Tesla Force isn’t a vast improvement over 2018’s Tesla vs Lovecraft, nor does it show off the power of the Xbox Series S/X. But it’s certainly a solid experience for those seeking relentless arcade-style action.
Platform: Xbox One and X/S, PlayStation 4 and 5, PC
Developer: 10tons Ltd
Publisher: 10tons Ltd
Release date: November 19th, 2020
Availability: $26.99 via Microsoft Store
Specialization can be a successful approach for a developer. Whether it’s Polyphony Digital honing their automotive racing expertise across the Gran Turismo franchise or CAVE’s commitment to shooters that coat the screen with projectiles, commitment to a single genre often produces prodigious works.
When it comes to the twin-stick shooter, 10Tons is undoubtedly one of the best. While the Tampere, Finland-based studio got its start with casual titles such as Sparkle and Azkend, in 2003 the developers sharply shifted direction with the release of Crimsonland. Unlike their comforting Zuma and Bejeweled clones, Crimsonland was a frantic, bloody, twin stick arena shooter. Pleasingly, they haven’t returned to PopCap knock-offs.
Masters of Twin-Stick Mayhem
Instead, 10Ton went on to release some best top-down, twin-stick shooters on the market. 2016’s Neon Chrome garners distinction for its austere cyberpunk vibe, but it’s the weapon and character growth that make this rogue-like stand out. By offering a drip-feed of augmentations and growth across each run, Neon Chrome keeps pushing players through the floors of its dystopian offices.
One year later, Jydge tweaked the formula, trading its predecessor’s procedurally-generated stages for tense SWAT-like showdowns. Subsequently, 2018’s Tesla vs Lovecraft returned to the kind of enemy-filled arenas found in Crimsonland. While many praised the title, I preferred the staccato pacing of Neon Chrome and Jydge, rather than persistent intensity. But on the upside, Tesla vs Lovecraft did put you inside a mech, able to let loose with a flurry of projectiles.
The Hidden Cost of Affordable Energy
The recent Xbox One and Series S/X release of Tesla Force revisits this frantic framework. A comic-style introduction details Nikola Tesla unveiling a tower capable of providing clean, free energy. But when activated, the monstrous spire inadvertently opens a portal, permitting access for thousands of Lovecraftian creatures. Wisely, the impetus is kept brief and you’re quickly tossed onto the game’s overworld map before attentions wane.
Here, you’ll move from node to node, undertaking missions that have you clearing zones of creatures, repairing equipment, and generally shooting the multitude of foes that untiringly attempt to surround you. Expectedly, you have a beefy arsenal. You’re begin with a meager pistol, but you’ll quickly have access to pick-up like a shotgun, tommy gun, and even other retro-science firearms. There’s a lightning rod that sends of bolt of energy through a succession of adjacent adversaries, and functions best when enemies are dangerous close. Distinctive weapons like this are one of the best parts of Tesla Force, and pack a hefty punch when used with one the power-ups that materialize around the playfield. These boosts don’t last long, but they’ll provide a much-needed breather.
Unlike Shinji, You’ll Relish Ever Second Inside the Mech
Fleeting fun is also found after you scour the map for different pieces of your mech suit. Once the parts have all been collected, a button press tosses you inside a hulking bipedal suit armed with two chain guns and limitless ammo. You’ll only get a few seconds before the mech overheats and scatters its parts around for collection again. But the thrill of turning the tide and being near-invulnerable is persistently pleasing. You have other abilities in your arsenal too, like an AOE-blast and the capacity for teleportation. Whether you play as Tesla, or opt for Curie, Lovecraft, or Shelley, will be shifting across the screen, teleporting away from massive mobs of monsters.
But before long, the level of adversity will inevitably overwhelm you. Tesla Force’s monsters grow in resilience and quantity, so your guns won’t create a big enough space to teleport across. Additionally, you might get snagged on parts of the environment, leading to a humiliating death by a massive mob. Yes, the requisite post-run upgrades temporarily offset the loss, but you’ll eventually be outmatched. Sure, it’s a conventional gameplay loot, but it can feel a bit grindy.
Another issue stems from the tedium of stage objectives. While boss battles offer variation, repeatedly seizing control of a small space on the map or moving to different point can grow tiresome. Tesla Force’s aim is blistering action, eschewing the more methodical pace of Neon Chrome and Jydge. It’s a personal preference, but Tesla Force didn’t produce the kind of marathon play sessions of these games. Instead, the intensity lent itself to shorter sit-downs.
If you’re looking for a game that shows off the capability of your new hardware, Tesla Force shouldn’t be your first choice. Sure, the game looks good, with chaotic playfields showcasing lots of cool lighting effects. Expectedly, the game is persistently fluid, with an unswerving sixty frame-per-second delivery. Maybe it’s a repercussion of an iterative console generation, but the output on a standard Xbox One and Series S/X doesn’t look radically different.
Given 10Tons’ impressive track record, you’d expect a new twin-stick shooter from the team to be sensational. In execution, Tesla Force is fun but doesn’t have the elegance or lasting power of their best efforts. It’s a game that will satisfying the itch on the underside of your trigger finger. But expect to return to the classics before too long.