This is one of those instances where I am glad that I always start my reviews off with the graphics. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the visual presentation. While Teslagrad is not a technical marvel, the attention to detail in the textures, lighting effects and shading mean the difference between a simple animation style and an artistic design brought to life. Since NPCs come around in very limited quantities, there is a clear showcase of the world as a focal point to the gamers interactions. Great use of layering allows for foreground interactions to pop while the background subtly fills in a lot of atmospheric depth.
Similarly, sound design is used to assist the visuals rather than to function as its own sole entity. There are many times in the game where you will not really hear a soundtrack so much as ambient music and sound effect feedback to your exploits. In my opinion, this was a very clever choice as it is not intrusive and can be turned off if the players wishes but I would not recommend that. The sound adds a lot to the emotion of the game and should not be taken for granted.
It’s not to say that the story is necessarily bad, if you can figure it out, it’s just that its delivery method is questionable. The only thing that we know for sure is that the game begins with the main protagonist fleeing from a home and a family that he was left in the care of as a baby.
What is the danger? I don’t know. Why is he fleeing? No one will tell us.
Well, I do know actually, but that’s because I looked at an online forum where the developers posted their version of the events. For everyone else, they stuck with the theme of exploration and put no direct storytelling or narrative into the tale, only hints. We are meant to derive our interpretations from the scrolls that act as collectables (more on that later), elements in the environments and even some theatrical presentations that play if the character stands motionless in front of one of the stages in the game for a few seconds.
Like the story, gameplay is almost entirely for explorers. There is no real combat and everything boils down to solving puzzles and using newly found abilities to explore previously inaccessible locations. Completing the game is only a matter of effort as there is no real drawback for failure. If you miss a jump or get electrified trying a difficult maneuver, respawning will take place at the last door you entered, losing only a few seconds of effort at most. Be warned though, this will eventually add up, absolutely everything will take you out in one hit. There will also be points in the game that you will know the solution to a puzzle but die numerous times because of a demand on finger dexterity that will make you want to throw your controller instead.
I will break my previous statement and give the game one more positive shout out. There are some truly great ideas for the boss fights. Considering that there is no combat, the inventive ways that the protagonist defeats the bosses blur the lines between combat and puzzle solving.
A note on the platinum trophy for those who are solely interested in expanding their digital hardware collection, it can be obtained by simply finding all of the collectables. Not a single one is directly tied to progression however you will need to move through the game as some require abilities only found at certain milestones. The game has an almost open map to explore that you can backtrack through freely, so you will never have to worry about getting to the point where you have missed something for good. That being said it is very possible, especially with a guide, to hear that final trophy pop within a couple hours before any actual credits roll.
This is not a bad game by any means, it is however a very polarizing one. Those that consider themselves fans of exploration and puzzle solving will genuinely have a good time. As for myself though, I found the entire experience to be pretty boring beyond its presentation. If you are considering downloading this title, just ask yourself first where you fall on the gaming spectrum.