Tesla: The Weather Man is an indie game with a premise that’s so unique, you know that some sort of, ah, “outside influence” had to have been a big factor to its conception. Developed by Thoughtquake Studios, the puzzle-platformer has you playing as Nikola Tesla, one of the most prominent inventors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as you go around fighting robots and controlling weather.
Yes, you have a gauntlet that controls weather.
The premise is amazing enough, but does the game actually live up to the potential? Read on to find out.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a compelling story deep inside what initially looks to be just another puzzle platformer. As Tesla, your goal is to track down your worst enemy, the diabolical Thomas Edison, as he’s determined to become the greatest inventor of all time. In the process, Edison has burned your home office to the ground, resulting in a loss of your most precious inventions. Except for the weather control gauntlet of course. Using the gauntlet, you’ll traverse across about 30 levels to finally get at Edison and show him who really is the definitive inventor of that era.
The way the plot is presented is charmingly hilarious; there are actually hand-drawn cut scenes whenever you gain another power-up for your gauntlet that tell a surprisingly funny story. This is in no small part due to the narration by your best friend, a one Mark Twain. Whoever did the voice acting for Twain deserves some sort of award; it’s not exactly the best voice-over work ever, but that lack of any real effort really makes it something memorable.
The gameplay is quite unique as well. It has your standard platformer controls, with walking and jumping and whatnot, but you also have your gauntlet powers, which are utilized with the good old mouse cursor. With abilities such as levitation, lightning strikes, and sunbeams, the platforming gets quite fun. These abilities are also upgradeable through gems scattered about all the levels, and add to the chaos you can create with the weather.
Additionally, you can also collect pigeons found in various areas; when collected, you have the ability to tether them to you, so that when you deploy them with the right-click, they provide a boost in your jump. I don’t know what it is, but the sight of fifteen pigeons all flying out of your crotch while you’re attempting a tough jump is just something I wish I could see in real life.
One of the elements that really impressed me was the temperature mechanic. At the top left corner of your HUD is a temperature gauge that rises or falls depending on how much you use the sunbeam or the coldstream, and can determine if water freezes into ice and whatnot. This leads to surprisingly deep and challenging puzzle later on, where you’re going to have to cool down the area to freeze some water so you can place it on a platform, and then make sure it stays frozen by keeping tabs on the temperature. I wish it were used a little more beyond that, but hey, that’s what sequels are for.
If I had to find a fault with Tesla, it’s that it doesn’t really do anything truly new. The premise and the gameplay elements are novel, but with the lack of variety involved in using all the mechanics, the game felt like it dragged a bit in the middle. I found myself playing through the entire game not because of the gameplay, but mainly due to the hilarious cut scenes, which became more and more sparse as the game progressed.
At $10, Tesla: The Weather Man is still worth a look for sure. I only wish they had concentrated more on the narrative and added a bit more variety to the gameplay. Still, at that price, there’s not much room to complain, especially if it means we get to hear Mark Twain making “your mom” jokes.