A high octane, bold twin stick shooter with a lot going for it, even if the charm starts to wear away after a while. The premise is immediately set out in a short opening cutscene. Tesla, demonstrating a new energy invention, is interrupted by a local author yelling cries of doom and gloom. As he is escorted away and locked up, it’s revealed that he is indeed Lovecraft, as an ominous green Cthulhu fades in from the background. And… exposition done. Now lets get on with the show! The game plays out as any other twin stick shooter does. Move with the left stick, aim with the right and fire with the trigger.
Character movement is fluid and responsive and everything ticks along at a nice pace. Enemies will spawn in from all over in tightly compacted waves, often from several angles at a time. The game really tries to just overwhelm you, always trying to box you in a corner or throwing some seriously heavy brutes at you later down the line. But it also throws you as many bones as you could need to overcome the challenges. Tesla has access to a teleport, allowing you up to 3 quick bursts before recharging. As well as the general weapons, you also find dotted around super attacks, all in the guise of a Tesla style invention and capable of clearing a large area instantly.
Teleporting into the middle of a massive group of enemies and letting off a Nova bomb before skipping back out again is hugely satisfying and will often grant you extra powerups. Combine this with some of the more outlandish weapons you can pick up (Tesla Rifle anyone?) and you really are capable of dealing some serious damage. At the start of each stage you begin at level one, and as you mow down the enemies you gain exp. At each level you gain, you get to choose from 2 random perks. The choice is fairly limited to begin with, but more are unlocked through play and you can stack them as much as you are able to. For example, one perk gives your weapon an extra shot, so fire once and 2 bullets come out.
Level up a few times and add this perk each time, and suddenly your single shot can down even some of the bigger enemies instantly. Levels raise quickly, and there’s a real satisfaction of choosing perks that just make mincemeat of anything in your way. At first, I didn’t get why you couldn’t carry progress over, but seeing how powerful you are by the end of a single stage it is definitely the right call. The game just wants to reward you, in the here and now. Constant upgrades, weapon drops and power weapons mean you’re never without a chance to fight out of any situation, though sometimes the action on screen can get so hectic that it’s easy to lose sight of your character and die.
On more than one occasion I died because I couldn’t see that I was wedged on some scenery that I couldn’t teleport through and got overwhelmed. A quick reload though, and my frustration is quenched by rinsing through the enemies with the mech you start in each stage. My lord, the Tesla-Mech. A few stages in you gain the mech, collect 6 pieces scattered around the level and what happens is probably one of the most adrenaline pumping things I’ve played for a while. The music suddenly notches up, fast metal blasting out (reminding me of the recent Doom reboot), twin miniguns pelt out fire at an amazing rate and anything in your way is toast.
While it only lasts about 20 seconds, that surge of power just had me grinning from ear to ear. Any unlock perks work here too, so the aforementioned extra shot, or fast speed/more damage perks just let you obliterate everything. Pick up one of the temporary power ups too, like fire bullets, and the screen is lit up in oranges and blues and it looks like the best firework display you’ve ever seen! The crash when it expires is debilitating, and had me instantly hunting down the pieces again to get that high once more. Everything in this game is designed to give you pure power fantasy, set in a pure fantasy world.
However, despite the praise, there really isn’t much more to the game. Other than the perks you unlock for a chance to use in each stage, there’s no real sense of progression or over arching structure other than “shoot everything”. Levels are recycled, albeit with different enemy patterns and waves. Visuals are bright and colorful, and the creature designs are great (the art for them at the end of each stage are well drawn) and the audio visual feedback is something the game excels at. It’s just a bit disappointing that more isn’t made of the whole VS thing, just some motion comic style cutscenes dotted throughout would have been nice to see.
Tesla VS Lovecraft is a game that doesn’t make you wait to get into the action, constantly giving you more and more powerful weapons to deal with the hordes before you. As a power fantasy, it is great, just don’t expect there to be much more than that, going in.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.