Sponsored By: My desire to maintain my nerd cred
Time Tesla’d: 4 hours
Tesla Vs. Lovecraft is a megajoule of fun in a kilojoule bag.
Let’s get a few things out of the way:
If you are the sort of person who will grump about because the bulk of Tesla’s work occurred while H.P. Lovecraft was still in diapers, and therefore the timeline of the events in the game don’t work, this is not a game for you.
If you are the sort of person who knows and insists that Tesla’s famous “Death Ray” was a conventional weapon that used electrostatic forces to accelerate particles over great distances and not, in fact, a beam of electric death, this is not a game for you.
In short, if you are a person who knows anything about Tesla, Lovecraft, or electricity, and who believes that such facts should pertain, this is not a game for you.
If you like quick, frantic, dual-stick action featuring retro-futuristic weapons against enemies that look like the sorts of things you find in the dumpster behind a dodgy seafood restaurant (All you can eat for $1.98!), then this might be a game for you.
If you like stackable, random upgrades and in-level progression systems, then this might be a game for you.
If you like starting every single level in a massive, overpowered electric mech that dual-wields gatling guns to mow down hordes of tentacled fish-men, then this game is most definitely for you.
Tesla Vs. Lovecraft is a dual-stick shooter from the makers of Crimsonland. That should tell you everything you need to know, or it would if the same people hadn’t also made Neon Chrome. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Neon Chrome, but Crimsonland is more of what I’m looking for in a dual-stick shooter. When I’m staring at the top of my character’s scalp, I’m not interested in playing a corridor shooter. I want powerful weapons. I want a target-rich environment. I want, essentially, Smash TV with modern graphics and maybe, if I’m feeling fancy, a character-progression mechanic.
The premise of the game is that H.P. Lovecraft thinks Nikolai Tesla’s electrical engineering projects are going to open a portal to a demon dimension. To stop him, Lovecraft … opens a portal to a demon dimension and enlists its inhabitants to stop Tesla from developing wireless power. This goes about as well as you would expect from a video game. The game is divided up into a series of levels in different locations: some wooded, some urban. Each level has its own layout, with nooks and crannies for enemies to spawn from, chokepoints to kite enemies through, and barriers that only last as long as it takes for you or the monsters to destroy them. It works well to keep the action fresh while not changing the fundamental nature of a dual-stick shooter, taking the best parts from the level designs for both Crimsonland and Neon Chrome.
Monsters spawn at regular intervals, and the levels don’t end until you’ve killed every one of them, so the game is an exercise in crowd management. Can you wipe out everyone in the level before the next wave is scheduled to spawn? Probably not, at least until you get some better weapons. Fortunately, the game has weapons to spare.
When you first start a level, you get to play in Tesla’s mech, which only has a certain amount of power before it explodes and distributes chunks of itself all throughout the level. Once it’s gone, you’re left with a simple pistol and your own two feet. To get the mech back, you have to go find all of the shrapnel from the explosion and rebuild it, which grants you another brief interval of massive damage before it explodes and you have to find all of the parts again.
But the mech is only a small part of it. There are a lot of weapons: four types of shotguns, three types of machine guns, two types of pistols, and a gun that shoots balls of lightning that travel slowly through the level, shooting lightning bolts at things. They spawn constantly, so if you won’t be at a loss for replacing the starter pistol. In fact, sometimes it suffers from the opposite problem: As often as not I found myself cursing because I lost a weapon because the only path through the crowd of enemies was through a weapon I didn’t like as much.
Every gun is subject to the perks that you earn by killing enemies in a level. Every time you fill your kill bar, you’re given a choice between two perks. There are three main categories of perk. The first is Offensive, which gives you things like a higher fire rate, or an extra barrel for whatever gun you happen to have (pro-tip: stack as many multiple barrel perks as you can find, then grab a shotgun). The second is Defensive, which gives you things like health-regeneration or a higher running speed (pro-tip: faster recharge for your teleporter is possibly the single most important defensive perk in the game). The final category is Awesome, and it has things like a thundercloud that follows you around and kills a group of enemies every ten seconds. (Pro tip: Always pick this perk!)
You start a new build every level, kind of like a MOBA, so don’t worry about getting stuck with a build you don’t like. Oh, and the perks apply to the mech too, so if you have multiple barrels and the bullet-ricochet perk, you can fill the screen with white-hot electric death.
Overall, Tesla Vs. Lovecraft is a darn fine videogame, and in a world that’s overflowing with dual-stick shooters, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one.
It’s a great game to pick up and play for a few minutes, and it’s a great game for level binging. There are a lot of story missions to play, and there are daily challenges to win, so it doesn’t lack for content.
So yes, I’ll keep playing.
Is it the Dark Souls of Dual-Stick Shooters?
At the three-hour mark I might have said yes. But at that point I discovered that there was a permanent character upgrade system that used those purple crystals scattered throughout the later levels as currency.
I felt incredibly stupid, until I saw that I had a few hundred crystals to spend. Suddenly my character went from being underpowered cannon fodder to an unstoppable, one-man army of Science and Technology.
Two out of forty aether flasks.