Teslagrad is one of the latest in a wave of beautifully illustrated, beautifully programmed indie 2D games that we lucky gamers have a chance to experience. The game has seen some success on the PC, and now we have the Wii U version. I take the power into my own hands to see how electrifying the game can be.
[Update: Word from the developers (see comment below) is that Wii U Pro Controller support is coming in a patch, so that’s something to look out for!]
Teslagrad tells the story of a young boy somewhere in some soviet-era type country, on the run from the authorities. He finds his way into a large building—Tesla Tower—and starts unlocking the secrets within that show exactly what happened to the country. The story is somewhat vague partly because telling much more would incur the wrath of the Spoiler Fairies, but partly because the story, while masterfully told, is done without a single word being displayed on the screen. Everything comes over in images, puppet shows, and the action in general.
In practice, the game is a 2D platformer puzzle game built around the idea of electromagnetic forces (Tesla, get it?). You manipulate platforms and other screen elements by using the right or left shoulder buttons, and things on the screen will either attract or repel other things. For example, an early puzzle has changing the polarity of some large blocks so that they become attracted to the oppositely-charged plates above, thus allowing you egress from the screen. You gain abilities slowly throughout the game; this allows you to become quite comfortable with each of your new abilities before the next one shows up. There aren’t that many abilities that unlock, but the ranges of puzzles you encounter are ridiculously wide. The puzzles aren’t going to be the kinds that you can simply gloss over, either. The game is old-school devilishly difficult in places, and you will be forced to think. The protagonist is a one-hit wonder, but this is offset, thankfully, by infinite lives, so take as much time with each puzzle as you need.
The game’s art and music are definitely the things to stop here for. The animation is beautifully fluid and artfully illustrated. The screenshots will give you a good idea of what I mean. It’s achingly gorgeous. The music is similarly atmospheric and haunting in places. If nothing else, the game is soothing on the senses. What heightens this sense is that there is essentially no dialog, no long swathes of text…in fact, no text at all, really. It’s only something you start wondering about halfway in when you realise that you’ve not read a single thing in a few hours.
On the down side, Teslagrad supports only the Wii U GamePad controller and not the Pro Controller, and while playing on TV, a map displays on the GamePad. The map is not terribly useful, however, since many screens are clumped together to form regions, and you only get a vague idea of which region, not which screen, you’re on. Having the GamePad does, however, mean off-TV play is possible, and I still think that this is one of the best things about the Nintendo Wii U.
Conclusion? I think this is definitely one game for the indie and puzzle enthusiast crowd, and it’s something that’ll keep you busy for a while. It’s beautiful, difficult, and fun–what’s not to like? Unless, of course, you like neither of those things, in which case, good day to you, Mr Thomas Edison.
Final Score: 8.5 Electrifying Prawns out of 10
Developer: Rain Games
Age Rating: 7
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
RRP: R95 (eShop)