Teslagrad can be positively electrifying.

Puzzle games that require displays of dexterity from players offer a challenge unlike many others. Games like The Swapper, Quantum Conundrum or perhaps the most popular of the bunch, Portal, are good examples of this design in action and how well it can be received if the proper balance is struck. Teslagrad by Rain Games is a neat Metroidvania sort of adventure that is mostly effective in its attempt to merge puzzle solving with taxing platforming. You traverse the often beautiful, but always haunting environments throughout the Tesla tower, hunting for items to make other sections traversable and puzzles solvable. It has a captivating visual style and soundtrack amplify a narrative that is told completely without dialogue or text that adds to the fascination and mystery.

Teslagrad tells the tale of a boy, a nameless hero. The city, 4 A.M. It’s raining and there are military men running through the city. The game doesn’t expressly tell you who this boy is or what he’s doing outside in a downpour, but eventually a soldier gives chase to you and you must flee. Why is he being pursued and why do those men seem to want to get him so bad? The answers are hidden in the mysterious puzzle filled tower in the form of still images and puppet shows. Because in Teslagrad, there are no words.

These puppet shows were incredibly enjoyable.

These puppet shows were incredibly enjoyable.

Besides the menu at the title screen and the credits that follow the games finale, not a words is spoken, written or read over the course of Teslagrad’s run time. The story is conveyed with enjoyable silent puppet shows around the main body of the tower. Those prone to searching every nook and cranny will also find static images scattered about. It’s astounding how easy it is to pick up on the beats of the story despite the self imposed restriction, a story fraught with villainy and hope in equal amounts. It’s all thoroughly engaging and totally fits with the tone of the game.

This unique delivery is amplified by wonderful visuals, a rich combination of clever lighting effects, various background elements having a more 2.5Dish look to them, like a drawbridge, and gorgeous sprites. The lighting in particular was used to great effect and it set up a tremendous atmosphere while spelunking around the treacherous tower. The soundtrack and sound design are also particularly good at fostering feelings of isolation, awe or peril. Overall, Teslagrad is a feast for the senses, and there are several moments I found myself lost in scenes.

Things get crazy when you mess with science.

Things get crazy when you mess with science.

But Teslagrad’s captivating sounds and visuals belie the brutal puzzle platformer that lies beneath. Most puzzles aren’t mind bendingly difficult and won’t leave you scratching your head for long. Stuff in the environments can be given a polarity, signified by red and blue. Things that are coloured the same will repel each other while those of opposite colours will be drawn to one another. With this simple framework the player is tasked with executing nigh impossible acts like getting across chasms, ascending perilously high walls and avoiding enemies. Most of the puzzles are straightforward and provide all the things needed to make some magnet magic.

However, there are several exceptions to this nestled within Teslagrad’s sky scraping heights. A handful of the puzzles suffer from something immensely frustrating: solutions that are easy to work out but incredibly grueling to execute physically. If a puzzle can be deduced, but not pulled off properly for whatever reason, be it control issues or something else, that’s ridiculous. Being stonewalled for reasons outside of your control are never cool.

This would occasional happen during the boss fights, as well, even though they were pretty neat for the most part. These encounters hearken back to platformer boss game design philosophies of yesteryear. The grandiose foes generally progress through three stages of attacks, have patterns to be recognized and memorized and can more often than not one shot the hero. My favourite boss of the bunch would have to be Faradeus, a giant skeletal bird made entirely of metal. They all fit the game and offered puzzles of their own, like figuring out how to get inside of Faradeus to change the polarity of its heart.

Just another bird looking to mess you up.

Just another bird looking to mess you up.

One of the only other aspects of Teslagrad, the collectibles, are a mixed bag. I love collecting things and really enjoyed being spurred on to find the thoroughly hidden goodies with pictures that illuminate the games story. 36 capsules in total, they’re often the reward for clearing a locations usually more difficult, but entirely optional puzzle, and this is welcome and greatly enjoyed. The inverse is capsules that are obtusely hidden. The map in Teslagrad doesn’t make it easy either, displaying nary an indicator or waypoint to steer you in the right direction. This often lead to what felt like an eternity of aimless wandering and meticulous scouring for the blasted things. Apparently, something happens when you find all 36. I did not find all 36.

It’s an interesting game that won’t be for everyone. It requires players pull off plenty of clutch moments and sometimes it gets a little ahead of itself and asks a bit too much from the player. Outside of that, Teslagrad is fun, has some notable wordless narrative stuff going on and gorgeous aesthetics and artwork that are worth the price of entry alone. It’s a shame some gameplay concerns and monotonous crawl for capsules can be such a substantial roadblock to those looking to experience those particular aspects. Anyone who can keep their head down and power through the unforgiving bits will find an incredibly entertaining and worthwhile game.

Teslagrad Review
Teslagrad is a thoughtful puzzle platformer, but the approach to the narrative, visuals and audio works are what stood out the most to me. If you just like puzzle platformers it’s still totally worth both your cash and your time.
Pros
  • Aesthetically and aurally satisfying
  • Clever Puzzles
  • Brilliant Storytelling/Silent puppet shows
Cons
  • Occasionally punishing for the wrong reasons
  • map isn't helpful for collectible hunt
7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)
6.8

About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.