There have been an increasing number of multi-platform titles coming to the Switch recently that almost feel like they were made specifically for the console. Games such as Rocket League and Stardew Valley have been available on other platforms for a while now but, when we booted them up for the first time on Switch, there was the sense that they truly belong on Nintendo's system. Teslagrad – a game that was released on Wii U back in 2014 – continues this trend and joins an illustrious group of killer apps.
Teslagrad follows a young, orphaned boy as he journeys through a huge tower to unveil the history of his kingdom. The opening scene sees you running away from the King’s guards; you have no powers, no map, and no idea where you are headed. Eventually you’ll reach the tower and the true essence of the game starts to shine through – you’ll pick up your first ability and begin journeying through the tower’s many rooms, completing the puzzles within to progress further and further.
The entire game is based around electricity and magnetism; each puzzle you come across will use positive and negative magnetism in some way to either attract something to something else, or make things repel each other. Despite that core principle feeling like it would restrict the creativity of different puzzle types after a short while, it actually does anything but. Every room manages to do something slightly different and, even if the puzzles use similar techniques, the addition of new abilities as you make your way through the tower enable you to take things on differently.
At first your abilities are restricted to simply being able to add either a positive or negative current into metal objects. Eventually, though, you’ll be teleporting over short distances, applying a charge to your own body to stick yourself to objects (or send yourself flying away from them), and eventually you’ll get an item that lets you send out a charge of energy that can defeat various enemies, too. Mastering all of these abilities is the key to success and will really come in handy towards the end of the game if you wish to search for every last collectable.
Getting the hang of these powers, and getting your head around switching between the different magnetic polarities, however, can be pretty tough at times. Some puzzles require you to shift between positive and negative - and cross between using different abilities - in very quick movements. When you pull these kind of manoeuvres off it feels wonderful but they’ll likely take a few attempts. In the first of our “this game feels like it was made for Switch” arguments, though, the different polarities are assigned to red and blue colours and these are controlled by using the shoulder buttons of your controller(s). If you’re playing with the Neon Red/Neon Blue Joy-Con, your controls will match up perfectly!
As well as the odd room feeling particularly challenging every now and then, you’ll also have some particularly brutal boss fights to deal with. You cannot take a single hit in these fights, which means that you’ll be dying an awful lot before being successful. In fact, the bosses feel more like memory tests than anything; you’ll start to pick up on their patterns and you’ll have to keep replaying the fights, dying every time they do something new, until you’ve remembered all of their moves in order. This means that on the hardest of bosses we were left slightly frustrated; usually an occasional meaty challenge is more than welcome but, when you’re used to moving from room to room rather quickly, getting stuck in a single fight for a while can be slightly draining.
Each time you do make it to a new room the game will automatically save your progress and this acts as a checkpoint. This means that, should you die a grizzly death being mauled by one of the creepy, pitch black, ravenous monsters, you are hardly ever left annoyed at having to redo entire puzzle sections. This setup of having puzzles constrained within their own small rooms is another reason (and one that is much more useful) as to why Teslagrad feels so perfect on Switch – if you only have a short amount of time available to play, you can probably squeeze in a puzzle or two.
It’s probably rather lucky, then, that you’ll want to do just that – everything about this game is presented beautifully and you’ll likely find yourself wanting to be within its gorgeous, hand-drawn worlds whenever you’re away from your console. The game actually feels almost flawless in its presentation and execution, although one major bug which caused the visual aspect of the game to cut-out to a black screen did happen during our play-through. Luckily the game still worked underneath and, thanks to a mixture of our memory of the pause menu and the sound still coming from the speakers, we were able to blindly save our game and reboot it. This bug seems to be present on all versions of the game although many players never come across it – hopefully this can be fixed but if not, make sure to follow our trick!
From the moment Teslagrad begins you are instantly filled with the feeling that you are about to play something pretty special. The world around you is truly beautiful and the platforming puzzles are great fun to ponder over. A few difficulty spikes – particularly in the game’s boss fights – distracted us slightly from the game’s hypnotising ways but we had a wonderful time nonetheless. If you’ve never played the game before but you like the sound of what it has to offer, we heartily recommend giving it a go and, to be completely truthful, we wouldn't be surprised to see players who already own the game wanting to ‘double-dip’ for a portable version, too.