I’m genuinely surprised that in all my years of gaming, I hadn’t played Teslagrad sooner. It’s charming graphics and genuinely fantastic puzzle mechanics are exactly what I look for in indie games, and Teslagrad does not disappoint. And yet, here I am, 3 years after it’s original release date stiill having not played it. So what gives? Well until the game was being re-released on Xbox One and a professional contact offered me a review copy, I jumped at the chance to give the game a go (only just realising that I also own the game on PS3 and PC already). So what does this 3 year old indie game offer that keeps it so intriguing and fantastically charming in the modern age of the indie revolution? to put it simply: everything.
The first thing that draws your attention about Teslagrad is its aesthetics. The simple, fantastically animated hand drawn models are an absolute slender to behold throughout your entire play-through of the game. I found myself often standing and admiring the animation that was unfolding before me, especially in the final fight scene, where the evil king of the world’s animation is absolutely sublime, leading myself to many unwanted deaths due to the eye candy on display.
You’ll start the game off by abandoning your mother as a large group of soviet looking men invade your home town. Making your way past these evil men, you happen across an abandoned castle, where the game starts proper. You’ll get tidbits of story throughout the campaign, told through puppetshows on a theatre stage, but there’s no text and no speech, meaning there’s some room for imagination as to what happens in the world. This may seem a little light, but that’s the case with Teslagrad, as it’s mostly the gamplay that will keep players interested throughout the campaign.
And my god does the gameplay deliver! This hybrid puzzle/adventure platformer does a fantastic job of making the player feel frustrated at times, but oh so brilliant when a puzzle or difficult section is overcome. The amount of times I would spend 10-15 minutes stuck on one section were insane, but I never felt worse of for it. The puzzles are addictively tantalising enough that you want to pick the controller up and play again, regardless of how difficult the puzzle may be. No matter how many times Teslagrad punches you to the floor, you’re bound to get back up again just to show it who’s boss.
The puzzles revolve around electromagnetism, with red and blue different types of magnetism adjourning many different rooms. Just like real electromagnetism, should an items “colour” be the same as another, it’ll be repelled. Have the opposite colour/charge, and the item will attract. It’s simple in theory, but can make for some extremely complicated puzzles, as well as some frustrating platforming sections, especially later on once you start getting new power ups which revolve more around your own reflexes than puzzles.
The abandoned castle holds many secrets, and like any true metroidvania game, many collectibles that are hidden behind tantalisingly easy puzzles that can only be recovered once you have the necessary power-up. Whilst other metroidvania games can feel obtuse and annoying when they do this, Teslagrad instead feels rewarding in doing so, ensuring you’re constantly wondering what awesome power lays before you to enable such an impossible jump.
Upon your travels through the tight corridors of the castle you’ll also encounter boss fights. In these fights you’ll need to watch the attack patterns of the bosses and attack when needed. Sounds simple in theory, but I lost far more lives than I would like to mention whilst taking them on, with one boss even requiring me to look up a video guide on how to defeat it (it’s the eye boss if you were wondering).
but for all the good I’ve said, there are some drawbacks. The music for example can have some absolutely lovely moments, but for the most part it takes a back seat, and is far too subtle to even notice there’s music playing at all throughout the main game. Another annoyance was the somewhat annoying collision bugs that sometimes manifested throughout the campaign. These would happen when an obstacle was moved, but should you go back to the original location of it, your character will push against an invisible wall.
Whilst the story never truly ends with a proper crecesendo, it was a fantastic adventure, one I’m annoyed at myself for never playing sooner. The little nuisances I just listed were no where near enough to detract from the overall feel of the game, with everything else about Teslagrad being a stand out achievement of what most indie games should aspire to be. Aesthetics, polish, puzzles and action are just some of the wonders Teslagrad brought to the table, and three years on, they’re just a good as ever.