Teslagrad (Review)

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Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Reviewed On: PS4

Teslagrad may not have a single line of dialogue in its 3-4 hour runtime, but its personality speaks volumes. Utilizing a gorgeous hand-drawn aesthetic, Teslagrad follows a young boy as he ventures into a strange and foreboding tower and faces the obstacles inside.

The actual narrative of the game is minimal, leaving a lot to interpretation.
However, those who pay careful attention to the environment and scour its nooks and crannies will be able to get a better picture of the story. Teslagrad does an incredible job of using visual storytelling to portray its tale. Signs of struggle, posters on the wall, and deliberate placement of certain objects tell of a strange purpose for the tower and the gauntlet of traps and obstacles within. Furthermore, there’s 36 hidden scrolls that provides further depiction of events, both past and present.

As for the actual gameplay, Teslagrad is a puzzle-platformer with a heavy emphasis on magnetism, trajectory, and momentum. Using special gloves (and eventually other tools), you can alter the polarity of different platforms and objects. This allows you to attract or repel items, opening new pathways and negating hazards in the process. This starts out easily enough, with you simply using magnetism to move a couple of boxes, but there’s a steady inclusion of new ways to use these powers that makes the game feel fresh through its entirety.

For example, along with changing the polarity of boxes and other objects, you eventually reach a point in the game where you can use this same power on yourself. This opens up a whole new way of approaching puzzles, often having you alter your own polarity to navigate through increasingly dangerous rooms. Some of the later puzzles task you with combining all of your magnetism powers, resulting in challenges that require a heavy dose of logic and pixel-perfect accuracy.

One of the things that I love about Teslagrad is the way that it respects the player.
There’s absolutely no hand-holding, so you’re expected to figure everything out on your own. Unlike some puzzle games, which highlight key pieces of a puzzle or flat out tell you the solution if you take too long, Teslagrad trusts you to be able to solve its puzzles and lets you take as long as you need to. This made me feel smart and triumphant when I finally solved some of the later puzzles, which are admittedly pretty difficult.

Although the main focus of the game is on its gravity based puzzles, there are some combat sections in the form of boss fights. For the most part, these fights are unique and challenging. They’re typically a good test of the skills you’ve learned up to that point, but some of them feel like a massive difficulty spike compared to the rest of the game. Each boss has multiple stages, complete with an arsenal of moves to memorize and counter/dodge. Unfortunately, you die in one hit and are sent back to the beginning of the fight, regardless of which stage you’re on. I enjoyed the visual design of each and every boss, but the sheer difficulty of a handful of them felt like more of a punishment than a challenge.

Soundtrack enthusiasts will be glad to know that the music in Teslagrad is incredible. While some of the tracks are a little subdued, they still do a great job of adding to the atmosphere of the environment. Some of the more standout tracks build over time (such as the boss themes), but they’re all delightful to listen to and I didn’t find myself getting bored of any of them. One track near the end of the game even includes some vocal work, which made for a haunting, but beautiful piece.

FINAL VERDICT

When all is said done, Teslagrad is a memorable experience.
The beautiful hand-drawn visuals are charming, but the magnetism based puzzles are what you’ll stick around for. The way you use your tools to navigate the tower is clever, with several puzzles being a good test of your logic and knowledge on things such as polarity, trajectory, and momentum. Although the story leaves some things unanswered and asks you to interpret a lot of it, it’s still interesting enough to give it your attention. Combine all of these aspects with the stellar soundtrack and you have a game that’s well worth your time and money.

– Zack Burrows

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