by Jonathan Fortin
reviewed on PC
Prepare to swear at this game. A lot. (cont.)
For example, you have no health meter in Teslagrad. Getting hit even once (by an enemy, a laser wall, what have you) sends you right back to the beginning of the room. Early on in the game, this isn't a problem, but then you get to the long boss battles and start to wish that there was a power up that would give you just one extra hit point, like Mario's toadstools or Sonic's rings.
Teslagrad's bosses are visually stunning, but feel like they'd be more at home in games with characters who can take more than one hit. They constantly bombard you with attack after attack, and often have multiple stages. For example, a bird-like boss early in the game hits you with wind beams that throw you into spikes, then multiple explosive eggs, and then a moving lightning wall, and only after you've avoided all three of these attacks can you attack him. It's easy enough to do that once, but guess what: you'll have to avoid those same attacks another two or three times before the boss goes down, and it'll be harder each time because your footing is steadily disappearing, making it all too easy to blink off a cliff or into the lightning wall. If you get hit even once, that's it. You're sent right back to the beginning of the room and have to start the whole boss battle from the beginning. This sounds easy enough in theory, but because the bosses take so long to die, and because you can't take even one hit, it can take hours of futile attempts before you finally vanquish the harder bosses.
Part of the difficulty also comes from the controls, which can be twitchy, even slippery. This is most noticeable during an incredibly frustrating sequence where you're floating up a magnetic field of limited width while trying to blink through laser walls. There is no room to move, and no margin for error: it is far too easy to either blink into a laser wall, or blink outside of the magnetic field and fall to your death. The “blink” button is also sometimes unresponsive, often when you need it most: many times I knew I'd pushed the button at the right time, but it failed to trigger, causing my death.
Other problems lie with the map screen. You can't scroll or zoom out, making it difficult to find a specific room on the map. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but late in the game I found myself unsure of where to go. It seemed there was nothing left to do but collect secrets, and because the map did not show their locations, my only course of action seemed to be playing through each puzzle all over again and hoping I could find all the secrets along the way using the tools I'd collected since. The unfortunate result of this is that Teslagrad becomes less enjoyable as it goes on, becoming more and more frustrating to play.
However, I still wholeheartedly believe that Teslagrad is worth playing: Rain Games has made a fun twitch-puzzle platformer that both hits the right nostalgic notes while also carving out its own unique identity. There aren't enough games like this these days and despite its moments of extreme frustration, the game's beauty and charm were always enough to keep me playing.
Unique magnetism puzzles; beautiful steampunk-inspired graphics.
Moments of extreme frustration; slippery controls.