Review: Teslagrad (PS4)

teslagrad-review-banner-ps4

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita (Coming Soon)

Extras:

  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save (w/PSV Release)
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Teslagrad
Format: PlayStation Network Download (844 MB)
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Rain Games
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
Teslagrad is also available on PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The story of Teslagrad is apparently a story of a young boy who is forced from his home and chased into a vast underground labyrinth. As he goes on his adventure he faces many puzzles and finds many tools to aid him on his quest.

Gameplay:
Teslagrad is primarily a 2D platformer that focuses heavily on using both tools and the environment around you to solve puzzles so that you can delve deeper into an underground labyrinth.

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As the game begins, there is no speech or text to tell you what is going on. You have to watch the different events to sort of get an idea of what the story is about. In the opening scene you see the main character as a baby being carried by a man, presumably the boy’s father. If you look closely, you can see that the man was holding several of the tools that you come across in the labyrinth.

You then see the man hand the baby off to a woman before walking away. Much time passes, until one day the woman’s home comes under attack. The boy is chased from his home by angry-looking men in red and is finally chased into an underground area. At different stages of the game, you’ll come across little theater areas where bits of the story are shared with you as a silent puppet show.

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The gameplay itself is pretty simple but it gets more and more tough and complex as you go along. There’s a very strong emphasis on electricity and magnetism as you get various items that have special abilities. The first few items that you find are a glove that allows you to apply north/south polarity to different objects, shoes that allow you to move at lightning speed and warp briefly in mid air, and a cloak that covers your body in either north or south polarity to attract or repel yourself towards/away from different items.

… environmental puzzles are frustratingly difficult to pull off …
As far as controls go they’re fairly simple: Cross to jump, directional controls move, hold up on the Left Analog to look up half a screen and down to look down half a screen. Once you get the special items the top and bottom sets of triggers are used to apply magnetism to items or to cloak yourself in either north or south polarity. The different polarities are signified by red and blue, so if you’re emitting red energy, you repel red objects and are drawn towards blue object (and vice-versa).

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As you go along the game gets really tough and sometimes it’s very difficult to figure out what you’re supposed to do. Many times the environmental puzzles are frustratingly difficult to pull off and very anger-inducing.

Your character is very slow and weak so one hit from anything will kill you. Fortunately, once you die you start out at the last door you entered and sometimes the game will be generous to put an invisible spawn point next to difficult parts. Unfortunately, these are few and far between.

If I were to try to compare this game to other platformers, I would say that it’s a mix between Metroid and Mega Man, except with heavy environmental puzzles. The controls are not perfect though, so many times you’re forced to make a jump that is just barely achievable which forces you to do things over and over.

Several times the buttons don’t seem to react when you think they should. For example, the look up/down mechanic overrides the directional and jumping controls, so many times I’d be trying to do a crucial timing jump just to have to boy stuck there because I had inadvertently pushed up on the stick before jumping.

One of the many controller-breakingly frustrating portions of the game.

One of the many controller-breakingly frustrating portions of the game.

Another frustrating aspect is the way your character sticks to ledges. Sometimes it’s a great thing because if you get close enough to a ledge he’ll grab on and save you from falling. Other times though, when you’re trying to get away fast, he’ll stick to a ledge when you don’t want him to.

… there’s no easier mode to dial down the boss difficulty …
I feel the developers went a bit overboard with some of the platforming and they definitely went way overboard on the bosses. The very first boss is extremely easy but the game doesn’t ease you into the high difficulty. Once you hit the second boss you need to be prepared for the battles to get ridiculous. Just when you think you hit the boss for the last time it’s got like one or two new attacks and I found myself saying “Really?! Are you kidding me, he’s not dead yet?!”

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Aside from the boss battles and platforming there are scrolls scattered throughout the game that you collect for trophies. I didn’t quite understand why getting the items would be linked to attaining trophies and yet the boss battles do not earn you a trophy since they are so drawn out and difficult.

I finally managed to get to the fourth boss before I’d had enough. While I’m really impressed with the game in terms of feel and the creativity of the designers, I found that it was not very fun (for me at least). It’s really unfortunate that there’s no easier mode to dial down the boss difficulty because I would like to continue with the game but it’s just too frustrating and not fun enough for me to keep trying.

… great ideas that just weren’t well executed …
Visuals:
The visuals of the game are two-dimensional hand-drawn sprites. The colors are toned down to add to the old and mysterious atmosphere of the labyrinth. There were no slowdowns or frame-rate drops and the game is very good visually.

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Audio:
The audio in the game is also pretty good. It’s a 2D platformer, so not much reason for surround sound. The music was pretty good and set the mood. Often it seems as though you’re playing in silence to give you a feeling of being alone.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only.

Conclusion:
Overall, I think Teslagrad has some great ideas that just weren’t well executed to make it a very enjoyable experience. I think that if you are very good at platforming and are a very patient person, this game will be great for you and possibly very rewarding. However, if you get easily frustrated by difficult controls and monotonous platforming then it’s probably best if you pass on this one.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • George Nash

    Oh man I completely loved this game. I played then full game all of the way to platinum in one day. I agree the platforming can be really hard. For me the hardest part was the upper part of the tower that you have to float up and dodge all the lightning. That part was really hard to get past. The second boss took forever for me to figure out. I could dodge all his attacks but didn’t know I had to shock him so I just kept dodging for ever till I finally figured out how to fight him.