There are some games, that we have become accustomed to seeing on just about every platform. Games that many know, love, and maybe hate. Skyrim is a good example of a game that’s made the rounds on almost every modern device. As “Triple A” titles go, it’s probably the most accessible.
In the world of indie games they have a little Metroidvania, called Teslagrad. Teslagrad has been on many platforms such as PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Mobile, and even Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U. A little over a year ago, Teslagrad made it to the Nintendo Switch, and I’m going to be reviewing it during my first time ever playing it.
Teslagrad is a 2D Metroidvania style puzzle platformer, developed by Rain Games. It originally launched on the Switch back on Dec 7, 2017.
Teslagrad starts out pretty abruptly, on a stormy night. You start as a young, unnamed boy, where you must run through the village avoiding being captured by the guards, until you reach the games main setting, Tesla Tower.
There is no dialogue, and the story is told solely from it’s visual cues, and gameplay. You explore Tesla Tower, and try to uncover the secrets within, and that unravels the story. This is great, and all, but it leaves you wondering what’s really going on, and that makes the story feel a little too vague.
The big difference between Teslagrad, and other, more traditional, Metroidvanias is the huge emphasis on puzzle solving, instead of combat. For the majority of the game, you won’t really do much for combat. Instead, you’ll be solving different puzzles, all surrounding the concept of electromagnetic force.
The first item you receive is the Magnet Glove, which is used to change the colour of certain magnetic blocks between red, and blue. Opposite colours attract to one another, and this will form the basis of the puzzle solving throughout your adventure. You will be constantly changing between colours, to guide yourself through puzzles, using the magnetic forces.
Sometimes it will not only be the blocks that you have to use, but you will find magnetic flowers, and small robots that will turn your body into a magnet. This will cause you to stick to the tops of magnetic blocks, and will be necessary to make your way over different platforms. Eventually, you will receive a magnetic cloak, that allows you to charge yourself, which makes this much less tedious.
As you progress, you will also gain the ability to blink a short distance. Then, closer to the end of the game, you will get a magnetic blast that’s used against enemies. The tower is divided up into segments, with each segment being focused on your newly acquired ability. However, you will usually use this ability in tandem with the others, as well. The abilities flow very well together, and made the gameplay feel very fluid, although there were a few frustrating segments.
There are a total of 5 boss fights in Teslagrad, and while they are visually impressive, the battles are a slog. Teslagrad doesn’t have a health system, instead it’s one hit, and you have to restart the battle. The bosses aren’t overly difficult but, because you can’t take a hit, one small error will leave you restarting the fight from the beginning.
The boss fights will take some time to get used to, and, it honestly makes them pretty tedious after the first few tries. Without some type of health system, these boss battles feel like they would have been better not being there at all.
Teslagrad has fun gameplay for the most part. The puzzles are engaging, and creative. They aren’t overly complex, but it feels pretty satisfying once you have completed one. The abilities are really fun to use, although it would have been cool to see a few more, different, abilities implemented.
The fact that there’s no health system does cause the game to get irritating. While the checkpoint system puts you back at the entry point to that screen, it’s annoying to have one mistake cause you to have to restart. A multi-life health system would have saved the game from becoming frustrating at certain points.
Teslagrad doesn’t have much to offer besides the core adventure. There is only one type of collectible that come in the form of scrolls. These scrolls help elaborate upon Teslagrad’s story, through the presentation of drawings on each one. It would have been nice to have another type of collectible to go along with the scrolls, but there are 36 scrolls in total, which is quite a few to collect.
It’s important to note that collecting all 36 will give you the best ending, and you have to collect at least 15 to complete the game. There’s a good chance you will end up collecting more then 15 if you explore a bit, but I still feel like it was unnecessary to force players to collect them.
Teslagrad’s art design is absolutely gorgeous. The classic, cartoon graphics fit amazingly with the spirit of the game. They are particularly fitting considering you do play as a young boy. Everything in Teslagrad is brimming with color, and the backgrounds really pop out at you. The boss’s have wonderful designs, that, again, fit with the setting of the Tesla Tower. This did help alleviate some of the frustration that came from their fights. Really, there’s no better graphical style that could have made Teslagrad look better than it already does.
Teslagrad’s sound design is fantastic. It’s soothing while exploring the different parts of the tower, but tense, and excited when you reach the boss fights. The art and sound design collaborate well to create a passionate feeling. Teslagrad’s soundtrack is truly methodical, and is almost as perfectly fitting as the game’s art design.
Technically, Teslagrad runs perfectly on the Switch. Whether you’re playing while docked, or in handheld mode, the game runs very smooth. The game’s design fits perfectly on the Switch’s small screen, and the game really feels like it belongs be on the Switch.
Controls work well, and play very well with the Joy-Con. While I mentioned that there are some frustrating parts, I don’t blame the control scheme at all for this problem, they work well.
It’s important to note, that some people do experience one visual bug where the screen turns black, and you’re unable to see anything. This bug can be fixed, however, by simply exiting the game, and returning. I never experienced the bug for myself, but just in case you do, it’s important to know how to fix it.
Although Teslagrad has been around for awhile, it still continues to be a fun indie game, that will provide an entertaining adventure for any fan of the Metroidvania genre, or any puzzle platformer enthusiast. I’m really happy I got to play through Teslagrad after all this time, so I could experience what I had missed out on.
Teslagrad’s art and sound design are both fantastic, and continue to stand out in comparison to other titles. However, while Teslagrad is a fun game, when your comparing it against the plethora of great indie titles there are now, it does start to lack in comparison.
If Teslagrad every receives a sequel, I think it can really improve upon the core gameplay by fixing the games health system, making it not so prone to potentially frusturate players. I also think, that a little less linearity would be nice to see in a sequel. More exploration would be great, maybe by adding some extra upgrades to be found, or another collectible besides the scrolls.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, as a first time player of Teslagrad, it was fun to play. I just think that compared to the amount of quality games we have now, it’s unique style is starting to wear thin. It’s available for $14.99 USD on the NA eShop.
7/10 Recommended 2D Metroidvania Puzzle PlatformerAn Electrifying Journey That is Starting to Show its Age
- Satisfying Puzzles
- Abilities Flow Well Together
- Beautiful Art Design
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Fitting Boss Designs
- Story is Too Vague
- Frustrating Health System (Causes frustrating boss fights, and some frustrating platforming)
- Needs More Exploration From the Main Linear Path