When playing a game for the first time, the first few moments tend to leave a lasting impression. Many developers address this through flashy cutscenes, or an action-packed prologue, but Teslagrad doesn’t need either of those tactics. Rather, it employs a unique atmosphere and style to draw the player in, lulling them into a sense of comfort while it subtly teaches the magnet-based mechanics. Suffice it to say, it was love at first sight. Sprites, backdrops, and effects are all masterfully crafted, then infused with the perfect background music to really sell the setting (the Kingdom of Elektropia – a dark, steampunk-esque Russia.)
The 2D platform equation is nothing new. Yet, that doesn’t seem to stop Teslagrad from feeling special. The game focuses on the use of electromagnetic powers to progress through levels, which often left me with a smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment in my gut. And that’s about it; Teslagrad is otherwise a pretty straight forward 2D puzzle platformer.
It is, however, not without faults. In the absence of health bars, a single hit from an enemy or dangerous terrain will respawn you at the beginning of the room. In most cases, that means repeating the last 10 or so seconds, which isn’t bothersome (though, some rooms are massive, and a mistake means repeating the last few minutes.) The real issue came in the form of the boss battles, which become extremely tedious when a single misstep means you must restart from the beginning of the fight. Mix this with a control scheme not quite responsive enough for anything more than a puzzler, and you’re left with an often punishing experience.
With zero room for error, the game often dipped into the realm of annoying for me. That being said, it’s likely that many players won’t mind this as I did. Everyone has a different threshold for challenge, after all, and I’ve always been the type of gamer looking more for an enjoyable experience than a hair-pulling challenge.
The story is told through little plays that you’ll come across occasionally. Without a single line of dialogue, the game does a surprisingly good job of explaining its history in an engaging way. That being said, the story isn’t particularly relevant to the game itself, and instead acts more like a backdrop, or perhaps more accurately, a rationale for the focus on Nikola Tesla’s special brand of magical science.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Teslagrad was provided by Rain Games.