Metroidvania games are more popular than ever so in order to make one worthwhile, game developers have to strive for unique gameplay. Thankfully, Teslagrad's magnet-based mechanics just may have what it takes.
Teslagrad originally released over two years ago and now it's available for Xbox One so I figured it would be an appropriate time to finally review it. I purchased it quite a while ago for PlayStation 4 but haven't played it until recently for some reason and am I ever glad that I did. As a fan of the Metroidvania genre, I'm usually quite harsh with my reviews of these games. Therefore, you can trust that if I like it then it's going to be worth your time. Teslagrad puts you in control of a young lad who traverses a castle in order to bring justice to its corrupt king. As you explore this stronghold, you'll acquire and use magnetic abilities to help you through many puzzling platforming situations. Controlling the chap is easy and intuitive which makes the more challenging portions tests of skill as opposed to chance. You'll use magnetic fields to propel from matching poles, stick to opposing poles, and inject magnetism into objects and creatures. Overall, the combination of exploration and unique gameplay make this one addictive adventure.
When it comes to presentation, Teslagrad boasts some gorgeous artwork. The animations make every character feel alive and their cartoonish flair is quite the eye candy. At times throughout the journey, you'll come across theater screens that you can watch story sequences on. These help solidify the lore of the game world and act as welcome breaks. Environments are just as beautiful with mostly dark and atmospheric settings that can occasionally get rather eerie. The fitting subdued orchestral soundtrack adds a layer of mystery to the equation. In the end, Teslagrad looks and sounds fantastic even for a genre where presentational excellence is commonplace.
Working your way through the castle is a satisfying endeavor complete with a handful of bosses, many tricky platforming segments, and a few noodle-scratching puzzles. It was difficult for me to put the game down because the gameplay really sucked me in. However, I didn't have to put it down for long because the entire journey only took me a few hours to complete. I even refrained from using a guide as I managed to ease my way through the majority of it without much difficulty. After watching the ending which confused me due to an odd gold-loving kitty, I can now go back and try to obtain all of the hidden collectables. Doing so is incredibly rewarding because they require a lot of digging around and puzzle solving to uncover. In other words, Teslagrad may be short but it's also full of secrets that'll take you a couple of extra hours to find. Once you do, you get an additional ending for your efforts.
Besides the small game world, one of the most annoying aspects of Teslagrad is that the map only shows your immediate surroundings and you can't scroll it. This makes knowing where to go next very difficult, especially when you try to track down the hidden collectables. I really don't know why the developers decided to limit the map like this; it's very counterintuitive. My other main problem is that there are a few lengthy stretches that have no checkpoints and are far too challenging to be anything less than frustrating. Two sections in particular come to mind. One is where you ascend a column populated by lines of lightning bolts that are very hard to navigate through and another is a boss with a few phases that each one could have been a battle on its own.
Teslagrad is a gem of a Metroidvania game that any fan of the genre would be silly to pass up. Considering it's now available for almost every major console, there's no excuse for not having it in your gaming library.
- + Awesome combination of exploration and magnet-based gameplay mechanics
- + Beautiful art and atmospheric music
- + Rewarding hidden collectables
- - Unscrollable map doesn't display enough of your surroundings
- - Some areas could use more checkpoints
- - The game world is a bit too small