Physics was never my strongest subject at school. Not through lack of trying, but more that I never felt that our crazed teacher could simplify his explanations well enough for the majority of the class to even begin to comprehend. Regardless, whether you know your electrolytic capacitors from your Piezo crystal oscillators needn’t matter in this delightfully electrifying experience from Rain Games.
Thrust into a tumultuous world embroiled by war, you are cast as a young boy who flees from his home when your town is besieged by the tyrannical King’s army. Leaping across rooftops as the rain subdues the fires roaring around you, your pursuers give chase which leads to you eventually taking shelter in an abandoned Tesla Tower that looms over the city.
This steampunk-infused construction was built by technological wizards, who themselves fell foul of the power-hungry King’s greed. Now dormant and yet remaining operable, you must explore Teslagrad in looking to uncover the dark secrets that lie undiscovered behind its doors.
Magnetism and electromagnetic powers are the tools at play here, slowly granted to you as you adventure deeper into the confines of the Tower. Access to these is rewarded by acquiring ancient Teslamancer technology, your first discovery of such equipment is a pair of worn magnetic gloves. These allow you to electrify designated blocks with either positive or negative charge, the result of which attracting or repelling others nearby.
This gentle introduction to Teslagrad‘s playful puzzle-platforming soon extends, with blink boots that let you teleport forward a set distance, a polarity cloak which allows you to surround yourself with an electromagnetic field, and a teslastaff that can zap blocks from afar.
These are expertly put to use, whether that be by making death-defying jumps only to teleport to safety or through repelling away from blocks to launch yourself to dizzying heights. As can be expected there is plenty of trial and error in approach, necessitated by precision that will test both your deduction and reflexes. Separately the ancient technology treads familiar territory, but together they come to form something remarkably special.
That’s never more evident than during one of the game’s boss fights, increasingly taxing encounters that will readily induce plenty of cursing as try to avoid an untimely death. Mechanical monstrosities will endanger you with fiery columns, wide arcing lasers and electrical waves, with later challenges seeing you ricochet teslastaff shots back at your adversary. These fights can feel unforgiving but are gloriously satisfying when you finally clinch a victory.
While speed runners can beat the game in under an hour, those traipsing through its cavernous halls for the first time can expect their adventure to come to a close after five hours of play. This can be extended by hunting for 36 scrolls scattered throughout the tower, the collection of which will reward you with witnessing the game’s secret ending – nabbing 15 of which are necessary before you can even confront the final boss. The secret ending itself may come as somewhat of a disappointment to those that invest the extra time, but completionists will reap the added challenge.
It is in the presentation that Teslagrad so readily enchants, where hand-drawn environments bring everything to life with fairytale splendour while an accompanying soundtrack populated with plucked strings and meandering piano melodies only intensifies the captivating curiosity of the game world. While the developer opted for voiceless storytelling, it somewhat deters players from wholly understanding the tale as it unfolds before them. Theatre stages that you cross on numerous occasion show cut-outs that try to portray the world’s plight, but these only partly succeed and by the game’s conclusion many will be left wishing they’d learnt more.
The Wii U GamePad once again offers the now, seemingly having become as standard, chance to enjoy Off-TV Play, otherwise presenting a map of the rooms that you have so far wandered through. In addition, you can swipe right to take a closer look at scrolls that you have collected, which allows you to appreciate the artwork more but feels a superfluous effort.
Teslagrad is a positively charged experience, that, while over too soon, is wondrously resplendent in style and execution. Easily ranking among the Nintendo eShop’s greatest, Rain Games invite you on a memorable and enchanting tale that is well worth embarking on.