Have you ever stopped to think about what incredible intellectual battles inventors may have had in the past? Two electrically-focused minds, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, are thrust into Tesla Breaks the World! as bitter rivals. According to the game, one day Edison stooped so low as to raid Tesla’s inventions laboratory. Somehow, this also led to the fabric of time being altered. As Tesla, players must restore the world to its former glory by solving puzzles and traipsing about in a 2D platformer. Archetype Global created quite the distinctive game but do their high ambitions match up with the final product?
First let’s first go over what the team got right. Presentation-wise Tesla Breaks the World! absolutely excels. The cartoony artwork with stylized humans works well despite the ever-so-slightly historical backdrop. Tesla, Edison and all the enemies you encounter look fabulous and animate well. Weirdly, the same skillful artistic touch is completely absent from the GUI. In order to further reiterate the time period, old-timey cutscenes are interspersed throughout the game as well. While in a stage there’s even a witty narrator who helps players out or chides them. It’s apparent watching the wacky storyline play out that the developers were enthused by their ideas.
All of this is of course secondary to the platforming gameplay. As with most 2D genre titles, players primarily head right or left to jump on stuff, fight or avoid zombies (which are somehow thematically appropriate), collect goodies and find a level exit. What sets this game apart? The answer is twofold. First, you utilize Tesla’s various inventions along the way. This includes a gun which can transport matter and even a pet pigeon which does your bidding. Another change is that stages are (mostly) randomly generated. Every time you die you’ll find that the stage has been tweaked for the better or worse.
A handful of platformers have been brave enough to attempt randomly generated stages in games, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. In Tesla Breaks the World!’s case, placement is actually fairly good most of the time. Where the real issue lies is in a far more fundamental place – the controls. They can best be described as floaty, and by effect, imprecise. Mr. Tesla jumps as if he’s light as a feather and as finicky as one too. It felt more like the controls were used to fight against Tesla rather than command him with ease. It’s one thing for platformers to demand precise play and be difficult because of that and another to have lackluster control. The latter is practically a cardinal sin of the genre.
To some degree, Tesla’s wacky speed and jumps can be compensated for, but then the randomly generated landscape can still bite. Although stage design itself doesn’t suffer, random enemy placement causes issues. For example, you might be taking a trip on an incredibly slow moving platform when a zombie might appear and slowly shamble towards you – and actually dive off a cliff onto you and your platform. When starting with a small amount of health, these annoyances grow increasingly tiresome. Other times, hit detection seems to get weird and will hit when it’s not expected or miss.
It’s also worth noting a far more serious issue with Tesla Breaks the World! if you run it at a graphical setting higher than what your computer’s happy with (or with V-sync on at all, apparently). At this point the game runs slower, as you might expect, but isn’t playable as Tesla actually can’t gain enough speed to make certain jumps. It is an incredibly weird problem that hopefully will be fixed with a patch.
It’s incredibly easy to see that Tesla Breaks the World! was a labor of love. The awesome art style, goofy storyline and great narration prove it. Actually playing it beyond the first few stages, however, hammers home just how problematic the gameplay is. Most sections would actually be easy to platform through if not for floaty, finicky controls. When the majority of your game is a platformer, this issue severely dampens a player’s enjoyment. Unless the controls are tightened up in the future, it’s hard to recommend Tesla Breaks the World! to anyone other than the most devoted platformer fans out there.