Teslapunk is a top down action shoot’em up that has been released onto the Xbox One, created by KlutzGames. It is not surprising to see that Teslapunk is a part of the ID@Xbox program as it is clearly a small studio title but like most indie titles the game has quite a lot of heart and nostalgia for the past. The game has a sense of humour too, well at least in the subliminal messages the game tries to throw at you from a small TV screen being controlled by the evil Emperor Zangorax. Who is literally described in the game’s own menus as being back on Mars as a “popular DJ by night and a frantic invader by day”, I totally did not just make that up.
Teslapunk: Xbox One [Reviewed], [Wii U – Date To Be Announced]
Release Date: 7 October 2015
Price: £7.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Developer]
The gameplay for Teslapunk is quite simple to grasp but a bit hard to master, unless you’re good at bullet hell shooters. You take control of your top down ship and essentially blast anything in your way with your energy weapons dodging many obstacles and doing your best not to get shot back, and the enemy will shoot back…you can trust me on that. You will also come across power ups that will allow you to power your super weapon which essentially is an even bigger energy weapon for you to use for a limited time.
One of the few things I found unique about this game is that your ship being hit by enemy fire isn’t what counts as being damaged by the enemy, its in fact a small green orb on top of your ship that is basically your hit box. This means that you have a lot of room to maneuver around the masses of bullets and obstacles that will end up on screen, personally I would have put the green orb inside the ship and made it invincible, but hell what do I know.
The game has two modes to play and these are arcade mode, which is essentially the story mode, it has several branches of difficulty to choose from these are the usual easy, medium and hard modes you would come to expect from games these days. But it is very good to see that we also have a “dynamic” mode included, which basically translates to “the higher your multiplier the harder the game will get” it’s actually a neat idea. Now this mode is the nearest thing that Teslapunk has to a story mode, it has around six levels, each with an increasing difficulty scale, every one ends with an inevitable boss encounter.
Bosses take the role of being the biggest weirdest steampunk like opponents with massive health bars who are armed with enough guns to shame Neo from the matrix, shooting bullets for you to enjoy dodging, because who doesn’t love threading a needle in the middle of a massive gun fight. Enemies seem to stem from being steampunk styled vessels armed with as many cannons as they could fit aboard too fighters that simply fill the role of cannon fodder to charge you super weapon.
One thing that had me puzzled was the arcade mode, it doesn’t appear to have an upgrade system for you to make your ship more powerful. The game mode is entirely based on skill and your ability to dodge the destruction being hurled at you and your lonesome ship. There is however what I would describe as randomized bonus objectives, which take on the roles of three separate missions you are given every time you retry arcade mode. These can be as simple as ‘gain 20,000,000 points’ to ‘complete a level without dying’ now these objectives are clearly given out at random since the game expected me not to die on level 4, which let’s be honest was never happening. But these missions are not pointless at all, everytime you complete one you are given one part to a piece of a equipment in a deathray being built by Nikola Tesla (yes, about time I mentioned him).
The second game mode is the survival mode which takes on a very unique way of actually portraying a survival mode in a game like this. Now in my personal experience a survival mode would consist of getting as far as you can in a game collecting upgrades etc before coming against higher levels of difficulty the longer you are play. This certainly happens as the difficulty is quick to ramp up. In this mode you collect as many coins as you can that you can use to upgrade your ship and to buy useful items that will make the mode seem less harsh. The only real gameplay difference between Survival and Arcade mode seem to be that in this mode the ship is always firing its weapons and you can only move it left and right rather than all around the area on screen. Whereas in arcade mode you seemed to have slightly more control.
Survival mode also has a slight game changer that I did not see coming, you see when you die in survival mode you keep all of your upgrades that you have made to your ship and you can simply retry without the difficulty starting out heavily against you. This allows you to keep trying to improve your score without the frustration of needing to buy upgrades again. It also makes the mode easier but let’s be honest here, it gets difficult again…very quickly. Upgrades are quite basic with them being summed up as “more guns” and “decrease the size of your hitbox” but they really do help you out if you keep pumping coins into them.
Overall I found myself really enjoying Teslapunk I used to play similar games on my Sega Megadrive back in my youth and I was terrible at dodging in them too, I’m glad it isn’t an age issue. In all seriousness though I found the game to be fun to play when things were going well for myself and cursing it when I couldn’t quite thread the needle on a certain boss, that totally wasn’t on level 3 at all. I would easily describe Teslapunk as a game that knows what it wants to be and it has some fun whilst doing so which is always a positive in this day and age.