When I reviewed Shadow Puppeteer a good while back, one of my biggest complaints was the unfortunate lack of truly intriguing challenges all the way throughout the game. However, this doesn’t apply to Snow Cannon Games’ earlier title, Teslagrad, which has now come to the Xbox One. Using varying items to solve puzzles revolving around electromagnetism has allowed for a truly unique game in the puzzle-platformer genre.
For the most part, this plays as a platformer. Aside from running from a tiny handful of enemies at times, you’ll mainly be running, jumping, and climbing on ledges. The controls can feel a little bit slippery at times, but on the whole the controls were responsive and smooth. There aren’t levels, per se, as you instead start from your house, go towards the tower that looms over the city, and explore the skyscraper from the inside. It is broken into sections, rather, with each portion coming with an item that you will need to progress, and a boss that takes advantage of this new ability. If you happen to die, the only punishment is that you have to return to where you entered the room from, and given the size of most rooms the game is fairly forgiving for the most part.
The rooms are comprised of differing brainteasers that demand your full understanding of the game’s mechanics and items. It really can be tricky to describe a certain example, but the central theme relies on electromagnetism. You learn early on that blue objects attract to red objects, blue things repel other blue things, and vice versa, and this is carried on for the whole game. For example, you use the gloves the change to colour of special blocks, so it can pull down other blocks of the opposite colour to grant access to a higher platform. There are three other key items that you gain that also contribute heavily to these puzzles. The boots allow you to travel at insane speeds at the press of the X button, enabling you to bypass thin bars and the like which would otherwise block your path. The cloak is the most inventive however, granting you the ability to be surrounded in an orb of either blue or red energy, which in turn can allow you to stick to or reply from certain objects. Bosses also appear at the end of each section, to test your skills with your latest toy. These can be tricky and unforgiving to a certain extent (as you’d have to start the whole thing over even if you get touched just once), but are satisfying when you do eventually take them down. It is hard to explain this game in some detail, but let’s just say that you will need to keep your wits about you the whole time.
There is some replay content to be had, in the form of scrolls. 36 of them to be exact, and can require you going out of your way to get them. Getting them all will mean some bonus of sorts at the end, although I haven’t bothered with 100% completing the game. This should only add an hour or two to the relatively short campaign however, which I would say takes between 4 and 5 hours. There are ten bonus challenges for Xbox One players if you’re looking for more bang for your buck, but just be aware of how long you’ll be playing this for. With that said however, the ingenious and fun gameplay does justify the cost for Teslagrad.
Teslagrad has this cool steam-punk-inspired affect to it all. It really does add to the whole electromagnetic concept the game has, but the painting style can be beautiful to look at too. The only thing I can say that is bad about the visuals is the plainness of the protagonist, which does upset me. Regardless, it really is a treat to look at the environment around you from time to time. I’d also highly suggest taking your time looking at certain places, the theatre in particular. This game has no dialogue, forcing you to play without much context of why you’re doing this. Looking at the little puppet shows and various pictures, statues, and the like, do depict some kind of story, so some of the fun does come from being able to forge your own motive and story!
Drawing back to the steam-punk theme, the soundtrack also has a certain ring to it that does re-emphasise this theme. It gets you in the mood to get your brain thinking of solutions to the problem you are facing, in addition to adding a tense or suspenseful tone, adding to the atmosphere. If I had to pick, it would have to be the game’s main theme however.
Teslagrad is yet another truly distinctive Indie title. The music sets the atmosphere, the visuals are lovely, and its definite concept of electromagnetism is used to a fantastic degree of excellence. The journey is short-lived, and certain things (including execution of bosses and controls) could be confusing, but you won’t regret venturing through this unique world of electricity and puzzles.
So here’s a shocker: I didn’t review this game for a Nintendo platform! Instead, the lovely people at Snow Cannon Games, publishers of both Teslagrad and Shadow Puppeteer, were nice enough to send me a review code for this game’s release on the Xbox One, so a lot of thanks to those guys! It is now available on Microsoft’s home console, and I highly suggest it if you’re searching for something unique to sink into!