One dark and stormy night, a child flees from his home in the nick of time. Pursued by army men and the bearded general Oleg, the boy makes his way to the mysterious tower known as Teslagrad. Why do the king and his men fear a small boy? What dark history lies behind this despot king and his iron-fist rule? Can you, a small orphaned child unlock the mystery of Teslagrad's past and topple the despot? It's time to play Teslagrad on the Wii U and become a master of electricity and magnetism.
As far as platformers go, the controls are pretty spot on. It seems like for every dozen platform-based games that come out, at least half of them either make the control too slippery or too rigid. I'm happy to say that Teslagrad does not fall under that category. Using the various power-ups that you gather in Metroidvania fashion never feels cumbersome or unwieldy, which can sometimes happen on the Wii U pad. Item use placement feels great, and when you die (and you will do that quite a bit) you know it's because your reflexes were not yet up to the challenge. More on that later though...
Graphics and Style
|It was a dark and stormy game setting...|
Cartoon-like characters run along in a world that sometimes has backgrounds with a oil-painting like feel. Overall though, the look of the characters suits the storybook look well. The animations for the various machines within Teslagrad move in a manner that sometimes reminds me of a pop-up book, and other times like I'm watching a cartoon. However, this cartoon does not feature a plethora of overly bright colors. Although a neon red or blue glow surrounds the items using your magnetism powers and you see instances where something bright does occur (such as the puppet-theater backstory shows) these stand in stark contrast to the rest of the game. When such colors do occur, they really pop out at you.
It feels as if this game were set in an alternate-universe version of Russia. From the propaganda posters seen in the very beginning of the game which depict crowds cheering the king and denouncing the "Wizards" of magnetism; to the heavy red coats and shapkas of the army; to statues of the king balanced by the dead wizards--the game sells its unique atmosphere well. There are little background touches throughout the game which help build this world into a tangible place. It has moving cogs and sparks of electricity, giving it an electro-steam-punk mash feel, but it's a good mash up. As an aspiring writer, it's nice to see these touches. Other games that I've played on systems which boasted more "mature" themes for grown ups forget to add details like this. I don't give a wit about your post-Apocalypse-other-world-cover-based-shooter-#352 and how "grown up" it looks. Teslagrad tells a story that I want to know more about.
Music and Sound
Main Theme From Teslagrad
The tone of the music is just so perfect. The melancholy style of the violins further sell the "almost-but-not-quite" Russia world. Also there's the use of bells, violins, and bass in syncopation. The use of this technique makes for a clockwork feel that also blends with the visual style of the game. Even the henchman Oleg gets his own theme. I would find a rip or download of this soundtrack in a second because you can't help but think of Teslagrad when you hear the soundtrack. One of the tracks features what appears to be a song sung in Norwegian:
So well synced is the music to the boss battles that it takes on an air that most movies wish they could achieve.
Alas, though I feel like the controls are solid and the music superb, the gameplay lacks a little. However, this might just be my own annoyance at what I think of as "quick-death" games. There are sections in Teslagrad as you progress where you die over and over and over and over again before you learn the right timing of what item and what order to use them in. I think I've complained about this before with other games, and I honestly don't know if this is just me.
Games that you die and restart fairly quickly in are both fine and frustrating. A near bottomless well of retries and regret. Although I feel relief and satisfaction when I finally overcome the obstacle. I sometimes feel more relief than joy at having beaten a puzzle. Again, it just might be I'm not patient enough for the sometimes absurd difficulty that can occur. But Teslagrad has a high ratio of frustrating quick-death sections. I don't see it as an unnecessary gameplay extender, it's just part of the game.
Overall though, I like the game, despite the quick-death thing. I just wish that it didn't seem to rely so much on this odd trial and error formula.
Atmosphere and story plays a heavy roll in this puzzle platformer. So much so that if the game lacked the atmosphere and story that it has, I don't think I'd enjoy it as much as I have. (I'm still playing, and still dying....) As I noted before, as the game progresses you'll find yourself dying and restarting ad nauseum. That said....
Did I mention how much I like the music and style of this game? Did I delve into detail about the fantastic marionette "cut-scenes" that help to unfold the tale of Teslagrad? I have a little? Trust me when I say this game plays like one of the best children's stories you will ever read. Think back to that first time you read an adventure book as a kid, when you first imagined what it would be like to be in character's shoes slaying a dragon, fighting the bad guy, or saving the world. I might be annoyed at the quick deaths, but the story saved the day--so to speak.
Graphics/Visual Style: 10/10
Control and Gameplay: 7/10
Overall Rating: 8.5/10