I picked up Teslagrad during an indie sale on the Wii U's eShop not too long ago just based on some good reviews I'd seen about it, and although I'd only planned on checking it out for a few minutes, before I knew it I had finished it in just two marathon sessions. The game is often described as being a Metroidvania (i.e. adventure game with a focus on exploration), but the game is actually much more of a straightforward platformer with puzzle elements. The game is arranged so that there's a long vertical corridor with series of rooms coming off of it, and each series of rooms basically functions as a mini-level. The map is nicely arranged so that each offshoot of the main corridor offers a new twist to the mechanics or a memorable hook, so that even though there are only a handful of power-ups the game doesn't ever get boring (except at the very end when you're required to collect a certain number of what I'd previously assumed to be optional trinkets).

The game's mechanics are based on electromagnetism, which I can't say I know much about in particular, but there's a fairly smooth learning curve and soon you'll be manipulating polarities (represented by the colors blue and red) like a pro: there were times I distinctly felt as powerful as Magneto from the X-Men comics/movies, and without having to wear that goofy helmet. The art style is distinctive, although I found that there were some places it fell short, in particular the main character's artwork felt too flat and unexpressive. The music and setting are atmospheric, and although there are sections that get pretty frustrating and sometimes just feel like flat out bad design as opposed to a challenge, the frustration is offset by unlimited lives so getting through them is for the most part just a matter of repetition and patience (which old-school gamers should be able to stomach, but younger gamers may not).

The game was definitely one of the more fun and memorable platformers I've played lately, but for me the game falls short of true greatness. Part of this is that there was more trial-and-error gameplay than I usually like, and the aforementioned dips in the quality of the art style. But the main reason I felt the game didn't sustain itself through to the end is that after you get through every room you're tasked with revisiting them to collect the otherwise optional trinkets (in this case, scrolls). Up to that point the "rooms as platformer levels" structure worked very well, but having to revisit rooms without any upgrade to make the second time through take less time basically means the game becomes artificially doubled since in the worst case you're replaying every section twice. In reality the game only requires you to locate less than half of the total number of scrolls (15 out of 36), but once I realized that tracking down more than the minimum would just be retreading the exact same ground I completely lost interest in extending my time with the game and went straight to the final battle. Apparently I didn't miss much since there are only two endings, one if you get the minimum and one where you get all 36, but this seems like a poor design choice and shoehorning a Metroidvania-like experience into a game that at its heart isn't a Metroidvania at all. Being able to warp to arbitrary rooms at this point in the game would've helped. I also have to mention that the game crashed on me three or four times, invariably when I was stuck in a difficult room trying and over and over again to get past a particularly annoying section. I also encountered a glitch where apparently a door was supposed to open but didn't and I couldn't progress and had to reset. Apparently I'm not the only person who experienced crashes with the Wii U version, although as that reviewer points out, the auto-save means that I was never in danger of losing significant amounts of progress.

My annoyance with the last, fairly pointless, collection requirement just contributed to my overall feeling that the game was solid but lacked that extra bit of polish that a company like Nintendo's games have that make their games more than the sum of their parts, and really special experiences. Granted, this may seem overly harsh considering that this is the Norwegian developer, Rain Games', debut (I think), but I definitely applaud them for what they did achieve and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what they have in store for their next game.

Zap these Teslagrad links:
- Glowing review at Nintendo Life
- Entry at Steam
- Entry at Metacritic
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com
- Entry at Wikipedia

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