STAFF REVIEW of Teslagrad (Xbox One)

Monday, April 11, 2016.
by John Elliott

Teslagrad Box art Teslagrad is a title I have been interested in for some time; however, with my junker of a PC (read: way under-powered for even this game), and being a Xbox One only console owner, I was out of luck until it was brought to Microsoft's current console under the ID@Xbox banner. As a personal note, I have to say that that I am somewhat ecstatic to finally get my hands on this puzzle/platform title and that any other way to describe my excitement would be a bit of an understatement. I seem to always have new puzzle games of some nature on all of my portable devices, and simply put I am addicted to them. So when offered the chance to review this Teslagrad, I jumped at it given the basis of what the game is all about.

The story unfolds quite quickly with a mysterious man carrying a baby towards a home, dropping him off and leaving for places unknown. Fast forward many years and this baby has grown into a young man. The story now has our hero running for his life over the roof tops of the city being chased by Russian soldiers. Eventually the chase leads him into a castle and this is the point where the game takes its' adventure into puzzle territory. You acquire your first tool in the game, gloves, that allow you to change the polarities of various objects and when used correctly it allows you to make your way through the castle.

The narrative style of the game is interesting as it relies on imagery alone. It does a good job of using theatrical scenes to give you a sense of the happenings in the past and present. This might be a little frustrating for some gamers out there though as there is little to no hand holding or clear direction. Much of the "figuring out what’s next?” is all down to you as a player as you explore and figure things out the old fashioned way, by observation as well as by trial and error. It is definitely easy to overlook some hidden passage to an area that is crucial to progressing forward and this creates a lot of backtracking and actual exploration instead of an arrow and a magical gold line telling you where to go experience. Kind of old school as you are "the author of your own destiny" so to speak.

As you make your way through the game you will come across enemies that you simply have to avoid or block off using your special tools and the environment around you. If you get hit just once by an enemy you are toast and you will have to start back over the beginning of the room. There are also boss levels where you battle not with your fists and/or weapons but with the tools you have collected. The boss levels involve more complex and challenging puzzles which is nice as they are not just a simple cakewalk.

In addition to the game's need for exploration, there are also hard to reach collectibles, in the form of scrolls, that are scattered throughout the castle. Some scrolls can only be obtained by using tools that you get further on in the game and this requires you to backtrack to get to some of the earlier scrolls that were unreachable. Backtracking seems to be quite commonplace in this game, but it's not particularly a bad thing.

With all this great storytelling and the gameplay options, the true test of this title came down to the controls. They aren't bad at all. I adjusted to the controls early on in the game and got used to the physics of the game itself. As one might expect from the title, Teslagrad draws a lot of inspiration from science. After the initial acclimation in regards to how you navigate through the game, and how you control all your actions, everything should smooth sailing, well except for the occasional and unplanned trip into an electrical force field, pile of debris, or some spikes.

The graphics in Teslagrad look amazing and are a great hybrid of anime and steampunk design. From the dusty and gloomy libraries to the underbelly of the dark caverns below the castle, you will find yourself exploring in a variety of settings that craftily set the stage for the events at hand. The music and sound effects aren’t anything special, but they work well in tandem with the graphical presentation to create that emotional response you need in a game where the story is not told through words.

Teslagrad is a real gem, a diamond in the rough to be exact. If you love puzzle platformers and you’re looking for something new to try, I would highly recommend this ID@Xbox title.

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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