifully realized world like Teslagrad’s. Later on in the game, the player will discover small optional cut scenes, portrayed as short, almost puppet show like segments, which break up the action and really drive home the dramatic story, all without the use of words.
As stated earlier, the music is simply fantastic, right on par with the art. Composed by Jorn Lavoll and Linn Kathrin Taklo, Teslagrad’s soundtrack fits right into the world, and works with almost every situation. The reason why I say almost, is because in certain parts of the game-such as the opening few minutes when the boy is running through the rain-the music doesn’t seem to fit the intensity of the situation, and almost threatens to pull the player out of the immersion. Otherwise, the music serves as a perfect companion to the gameplay, and almost makes you feel like you are just as alone as the boy. A boy who will be met with difficult challenges, and many, many times… frustrating death.
The gameplay of Teslagrad seems simple enough, until you start collecting upgrades and start doing some backtracking. The first two upgrades, a glove that alters the magnetism of objects and boots that allow you to teleport short distances and through certain obstacles, have interesting effects and allow you really get into the exploration aspect of the game. Later on, a special cloak allows you to explore even more, and the epic Teslastaff is just so fun to use that I wish there was at least an hour more game to play or just one more boss to fight.
And before I get too ahead of myself, those bosses can be infuriating. I had to play the first boss fight at least four or five times to beat it, and that’s even after I figured out what to do. This is old school make-one-wrong-move type difficulty; you have been warned. Frustration from bosses aside, the platforming as I progressed further and further only seemed to annoy me more. It seemed as though sometimes the boy just didn’t want to land on the edges of platforms, or that the boots for teleporting needed to be used in areas where they really didn’t seem to be needed. As a result, I became paranoid, and used them for most of my jumps.
Along with the bosses and occasional platforming frustration, the puzzles ranged from me thinking I was some sort of genius, to wondering how anyone could have thought up something so clever. It was also fun to see how many times in the game, just when you think you have a puzzle figured out, it may flip on its side, forcing you to think a different way in order to succeed and move forward.
Being that this is a Metroidvania type game, it would be foolish to think that there wouldn’t be any extra collectables or hidden secrets to find, right? Well, there are in fact, hidden scrolls that can be quite challenging in some cases to acquire, some of which require you to come back for after you’ve gained new methods of travel. There are 36 in all, and even though I haven’t gotten them all yet, there’s an extra ending for those that do.
All in all, Teslagrad is a captivating game that showcases the journey of a boy who is seriously good at using magnetic and electrical weaponry. Even though it has a few minor hiccups here and there, I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone needing to scratch that puzzle platformer itch, or just someone in need of a new game that has Nicola Tesla references.