Teslagrad Review – Positively Magnetic (PS4)
Released in 2013 for the PC platform, Teslagrad has slowly made its way onto other systems. It hit the Wii U in 2014, and now it’s splashing onto the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
This is an indie platform puzzler with an interesting painted art style and a set of mechanics built around magnetic charges. Made in Unity, this indie affair has shown up at conventions like PAX and wooed over followers and buyers from sales like Humble Bundle.
It’s made the rounds, quite plainly, and now it’s available to yet another group of buyers.
When Opposites Attract…
The whole gameplay premise of Teslagrad forms around the notion of magnetic charges. You’ll get a glove early on the allows you to change the charge of certain objects. You’ll be able to imbue a block with red charge that will pull it close to blue blocks or, even better in certain moments, push it away from other red blocks.
In sort of a Metroidvania fashion, you’ll move about the world of Teslagrad battling bosses, finding new equipment and revisiting old areas on your way to either collecting scrolls (which are worth a trophy every time you pick one up) or progressing the tale.
The puzzle mechanics work really well here, and the new stuff aside from magnetics that’s slowly introduced by way of new equipment piles on the unique play. Blink boots, for instance, will let you flash a few yards ahead while passing through objects. The Magnetic Cloak lets you charge yourself rather than finding creatures like Volt Walkers in order to push you through puzzles, up floors and onto surfaces.
This isn’t a very long game, and the mechanics don’t really where out their welcome until tedium sets in with the puzzles, though I’ll get to that in a bit.
A Pretty Little Game
Teslagrad is also a very good looking game, as far as the 2D artsy line goes. I know some players are rather tired of this look and perspective, and I totally get that. Teslagrad was pretty fresh in 2013, but the slow port to other platforms has sort of hurt the once seemingly inspired visuals.
It’s not that Teslagrad looks worse than it did. It’s that the gaming world has sort of overplayed games like this one, and an art style that once stood out now tends to blend into the background.
As nice as Teslagrad looks and how moody it can be at times, I can’t personally stop thinking that this should have launched with the PS4 rather than a year and a half later.
If you aren’t sick of the look and perspective though, Teslagrad has enough artistic charm in it to carry the load. It may dull at points thanks to backtracking, but you regularly move into rooms that have weird hulking statues in the background, the right touch of color or enough shadow to make things seem just off enough.
There are several moments in front of these statues, for instance, that had me stopping to admire the work. That’s pretty cool.
Tedium Meets Age
The biggest problem I have with Teslagrad is the same one I faced when I played the game two years ago. Its puzzles, designed backtracking and mediocre checkpointing make it a bit tedious.
When you’re moving back through an area looking for scrolls, for instance, you might hit a section that’s sort of obnoxious to navigate. It might be obnoxious because you have to wait for Volt Walkers to move into the right positions in order to proceed. So you wait, then you go, you make a mistake and you’re checkpointed all the way back to the way you entered the room.
Then you wait again.
It’s not a problem when you encounter puzzles the first time around, but when you have to do this again and again it gets rather irritating. I don’t hold this next bit against the game, but it was especially irritating as a returning player. I knew where to go and what to do, and I was just meant to wait and suffer moments of awkward platforming or puzzles that are too slow or too long for their own good.
On the one hand, we have yet another port of an indie, 2D, artistic, puzzle platformer from older systems. I might be diverting from critiquing this single game by saying this, but I’ve personally had my fill of replaying old games in higher resolutions on the PlayStation 4. I want new experiences, not rehashes of games I played years ago.
However. I liked Teslagrad the first time I played it. I really did. The same things turned me off here after I pushed through the game once more. It’s still tedious, checkpoints don’t happen as often as I like during slogs of backtracking and it’s the same game I played in 2013. I think I even have multiple copies of it thanks to a Humble Bundle.
Get ON the block!
Get it... "Tesla..." grad.
Chase it down.
The tyrannical ruler.
In the library.
Are these the gardens?
Blue, meet red.
Put on a cloak, you'll catch cold.
That's a big tree.
Watch the current!
Float this way!
You want the scepter.
Played it before? Unless you absolutely loved it, I don’t know if I’d advise buying it again. Aside from collecting scrolls, which ushers in an even more ludicrous amount of backtracking, there isn’t really a reason to come back.
If you’re entirely new to this experience, I absolutely recommend Teslagrad as a great puzzle platformer. It arrived a bit before the genre became way too crowded, though the two years that have passed since then certainly haven’t helped. What we have here is a well made 2D effort, and explorers who aren’t tired of the genre will enjoy this one for its silent storytelling and magnetic puzzle mechanics.
A review code for Teslegrad was provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.