Review: Teslagrad

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Isn’t it odd that the protagonists in platform games are often very stony faced looking.

16 bit Buster Keatons ready to jump and smash things and collect stuff without as much as a smirk or grimace. Mario’s stony face served him well as he never looked particularly upset when told that his princess was in another castle. Sonic was always too cool to smile and moving to fast to worry about anything other than defeating Robotnik and freeing his friends. These worlds were so colourful and vibrant though, that it made it near impossible to imagine why they didn’t stop for a second to take some of it in.

In Teslagrad now available on PS4 and everything else, the characters look properly miserable, as the whole game seems to be based around the area of the Battleship Potemkin. It has a very heavy communist Russia feel, and this is no surprise given its title. Anyone thinking this game was going to be a playable version of the band Tesla graduating from hard rock to heavy metal will be disappointed.

Game play wise you are in control of a little boy who is chased over roof tops in a way that reminds me of Disney’s Aladdin on the mega drive and you end up in an environment where you are manipulating two different kinds of electricity. Blue and Red is the easy way to look at it. Blue repels Blue but sticks to Red and vice versa. Your power ups eventually give you the freedom to fly in certain situations with a cape that allows you to charge yourself in a particular colour of electricity, and you can punch blocks to change their charge to repel things or attract things across the screen.

Teslagrad is, what the cool kids refer to as, a Metroidvania game which for all you uncool kids is explained below.

“Distinct features associated with the Metroidvania formula are side-scrolling, exploratory, action-adventure gameplay,power-ups, and a map that is filled in automatically as the player progresses through the game.

A strong element of this genre is that the map is largely contiguous, offering no breaks in play aside from the occasional load screen.” - Gaming.wikia.com

The game has no dialogue and consists of very melancholy music by a band called Bear and Cat with such uplifting little ditties as ‘Dad is Dead’. It is very atmospheric and as there is no dialogue the music greatly makes up for about a third of the games ambiance along with the unbelievable artwork. Everything looks hand drawn and yet beautifully HD and it feels like a Cold War Russia educational film about electricity. Albeit one that would get you killed and not apply to real life situations.

So each section of the game is split only by walking off screen into another screen and you must earn your way up a central core in the game, gradually unlocking various power ups in the process that helps you move up further. A core element to indie games recently seems to be me thinking ‘this has saved in an area I can’t get out of I’m going to have to start again” only to find that the puzzle set before me is just insanely intricate and difficult to figure out and yet only thousands of times more difficult to execute once I have figured it out. Remember how hard Ducktales was? That was nothing. Though it did have a catchier theme tune.

If you are a supporter of original gaming content this is a good place to start, a fabulous little game, I have a lot of faith in any titles from Rain Games.