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Magnetic platforming

Platforming in Teslagrad

There aren’t many Norwegian games developers around, but here’s one that is sure to mix things up a bit. I met with Marte from Rain Games at Eurogamer to take a look at Teslagrad, a recently Steam Greenlit 2D puzzle platformer. You’ll be adventuring through a huge tower at the heart of the eponymous city, where magnetism can be your greatest friend, or fiercest enemy.

The game begins with a fast paced platforming sequence where you are carrying a baby through the streets of Teslagrad. The developers have taken many influences from Bergen, the city where they are based, and changed it up a bit with some futuristic and industrial elements. It isn’t long before you enter the tower and acquire the first of four special abilities you will receive throughout the game. The Glove introduces the core gameplay idea. Left click polarises an object one way, right click polarises it the other, indicated by either a red or blue colour. This way you can make blocks attract or repel each other to create paths through the various rooms. Thankfully the game follows the correct and intuitive concept of ‘opposites attract’ (I’m looking at you, Magrunner: Dark Pulse).

No Explanations Required

You won’t be receiving any lengthy tutorials on how to solve the puzzles. In fact there is no dialogue in the game at all. Rain Games are instead attempting to tell the story subtly through visuals in the environment, as well as in notes that are hidden off the beaten track. These secret areas are unlocked in a Metroid-vania-esque fashion, where you will have to return to previous areas once you have the right tools at your disposal. There are plenty of them too: even in the short thirty minutes demo they had at the show there were nine secrets to be discovered. It may sound like a fairly long demo for an indie platformer, but I was told that the main game could contain between ten and fifteen hours of gameplay, perhaps even stretching to twenty if you explore every nook and cranny.

Each power-up you get will have a related boss, in part to test your understanding of all the new abilities. After the glove you will get some boots which allow you to blink short distances. With the magnetism suit you can polarise yourself in either direction, allowing you to basically fly through large charged areas with clever use. Towards the end of the game you will receive a staff which does the same job as the glove, but you can magnetise objects from afar. It also acts as the game’s only weapon with which you can zap enemies. There will be plenty of instances where these varying pieces of equipment can be combined to solve complex puzzles.

Early Experiences

The early levels I played (the demo is available online) were pretty basic, but not too easy. There is a trial by fire approach to puzzle design. It seems as though you will sometimes fail a puzzle at first attempt, but all this does is teach you what to look out for in future. You instantly respawn back at the beginning of the short challenges, so I never felt frustrated by a death. You are cleverly driven forward and given ideas of what to do next by environmental cues, meaning I never got stuck standing still. The platforming itself was strong, with your character clinging to ledges and pulling himself up just as you would expect. In the places where more precision was required, for example to jump between enemies to avoid being magnetised yourself, the controls still held up and jumping was accurate. There is also gamepad support, and there will be fully remappable controls for both the keyboard and pad.

Teslagrad is looking to be an interesting addition to a genre where new gameplay mechanics are hard to come by.