Teslagrad is an indie game developed by Rain Games, and this game has decided to take an interesting take on its narrative. It also takes a few cues from from platformers like Metroid’s map design, while throwing in some puzzle elements. But this game has some issue that keep it from being truly great.
In Teslagrad, the story is told much like a silent movie. You play as a young boy who is escaping from some red clad soldiers. After outrunning them, he finds himself trapped in a tower that has many hazards based on electricity, magnetism, or electromagnetism. To solve the trouble of traversing these hazards and puzzles, the boy will find items that will let him progress these rooms. You will be able to do things like punching certain blocks to change their polarity, or dash with a burst of electricity to teleport past thin walls, you can also get a cloak that works like a magnet to push or pull you in many directions.
The game has no narrative that is told through dialogue, instead opting for a silent film approach. The story is then revealed by either unspoken cut-scenes or little plays that place in the various theaters, which reveal back-story. This way the game can give you a story without needless exposition. There are also hidden scrolls that you can find that are there for primarily achievement purposes, but at the end of the game, it unfortunately gates your progress. You will need to collect a minimum of 15 to see the ending, and all 36 for the secret ending. There are boss fights to break up the exploration, and this is where the game falters a bit.
The issues with the game are on a small list, but they are a bit on the qualitative side. While it makes sense that the hazards in the game can kill you in one hit, the boss battles will the first time players die a lot as it will be many deaths before you have a rote memorization of their patterns. These bosses do not mess around, and you will constantly be on your toes. Having a life bar for at least these encounters would have been welcome, or at least being able to take a free hit before going down. There is also the issue of the boy’s maximum jump height not being as good as it could be. The dash ability could also use a bit more length as well. During certain parts of the game, if you fail to be pixel perfect, you will get fried or mauled. The physics are also sometimes wonky, despite mostly being good. Other issues lie in the game’s map system, which is lacking. The map can’t be scrolled about to view other areas, making route planning difficult, as well as for speed-running purposes. Items of interest typical are not labeled as well, making collecting the scroll harder than it needs to be. Another issue is the controls. If you play on the gamepad, be expected to manually set the controls yourself. Kind of unforgivable that the game can make an auto-detect presets for gamepad users.
At least the visuals and soundtrack are very well done. Well at least the few times where the game plays music, as it’s mostly an ambient experience. The visuals are done in a beautiful hand drawn HD art-style, in both character sprites and backgrounds. But despite the game’s flaws, it is an enjoyable game that is worth checking out.