You know, I've really been having a blast with my Wii U. I bought the thing for Mario Kart 8. Little did I know at that time that underneath that slick, black veneer lied a virtual heaven of Virtual Console titles, HD sequels and remakes, and an ever-increasing library of original indie games. All just a waggle away. Why would I buy a PlayStation 4? Or an Xbox One? Why do I have a Steam account again (outside of TF2 and the Stanley Parable)? Almost all of my gaming needs find their fix on my Wii U. This includes more indie puzzle games that core gamers consume periodically like eucharist.
In 2013, a development team called Rain Games released Teslagrad, a 2D puzzle platformer running on the Unity Engine. The game features an unnamed little boy who escapes the political seizure of the city Teslagrad by hiding away in Tesla Tower, an enormous building at the city's center. Here, the player controls the boy as he finds equipment used to escape as well as learning the history behind this city.
The game play involves the manipulation of magnetism. There are big, glowing blocks all over this tower, all colored red and blue. Red objects attract blue ones. Red objects repel other reds, while blue objects repel other blues. It's a pretty simple concept. And it's one that the game needn't explain before tossing you headfirst into some puzzles.
As the little boy, you have some special gloves that punch red or blue. Hit any magnet in the field to change its polarity. How does one create a puzzle with this?
Something like that. But they get far, far more complicated.
The boy can also unlock a teleportation ability. This is mostly for jumping to far away platforms and evading danger. Remember, this little boy cannot take any damage at all before he dies. That gets a little irritating since he doesn't get the magnet gun until the end of the game.
He also finds in the tower a magnetic parka. This parka can give off a red or blue glow, letting the boy turn himself into a magnet. The possibilities of this are nearly endless! Luckily, Teslagrad makes plenty of use of these tools in their puzzles. Sadly, these puzzles and uses for your equipment are more varied than the game's environments.
Tesla Tower itself is a pretty boring place. And most of the game takes place there. It's all brown and stone. The outside is a marvel to see. It's just a shame we only really see it at the beginning and end. At least there's an aviary to explore. That's about the only variation we get. There are only two enemy types, too, outside of the bosses. Speaking of boss battles, they're incredibly well designed. Fighting the robot bird, the laser-shooting eye, and the final evil king boss are what boss battles are meant to be. Frustrating at first. As you die more and more, you begin to experiment and use your abilities in new ways. These battles are really the icing on this game's cake, forcing you to think about what magnetism can really do for you.
Between boss segments and puzzle segments, the game treats you to some back story. These are told not through cut scenes or narration, but by puppet shows that you sit and watch in the stage's background. Not a single word of dialogue is spoken. The story is lucid, sure. It's basic enough to follow, but not incredibly engaging. It does enough to justify why things are the way they are.
The playing through of Teslagrad took me six and a half hours to complete. Should I ever want to boot it up again, there are still eighteen of thirty-six collectable scrolls to find. They're usually tucked away in some far-flung corner of a puzzle, leaving you to scratch your head over how you could ever get over there. While the main puzzles gave me very little trouble, the extra scroll puzzles and the boss battles lead me all the way from frustration to satisfaction upon completion.
It was a pleasure playing this on Wii U. The interface and presentation are wonderful. It runs like a dream, too. The Game Pad controls feel perfectly natural, although the screen is used for nothing but an unhelpful menu. Not sure what else they could use it for. Maybe reminders for the controls? I dunno.
At fifteen dollars USD, Teslagrad is a solid buy for those building up a Wii U library. Sure, there are plenty of better ways I could have spent that money. I just want to support the inclusion of indie games on Wii U for the future. If we are seeing cool stuff like this now, imagine what more interesting, unique games Nintendo will let us enjoy in the years to come?
Categories: Reviews, Wii U