Teslagrad - Wii U Game Review

I Love This Game - No, Wait, I Hate This Game - No Wait

Teslagrad
Rain Games

Teslagrad is a brilliant 2D puzzle-platformer with unusual game ideas and visual panache. There are clever puzzles and challenging boss battles. And there are times while playing it when I felt like hunting down the games’ makers and hurting them badly.

Pros

Smart puzzles, tricky jumps, clever gaming ideas.

Cons

Crazy difficulty spikes, floaty controls, no support for pro controller.

Gameplay: A Little Magnetism Goes A Long Way

After a lovely intro and an exciting rooftop chase that shows off the game’s impressively detailed visuals, Teslagrad’s boy protagonist finds himself among strange, deserted ruins full of electronic devices.

There he discovers a glove that establishes the basic gameplay concept of Teslagrad; magnetic polarity.

The glove allows the boy to change the polarity of magnetized objects. If a large box blocks your way, change its polarity and it will be pulled upward to the magnetic object above. There are also strange robots that will change the boy’s polarity to let him float upward. The game contains remarkably varied uses for these simple mechanics as you create bridges and change passages.

This is only the first power the boy acquires. Later he will be able to change his own polarity, allowing him to float among electric waves and grapple onto objects, then to teleport himself a few feet forward to bypass gates and deadly electrical currents.

Puzzles are wonderfully ingenious. Often bypassing a particular set of gates and currents and blocks appears impossible at first, requiring all the player’s ingenuity.

The platforming itself is quite tricky, so even after you’ve figure out what you have to do, pulling it off requires careful movement and exacting timing.

There are also some very ingenious boss battles. I particularly enjoyed one against a skeletal bird that had to be attacked from the inside.

The Downside: Floaty Controls and Difficulty Spikes

The first issue I had with the game was a bit of floatiness in the controls.

I initially noticed this when I had to jump on a button, a seemingly simple task unless making the tiniest possible jump from next to it causes you to sail right over.

What seemed like a minor annoyance became a major one during a boss battle in which you must jump on buttons while being fired upon. At first the battle frustrated me because I hadn’t solved the puzzle aspects, but once I did, I found that in the last part of the fight I needed to press the buttons as quickly as possible, with each extra second increasing a frustrating chance element in the fight.

I spent an hour failing to beat that boss. Then I put the game away, came back the next day refreshed and prevailed on the first try. I didn’t feel the rush of victory though, just relief that it was over.

My unhappiness faded as the game went on in its brilliant way until once again a difficult section (in which you float upward while dodging electric currents) was made far more difficult by loose controls that worked against the very exacting nature of the challenge.

After almost an hour it occurred to me that this would all be less tiring if I switched to my lighter Pro Controller; it’s not like I really needed the gamepad, which does nothing but show an only marginally useful map.

It turned out the game didn’t offer me that option. I did figure out that my default use of the analog stick was a mistake; you really need to use the d-pad.

I’m sure there’s someone who floated through that challenge on the first try – the odd thing about video games is something very difficult for me can be very easy for someone who subsequently falters on something I breezed through. Certainly the guy who made the youtube playthrough I used to gauge how far I was through the game had a lot less trouble than I did.

The next day I still couldn’t get through and decided to stop playing altogether, only changing my mind a few days later when my girlfriend took over my computer and I had nothing else to do but play more.

I made it through at last, then almost immediately hit another brutal boss battle. When I finally beat that, after many tries, I thought, maybe I’ll manage to finish this thing after all.

I didn’t. At this point I learned that the difficult-to-find-and-reach collectibles strewn throughout the game are not optional extras. This struck me as a cheap trick, and I refused the game’s demand that I painstakingly backtrack to find them all. Finally, very close to the end, I quit for good.

The Verdict: Brilliant and Aggravating

In spite of my frustration with the game’s sometimes unreasonable difficulty, for the most part I enjoyed it, and I never stopped admiring the brilliance of its design. I wound up having six hours of pure fun and another three hours of fun mixed with white hot fury. While I’m not thrilled with that ratio, those who either have sharper platforming skills or are more masochistic than myself are likely to want to hunt down the developers not to punch them out but rather to thank them for a job well done.  

Developed and published byRain Games
Genre: Puzzle-platformer
For ages: All
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: September 11, 2014

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