Teslagrad (Switch) Review

Polarized Platforming

Teslagrad opens on a rainy night with a young boy running through the rooftops of a European town. Following a fluidly animated playable chase sequence, our protagonist reaches a massive tower harboring the history of his country and the powers of magnetism. Developer Rain Games’ title has all the inner workings of what makes a great indie platformer – a somewhat non-linear Metroidvania structure, environmental puzzles that build off a core mechanic, and a plot that you must unfurl on your own. For the most part, the elements effectively work together, but some physics issues mar the experience.

Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!

The opening moments don’t reveal much about the young boy, but he gets his first ability shortly afterwards – the power to change an item’s magnetic polarity. The entire game revolves around the central mechanic of interacting with positively and negatively charged objects, signified through red and blue colors. Throughout, the single cornerstone of “opposites attract, like objects repel” provides the backdrop for a multitude of puzzles. I had initially thought this concept would grow stale, and yet I was continuously surprised by the clever ways Rain Games utilized it in environmental puzzles. Moving blocks and building bridges by operating electric currents were only the start. Later on, the ability to give myself a magnetic charge opened the doors for even more creative level design. Perhaps I needed to cling to the ceiling of the opposite charge or bounce off a wall of the same polarity. Or in an extreme example, I rolled up in a human-sized hamster ball manipulating my own magnetism for momentum.

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It’s magnetic!

The adventure progresses like a Metroidvania game; you travel through interconnected rooms and can use newly obtained powers to unlock secrets in previous areas…if you wish. Unlike most in the genre, the game is a fairly linear shot. There’s a central vertical tower that acts as a hub, and each door branches to a new series of connected puzzles. It’s a clean approach to a worn-out structure, and prevents the need to backtrack. However, there is one part of the game that breaks the pacing, in which you are required to go back and collect scrolls hidden throughout. On the plus side, the story unfolds as you uncover these collectibles and they’re not too hard to obtain. On the whole, Teslagrad’s map is well put together.

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Red vs. Blue

Unfortunately, the unruly physics didn’t always complement the level design. Often, I would find myself attempting to bounce off a “like” charge but instead float awkwardly, inches above the ground. In a sense, movement felt unpredictable; I couldn’t reliably tell where a block would go flying or which objects my character would attract or repel. Even my speed traveling though electrical current streams seemed random. As a result, knowing how to solve a puzzle and actually putting it in action felt disjointed, leading to unnecessarily frustrating moments.

Interestingly enough, the game calls for platforming precision, as seen with one of the boy’s powers: instantly teleporting over a short distance. It’s a fun ability that empowered me to explore and pass through obstacles. Many of the areas are designed with this twitch-reflex teleportation in mind, often requiring you to do so while simultaneously operating polarities. I loathed these challenges that asked me to think fast while somehow accurately maneuvering around the unpredictable physics. Not to mention it was tough to keep track of which button corresponded to which color charge; here’s a hint for prospective players – “red is right.”

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Puzzles quickly get super complicated.

Thankfully, the game is forgiving. You immediately respawn at the beginning of your current room upon death. The downside is that you instantly die upon a single hit. This mostly affects larger rooms and boss encounters – the latter of which are extremely difficult, but in that rewarding old-school way, demanding pattern recognition, lightning-quick reflexes, and mastery of the magnetism mechanic. Defeating a tough boss was so gratifying, even if I wanted to tear my hair out during the battle.

Bosses are also impressive sights, as are the character and background designs, thanks to the striking art direction. The world is animated with such fluidity and life, despite the game’s purposefully drab backgrounds and focus on machinery. Likewise, the ambient, quiet music serves the melancholy tone, rising in volume only during story sequences or enemy encounters.

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The animated bosses shine.

Conclusion

Teslagrad takes the single premise of magnetism and stretches it out through a good three to four hours of gameplay. The main character’s abilities to manipulate the environment pave the way for incredibly clever puzzles. Controlling the boy and moving objects aren’t always predictable or intuitive, making some challenges feel artificially difficult. Nevertheless, the title has made a positive jump over to the Nintendo Switch and is recommended for fans of 2D Metroidvania platformers.

Score: 7/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was originally written on DarkStation.

What do you think of Teslagrad? Have you played it before on the Switch or on previous systems? What are your favorite 2D Metroidvania games? Please share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for watching and reading!

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43 thoughts on “Teslagrad (Switch) Review

  1. It’s electric! *dances* Great job as always! Visually I think Teslagrad looks really cool. I like the basis premise of manipulating magnetism to solve puzzles. It takes some skill to maneuver around those obstacles. Too bad there’s no electric car level! Right?? Also, it makes me think that if Magneto were in a platformer, this is what he would do. Ooh, I want that now! I think this game will *attract* Metroidvania fans. Hehehe. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much as always for your kind words and wonderful comments! 😀 I can see you sure thought a lot about the name Tesla haha! The electric car would have been extremely cool and fitting, as would an entire platformer about Magneto. In fact, that may actually exist. I’ll have to check on that. It actually made me think about the movie, The Prestige too, for reasons. And also, very positive about your puns! They’re simply magnetic! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Come to think of it, one of the Oracle Zelda games had an item called the magnetic glove. It would change polarity every time you used it, and I thought it was a neat idea. I definitely think that magnetism would make for a good central game mechanic.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Awesome call Red Metal! I completely forgot about the Magnetic Glove! I haven’t played the Oracle Zelda games in so long, but knowing that magnetism is in there makes me want to play it again. There’s another game made by the same company that made Teslagrad called World to the West. I’ve been playing it, and it’s actually like a Legend of Zelda game, but with a character who shares similar abilities with Teslagrad’s protagonist. It’s in the same universe, but unfortunately, though the character is also a Teslamancer, she does not use magnetism. But still, it’s cool that the company also had made a Zelda-like game with almost magnetism!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep spotting Teslagrad … Always looks like my kind of thing. Pity that some of the mechanics sounds a little frustrating to use, but I do like some precision and puzzle platforming, so maybe I’ll give it a go at some point. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words! I appreciate it! 😀 The physics are wonky, but I still had fun with it. I’d definitely have enjoyed it more if the mechanics were more reliable and not frustrating to use, but I still enjoyed the puzzle platforming!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I know it’s been divisive, but for me it’s one of my favourite indie games and I’ve hailed it as a classic on another blog in a review. Good review, though! I’m always happy to read different opinions.

    Apart from with Lightning Ellen… you reading this, madam?! Eh!?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed this so much! If the physics weren’t so wonky, I’d have enjoyed it more, but I do love the style of the game and the puzzles, despite my frustration! Funny enough, I wanted to go with Polarizing Platformer for the pun, but thought might be a bit mean, considering I still enjoyed it.

      Haha! Yes! Lightning Ellen! This game is electric!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love your headline! Or even “Give a Hoot, Play Owlboy” Yesss!! I did use “Polarized Platforming,” which I think is a bit more subtly tame than “Polarizing Platformer.” I’m still pleased how perfect the word “polarizing” works for this game haha! I hope to play Owlboy sometime soon!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great read 🙂 I must confess I don’t play as many indie titles as I should, and I think I’m missing out on inventive game mechanics like the magnetism here in Teslagrad, even if the physics aren’t quite perfect. Big fan of the “polarising” pun, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate it a lot! I love how inventive indie games can be with both gameplay and story. Teslagrad certainly fulfills both, though not in the most ideal ways. The magnetism is such a great idea, and I wish the physics weren’t so wonky. Still, I liked it a lot for the puzzle platforming and Metroidvania structure. And thanks!! I’m so glad you liked the pun hahaha! It just fit so perfectly with the game. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great comparison! A Boy and His Blob was so gorgeous, almost more than it needed to be, but I loved it for that. And it had a hug button haha! I liked the central mechanic of Teslagrad. I just would have enjoyed it more if the physics and controls were more reliable.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This one looks like it’d be a fun time. I would probably get pretty frustrated with unreliable controls, but I imagine the overall game would make up for that one setback! I’m glad you’re finding some great games to play for this console. I’m starting to really want a Switch, but I’m trying to be patient!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve exactly right! The overall game did make up for its issues, but it was a struggle getting though some areas. The design and physics are so ambitious. I just wish they had more synergy.

      There are so many games on the Switch now. So much to play, but I know you have such an impressive collection of games to play already! I wouldn’t worry about getting one before playing through all the classics on your hands! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen for a LONG time. I don’t think I’ll be able to beat my entire collection either at this point. But I think each game in my collection has their role for me. It might not be when it comes out or even within 10 years of owning the game, but I just know when the time comes for the game to be relevant to me, I’ll thoroughly enjoy it and be thankful to have it. I know you have such an amazing fondness for your wonderful collection, and I just know you have such enjoyment from the games, like when you played through Yoshi’s Island! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much my friend! I am a huge fan of fluidly animated sidescrollers! I don’t remember if you’ve played Wario Land: Shake It, but that was such a wonderfully animated game. Wario has never looked better…WAH! 😉

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  7. I love the shout out/reference to Tesla! This looks like it would be frustratingly challenging, but oh so rewarding like you said. The polarity basis reminds me of the demo I played for Embers of Mirren. It’s amazing how a simple attribute can be used in a myriad different ways!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! The developers of this game must love Tesla because that comes back in their next game, which I’ve been playing, World to the West. The bosses are the most challenging, in that old school fun way! I haven’t played Embers of Mirren, but did you enjoy the demo? It sounds interesting if it uses polarity. I love when a single concept is expanded upon through clever design. Teslagrad is a prime example!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t sure about it, because I was worried there’d be chasing, and I’m not a fan of being chased, but it was just the opening. I really like it even though I’m kind of stuck at a particular part hehe. I don’t want to resort to looking up a tip, but I may have to. I’d definitely give the demo a try and see what you think!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I may just have to try out the demo then! That’s so funny. When I read this, I thought you were talking about Teslagrad, because it also starts out with a chase sequence, but it’s only in the opening. So many games with chasing! I don’t particularly like being chased in games as it’s very nervewracking, so I know you feel.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ahhh I hate it! It makes me feel so on edge. Even games for kids like Zelda give me the willies when something chases you and that Wall Master is just AWFUL. When I was watching Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass, I had to cover my eyes whenever one of the phantoms chased you. The music would change and the screen would flash red until you got to a safe spot. I think I was traumatized as a child from this game called Adventure (I think) on the ColecoVision or Atari. There were these creatures called Hall Monsters that would come into a room if you took too long, and they made the most terrifying sound that retro systems can make. To this day I’ll remember that at the worst times…like at night if I have to get up in the dark. Thank goodness racing and chasing aren’t the same thing for me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ahh! I got the shivers when you mentioned those examples. So you know I love Zelda games. My least favorite part of any Zelda game is the stealth portion. And there’s usually at least one stealth segment nowadays. The worst one is in Skyward Sword, where if you get caught, the screen goes red and there’s a loud drumming heartbeat. It scares me so much! Totally agree about hating the phantoms in the DS Zelda games too. And wow, those Hall Monsters in Adventure DO sound traumatizing! I’d get so nervous playing that, especially if I had to hear such a terrifying sound! I’m sorry you still have scary memories about them when it’s dark. 😦

        I remember playing through Maniac Mansion for the NES and being scared because I’d be exploring and sneaking around the mansion, but if one of the residents ran into you, you had to run far away. Love the game still, but again, those moments freak me out!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I once looked it up on YouTube to show my hubby since he was giving me a weird look about it. Even he agreed that they were creepy and he’s played Dead Space IN THE DARK o.O I cannot stand stealth stuff in games. I am AWFUL at it in Assassin’s Creed, but I’m playing it on Easy so it hardly matters except for missing out on head shots lol.

        I think the first game that every scared me was the first Castlevania. Once nighttime hit and the vampires came out, I was done. It didn’t help that my cousin told me about werewolves around the same time. Nowadays I’m not particularly frightened by them, but as an eight year old they were terrifying!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I might need to try Assassin’s Creed since there’s an Easy mode. I’ve always been interested, but the stealth scares me away. Castlevania is a great representative scary game. I didn’t play the games until I was a preteen, so I wasn’t as scared, but I can see them being terrifying for 8 year olds! There are so many scary franchises out there now like Resident Evil and Silent Hill that Castlevania seems tame in comparison now, but it’s definitely one of the original horror game series!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I think you’ll be okay with it! I’m no good at stealth either, but I was so pumped when I found out there was an easy mode. If you mess up your stealth, it’s not that big of a deal. Now granted, I’m only about an hour in, so I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’ve heard from others that the different modes are true to their word.

        I played Resident Evil as a teen! Never played Silent Hill. I’m STILL afraid of Mother Brain from Metroid D:

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Mother Brain is creepy so I don’t blame you! I hate horror games, but for some reason, I really enjoyed the first few Resident Evil games. Exploring the mansion and solving puzzles were my favorite parts. Gives me a good Ultimecia’s Castle from FFVIII vibe! And continuing the FF references, I’ve been really intrigued to try Assassin’s Creed ever since it had a crossover with Final Fantasy XV. So if it’s approachable for someone like me who hates stealth, I’d love to play it!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. It sounds like it fit with your love of exploration and problem solving! I remember that drew me to the game, too. I liked the crypticness of it. The last RE I remember playing had this gigantic plant in a room, and you had to find poison to kill it in order to go down the hole that was left.

        Wait it did?! I think I heard about this, but then forgot. I own both now 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Yes! My wife was obsessed with the Assassin’s Festival in FFXV. It’s a limited time event though, much like the Moogle Chocobo Carnival, so hopefully it’s still going on.

        I do like those puzzles in Resident Evil. It’s why I vastly prefer the older ones to the more action-oriented gorefests in RE5 and RE6. I’m very intrigued by RE7, but I think I’d be too scared to play that one. It looks very terrifying!

        Liked by 1 person

      11. I’ve heard nothing but good things about RE7, but I share your reluctance! It does seem like the older ones were more puzzle games with a horror motif as opposed to the opposite. I guess they wanted to keep up with the times or push the envelope.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Yes, I completely agree! I think it’s because Resident Evil 4 took a more action-oriented route, so they decided to go all-out for the next two. I mean, Resident Evil 4 is good, but from what I can tell, Capcom took it a bit far with 5 and 6. The closest return to form is Resident Evil Revelations, which I’m interested in playing since it and the sequel have been ported to Switch!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The control issues are frustrating and caused lots of deaths, but I still overall liked the game because of its clever puzzles using the magnetism mechanics. Plus, death takes you back to the same screen, so it’s not as bad unless it’s a tough boss or a huge room (or if I just struggled getting past the same obstacle). If it sounds like something you’d really like, I’d lean towards trying it out over never experiencing it. I believe it’s cheaper on older platforms or on Steam than it is on Switch, too, so there are options if you’re interested.

      Like

    1. Thank you so much Lightning! I appreciate your kind words as always! I’m so happy you enjoyed the electrical theme too 😀 It’s a fun game, but I guarantee you there are better lightning-themed games out there hahaha! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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