I’ve been meaning to play Teslagrad for the longest time. A platformer that focuses more on the puzzle aspect rather than pixel-perfect jumping or intense combat? That seems the kind of platformer I’d be pretty decent at. It’s been on my list for a very long time, but I’d almost completely forgotten about it until recently, when I saw it had released onto Utomik. I figured it was about time to take it on.
I’m not great at platformers – so one that focuses more on the puzzling aspect was definitely something I was keener on. And Teslagrad is wonderful for it – the castle you’re in is enormous, and requires some clever thinking to get it around it. There’s a decent curve to the puzzles for the most part as well, you’ll never need to be constantly tearing your hair out to see what is the best path. It’s not too easy, and you will have to take a look at some of the puzzles and pause to think occasionally, but that is what makes the game fantastic. So many games these days spoonfeed players, but Teslagrad tries to keep you on your toes, always plopping you in a tricky situation. You’re not always on a single path either. The castle you’re in is a massive construct, filled with branching pathways that can – and will – send you on a wild goose chase, or potentially into the jaws of a boss. When you unlock a new powerup, it never feels too laborious to backtrack to closed off locations either. Going back and finding the hidden stuff you had to miss before is a pretty fun experience.
There is much to say about the art style as well. It’s not super retro, like many games are trying to be today, but it is wonderfully hand crafted. Each area, every character, they all feel like they have a soul, part of the creator painted into them. There’s so much crammed into every part of the castle that it’s difficult to fully enjoy as you play through it. It’s remarkable how a drab, dark castle can seemingly come alive when drawn a certain way, and the artist for Teslagrad really knew how to make everything pop in such a magnificent way.
Doesn’t fully deliver
Although the above is all good, Teslagrad has one major failing in my opinion: The Bosses. They were certainly intriguing, and definitely had to think about how to beat them, but they didn’t feel quite right. Not so much like they were out of place, but they offered a massive spike in difficulty, where the rest of the game felt much more forgiving. It was incredibly galling having to go from almost defeating a boss to restarting it due to a mistimed jump. Due to them being bosses as well, it takes a couple of tries to understand quite how to beat them, which results in more deaths. No matter what the game, I’d much prefer it if I could understand it without having to die constantly.
The Final Word
The boss difficulty spikes do detract from the whole experience, but generally working everything out was incredibly fun. I loved working out how to best outsmart the enemy and manoeuvre around the massive castle. The backtracking aspect, after picking up new powers as well, was done fairly well, so it never felt like I was having to backtrack all the time. It took me nearly five years to play it – but it definitely was worth the wait.