Teslagrad (Wii U)
Approximately 5 hours
Content Warning: There are black, shadowy monsters that will eat you when you get too close. It might be a little creepy for a child. Though you do vaporize a couple of enemies with an electrical staff, there’s not much in the way of violence.
There are a few things that I remember about magnets from grade school. Magnets of the same charge repel each other, while opposite charges attract each other. (I may have missed the lessons on teleportation and shooting electric beams, but I learned how to use those in-game.) This foundational rule is the key to solving the challenging puzzles of Teslagrad, the new Wii U eShop game.
Originally released in 2013 on Steam, Teslagrad is a 2D puzzle platformer where you play as a young boy who, while exploring a maze-like tower, finds the electromagnetic tools to help liberate their city from an evil monarch. The in-game story does not go much deeper than that. As someone who appreciates rich story and character development, I was a bit disappointed in the game’s lack of either.
There are certain rooms in the tower that will show you a glimmer of a story told by a mechanical puppet show. These performances are helpful, but the story still feels empty.
Despite the lack of story, the puzzles in the game are quite satisfying. In order to traverse the tower, you must use magnetism to maneuver through tricky rooms filled with untouchable electric walls and floors, monsters that want to eat you, and a few dangerous bosses. With each tool you discover, you will find yourself being able to pass through rooms you couldn’t previously traverse and continue to make your way up the tower.
Even with these tools, the puzzles are very difficult. You will die. A lot. For example, there was a long room I had to get past that had three different levels of platforms. On these platforms were electrical cubes that would occasionally move from right to left at various speeds. I died so many times in this room. After clearing one cube of doom, I’d get hit by the next. And the next. And then the next. Luckily, you respawn in the room you died in. Even though you will die fairly often, these difficult puzzles will leave you feeling accomplished once they’re solved.
The tools you get are fun to use. I particularly enjoyed the teleport ability (which reminds me- there needs to be a next-gen nightcrawler game). I do wish there were a few more unique gadgets in the game. There are only four tools and some of their effects overlap.
Boss fights are super enjoyable; whether you’re trying to magnetize blocks while avoiding a fall into a giant furnace or repelling and attracting a flurry of magnetic bolts to bounce them back to your enemy, your heart will be pumping. Boss fights are undoubtedly the most fun part of the gameplay, though I wish there were at least two more.
If you are diligent in completing the puzzles, the game should only take you a few hours. This might seem short, but this was a good length for me as the lack of story didn’t interest me.
The graphic style of Teslagrad is the best part of the game. I really enjoyed the handdrawn characters and backgrounds. The character designs reminded me a lot of the designs from Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. This unique style was great to look at and remained smooth through the entire game. I particularly enjoyed the animation of the final boss. His animations, especially when he teleports, were so smooth and other-worldly, it made me feel like I was fighting a powerful enemy.
Once you’re past the title screen, there’s actually no text in the game till you get to the credits. At first, that grabbed my attention since I’ve seen what people can do with little to no words. For example, there’s a Season 4 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called “Hush” that uses no speaking after the first few minutes. In place of words, Buffy used a great soundtrack and expressive characters. I was honestly a little let down by Teslagrad’s environment. The soundtrack was not very memorable and the playable character has no sound effects. Having no sound effects may seem like a minor critique however it made me feel like I was playing as an empty shell and not an actual character.
Overall, if you’re a fan of challenging puzzles, you’re going to be attracted to the difficulty of the puzzles. Despite the lack of story and character development, I did have fun playing Teslagrad. You can pick it up now in the Wii U’s eShop for $14.99.
Have you picked up Teslagrad? What attracted you to it? Or were you repelled? Let us know in the comments!
+ Cool hand-drawn graphics
+ Challenging puzzles
+ Fun boss fights
- Nearly no story/character development
- Playable character has zero voice acting and is an empty shell