An instantly beautiful game, Teslagrad Remastered opens in a rainy European village. It is gorgeously rendered. With no dialogue at all, you get all the information you need about the kind of game awaiting you from the design of the houses and the scenery in the background.
You play as a small boy who clambers out of his window and scrambles over the rooftops towards adventure. Teslagrad is perfectly playable without context, but the mystery of the abandoned Tesla Tower and the ancient tales of the long-dormant Teslamancers offered by the story is definitely intriguing.
The animation is incredible. The way your character climbs feels very human compared to the way a lot of video game characters move. He catches onto ledges and uses both arms to pull himself up, using his whole body to climb. The way the rain hits rooftops and drips down the side of buildings, and the way animals move in the fore- and background of every scene prepare you for a game that has been crafted with immense love. This is complimented by a truly beautiful soundtrack that captures every moment perfectly.
The race to the Tesla Tower acts as your tutorial. Even though there are no direct instructions, the controls are very intuitive. By the time you reach the electromagnetic labyrinth, you are well equipped to tackle the maze.
The gameplay takes the form of 2D puzzles that you need to solve to navigate through the Tesla Tower. These require you to use magnets to either cling to or be launched away from electromagnetic surfaces. The areas you can engage with are clearly identifiable through either a red or blue glow, which also lets you know which corresponding charge to use to best effect.
At first, you have to borrow a charge from mechanical creatures you encounter in the maze. As you progress through the game, you acquire a glove, a cloak and finally a staff that each allow you to generate your own increasingly more powerful charge.
You receive the staff very close to the end of the game and it is your only weapon. This means that during the minor boss battles you encounter throughout the game, you have to be creative with your powers. You have to think about how you can utilize the environment to your advantage or even how to redirect their own attacks back at them using your electromagnetic abilities.
Both the puzzles and combat are very cleverly designed. They are interesting enough to think through and challenging enough to be rewarding when you figure out a sticky one. The boss battles are fun and just formulaic enough that it’s not difficult to figure out their patterns. Once you’ve found your solution, you still need to be quick with your reactions and sharp with your timing.
A masterclass in silent storytelling, Teslagrad Remastered has only the briefest cutscenes at core points of the game. If you don’t pay attention to the details in the background, you can easily miss the context. The story is layered into every stage. You pass portraits and statues and, at one point, a puppet show that presents the conflict that has ravaged your home and brought you to this point.
You know you’re reaching the climactic points of the story because the murals and sculptures scattered around get grander and scarier as you approach the King.
Otherwise the game is largely non-linear. You can explore the Tower in whatever direction and order feels right for you. Scrolls distributed throughout the map offer an incentive to make sure every crevice is thoroughly examined before you challenge the King. You need at least 15 scrolls to reach his chambers at all, and you unlock a secret ending if you manage to find all 36.
Teslagrad Remastered ports wonderfully to the Switch. The controls lend themselves very well to Joy-Cons. The designs have been polished since their original incarnation, but haven’t lost any of their charm. There is also a teleporter hub that has been added to the game that offers a number of challenges that test how well you have mastered your electromagnetic powers.
This game manages to cleverly strike that difficult balance between preserving the joy of its predecessor while building on it just enough to justify another release.
Review: Teslagrad Remastered (Nintendo Switch)
Teslagrad Remastered heightens and celebrates everything that made the original 2D puzzle platformer special in a way that has ported expertly to the Switch without losing any of the charm or magic.