Teslagrad has been on my radar since its release date 13/12/2013. During the chaos that is the Steam Winter Sale It probably slipped most of you by but there was just something about it that drew me in.
After booting up the game I was met with what has to be described as a glorious soundtrack and it really felt in keep with the image the game was creating for itself. Without any time to lose I pressed new game and was on my journey. Now something you should know about Teslagrad is that there is no dialogue, however what the developers over at Rain Games have done is really quite phenomenal and this is me after just playing the opening level. They have clearly spent a huge amount of time weaving this story into the very fabric of the game so that everything you see and interact with helps tell the narrative. As a writer I can be the first to tell you that this is no easy feat.
Most tutorials in the modern day era, and this makes me sad, hold your hand and walk you through every button and action you can do with your character via information signs and sometimes simply just test levels but what Teslagrad does is reminiscent of a time forgotten a time in which the only way to know if something was good or bad was to test your theory, If you die then you were wrong and if you live you’ll know to do more of it from then on. It doesn’t give you any help whatsoever and the game works so much better for it because it really gives you that sense of adventure. Speaking with the producer Peter W. Meldahl he told me that the Metroid games were of a big influence to the games level design and that becomes very clear when you get to the main portion of the game, especially when you gain a new item in a room it becomes a necessity to understand how to use that item to advance whether it be simply being able to leave the room that you had previously entered or dodging an obstacle you previously thought you couldn’t. there are a few occasions however where it does become a bit difficult and aggravating when you are completely stumped while doing a puzzle or not knowing where to go but the flip side of that is when you do get past that point or figure it out you do feel a greater sense of achievement than if you were just guided through.
I think for me what surprised me the most was the level of immersion I received when playing this game. It draws you in from the very start and doesn’t let you go (that is till you rage quit after dying on a boss fight multiple times until you can calm yourself, pick back up your controller and go again). This is helped by the fact that there are no load screens of any kind. The screen scrolls with you as you move and does stop at a certain point at the edge of an area which in most platformers would be where the level ends or the game loads up the next stage but in Teslagrad it simply takes you straight into the next part without even so much as a pause. This is also the same for dying and checkpoints. There are no clear checkpoints, no sign on the screen or anything you run through they are just placed at different intervals without you knowing which at the start does keep you on edge because you are constantly worried that if you die then you will be teleported way back in the game but this isn’t the case at all as they are quite frequent. The dying screen is another similar thing once you die the screen fades to black and without even so much as a breather you’re back at your last checkpoint. Now some of you are probably thinking it’s strange that this is something i picked up on in such great detail well this is a game where you get used to dying as you will be doing a lot of it! As I mentioned earlier this game gives you next to no hints and a lot of the time you just wait to see if something kills you just so then you have more information to complete the puzzle with. the other thing is the controls sometimes have to be unbelievably precise to actually complete a challenge or puzzle that you assume you must be wrong and try something else then come back to your original idea and realise you had been pressing a button 1/10th of a second early. This is probably the biggest flaw in the game but I feel that if the game wasn’t as hard as balls in certain places then it wouldn’t be any way near as good or satisfying.
Now I’ve left this point to the end but it is by far the biggest draw to this game and is what had me hooked from when I saw it had been released and that is the artwork. This game is beautiful! Rarely does a game that is this cheap look this good. At times, especially at the start, you feel as if you are walking through a painting. everything has a hand drawn feel to it and when that becomes coupled with the lighting effects and camera work it culminates into wonderfully done visuals. Even seeing screenshots hadn’t really prepared me for when I actually played the game and I can honestly say that although this is a game made by a small team it is easily worthy of a next gen title.
All in all I would give this game a 8/10 for the game and 10/10 for value.
Teslagrad is available on Linux, Mac and Windows via Steam for £6.99 and will have a download release date some time in 2014 for Wii U, PS3 and PS4 and PSVita. Other platforms are being worked on for release but cannot be confirmed at this date.